Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jerk Chicken Burgers

I don't know about anyone else, but this winter is killing me.  Perhaps I've been spoiled with mild winters the last few years or maybe the thick skin that I'd built up living in NYC has finally worn off but I'm sick of being cold and I'm sick of snow and ice.  I share all of this because, my winter blues certainly inspired my latest and greatest experiment in the kitchen.  

It was an unusually cold day and my thoughts travelled to summer and the cookouts I threw at the pool in my apartment complex.  Last summer, for the first time, I made jerk chicken on the grill and it was a smash hit.  This spicy Jamaican entree was fresh on my brain when a follower of mine on Instagram posted a picture of Jerk Turkey Burgers.  They looked really good and I knew this was the perfect way to get my jerk fix, but I decided to use ground chicken because "Jerk Chicken Burgers" sounded like victory to me.

So even though I'd never worked with ground chicken before, I picked some up along with Grace's Jerk Seasoning; my favorite brand. (I don't bother to make jerk from scratch, waayyy too many ingredients and way too many opportunities to royally screw it up. Plus this lady Grace does it so well, why bother?) 

Once I had those two ingredients, I realized that what really makes a burger great, is what you put on it so I wanted to make a nice refreshing topping to cool down the spiciness of the jerk seasoning.  I'd had mango salsa in mind but when I didn't see any fresh mangos in the produce section, I decided to go with pineapple salsa. Plus, I'd discovered that in the refrigerated section, my grocer had a nice sized pineapple chunk already cored and sliced in into rings, saving me a few steps already.

So I went home and got busy!  What I will say is that even though I love jerk, these burgers really did blow my head off and I decided when I wrote the recipe (And when I make them again very soon) I would decrease the amount of Jerk seasoning.  But my roommate has a higher tolerance for heat than me and she absolutely loved the burger.  She even said it was one of the best things I've made for her.  

So below is the recipe along with plenty of pictures.  These burgers really spiced up a cold winter weeknight for me and I want you to experience the same.  Enjoy!

Jerk Chicken Burgers

Ingredients: (Makes 4 burgers)
1 lb Ground Chicken (mix of white and dark meat)
1-2 tablespoons Grace's Jerk Chicken Seasoning*
1 small shallot (or red onion), grated
1/2 cup Plain Panko Breadcrumbs
4 fresh hamburger buns (I used Italian Potato Rolls)
Mayo for topping
Sliced Ripe Avocado for topping
Pineapple Salsa, for topping (recipe below)

*When it comes to jerk, I found (the hard way) that a little goes a long way. One tablespoon is perfect for medium heat, but if you want HOT, add the second tablespoon.  I wouldn't go past that though.


Add ground chicken to a bowl along with the jerk seasoning and then grate in the shallot, up to two tablespoons.  Add in panko bread crumbs  and then, using your hands, mix everything together.  This mixture will be very wet and if you feel compelled to add a bit more panko that's fine. What I did, after mixing in about two handfuls of panko, was form 4 patties and allow them to set in the refrigerator, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

While the burgers are setting up, you can make the pineapple salsa (see below) and slice the avocado, being sure to toss the slices in fresh lime juice to keep them from browning.

Next, remove the patties from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.  Preheat your indoor grill pan to medium heat and begin by toasting the buns for a couple minutes on each side and arrange on a serving plate.  Next, gently place the 4 patties on the grill pan.  Loosely cover the pan with foil and allow the patties to cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Then flip them over and grill for 5-6 minutes more, still covered with the foil.  Remove the patties from the grill pan, place them on a plate and cover with the foil and allow them to rest for another 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, spread each side of the toasted buns with mayo.  Then, place a patty on each burger bun bottom.  Place 2 avocado slices on top of patties as well as 1-2 tablespoons of the pineapple salsa.  Cover with the top bun and serve immediately.

Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients: (makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
4 1 inch pineapple rings
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
Salt, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions: I grilled my pineapple rings on the indoor grill pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side, however this step is optional.  Dice pineapple and add to a mixing bowl.  Add in the diced bell pepper, red onion, chopped cilantro, juice of one lime, salt to taste and a pinch of cayenne.  Using a spoon, toss everything together, cover with saran and refrigerate until ready to serve.  The longer this sits, the better it is so feel free to make up to a day in advance.

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