A lesson in semantics: if you refer to something as a “burger,” it should be a patty made of meat, and only meat. Some salt and pepper are also acceptable, but it should stop there. If you are adding breadcrumbs, egg, herbs, and cheese, it is no longer simply a “burger.” Think about how you would respond at your local bar if you ordered a cheeseburger, and it was full of breadcrumbs and minced onion. It might be delicious, but that’s not what you ordered. Rather, these augmented patties require some sort of qualifier in the title, like meatball burgers, or spanikopita lamb burgers, or Provencal burgers. It may be totally delicious, and make your eyes roll back in your head, and you may vocalize involuntary, guttural sounds. But don’t call it a burger. (You may, however, call me overly opinionated; I couldn’t argue with that.)
Alas, I present to you, with full disclosure, my turkey meatball burgers. The primary component is ground turkey, seasoned liked a traditional meatball, shaped into a patty, and grilled. Hence, the name: turkey meatball burgers! I have this little problem with overcooking things on my grill, so I figured it would behoove me to choose a recipe that requires you to cook it all the way through. These burgers did the trick. I made them in the exact same way I make meatballs (breadcrumbs, egg, shredded parmesan, tomato paste, herbs, a touch of water). I did one tiny thing different: I added some fresh thyme because it goes well with turkey, and I have an overgrown clump of it taking over the herb pot on my patio.
Because I made them with turkey and because they have all of sorts of other junk in them, I feel that it is very important to liberally oil the patties prior to grilling to prevent sticking. I don’t know what would happen if you didn’t do this, but I don’t want to find out. I think the easiest way to oil a patty is by first liberally oiling the plate you intend to stock pile your finished patties on. That way, when you have a completed patty, you can simply give it a quick swipe on each side with the oil.
Then you get to grill! It is very straightforward because you are not aiming for the finesse of medium or medium well; you just want the patty to be cooked though and very firm to the touch. If you are highly neurotic like some people I know (namely myself), you can even cut into one to make sure there is no indication of teaming salmonella (i.e. the burger should not be pink). Then top your patties with a heaping spoonful of marinara sauce, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and a slice of Muenster. Of course, you could go with something more traditional like mozzarella or provolone, but there is something about the salty, stringy quality of melted Muenster that really compliments this. I used to work at the Palm Restaurant, which is a steak house, but it is rooted in Italian heritage. They serve killer chicken parm, and I credit the parmesan/muenster cheese combo for the addictive deliciousness. If that doesn’t have you convinced, please take a look at the stretchy string of cheese displayed below, and you may be running out to the deli counter before you even finish reading this.
I served my turkey meatball burgers open-faced on some French bread, adorning the bread with a little extra marinara before plopping the patty on top. A pile of spinach sautéed with garlic, oil, and lemon served on the side will even make you feel healthy (at least that’s my twisted logic).
Turkey Meatball Burgers
3/4 lb. ground turkey thigh
1/3 lb. ground turkey breast
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan, plus two tablespoons
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
1/4 of a medium sized sweet onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater (include all juices)
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoon light colored oil
1 cup jarred marinara sauce
Sliced Muenster cheese (or mozzarella)
Sliced French bread or crusty rolls
Basil for garnish (optional)
- In a mixing bowl, combine tomato paste, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, beaten egg, grated onion, chopped parsley, thyme, seasoned salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes until the mixture is even.
- Add both ground turkey breast and thigh, and mix together until just combined with clean hands.
- On a large plate, pour oil and lightly spread around.
- Form the turkey mixture into patties (I made 5). If the mixture is very sticky, let wet hands slightly (I keep a small bowl of water nearby and occasionally dip my fingers in it). As patties are formed, set them aside on the oiled plate, rubbing them lightly with oil on both sides.
- Preheat a grill to medium for at least 10 minutes. Cook the patties on the grill for about 10 minutes on each side. (The patties must be completely cooked through.)
- When the patties are done, top with a spoonful of marinara sauce, a pinch of Parmesan, and a slice of Muenster. Close grill and allow the cheese to melt.
- Serve the meatball burgers on desired bread with extra sauce, and garnish with basil.