Every so often when I was growing up, my mother would make hamburgers for dinner. My Italian mother, who disdained most American food and refused to set foot in McDonald’s, and who declined to accompany my dad, my sister and me on our annual St. Patrick’s Day outing there for Big Macs and Shamrock Shakes.
Needless to say, my mother’s burgers were nothing like their fast-food counterparts. They were fat and juicy and liberally seasoned with onion and garlic. No oregano, though. Whenever she made them, she also made a batch of beautifully browned, creamy caramelized onions to pile on top.
This was way back, circa 1972, long before gourmet burgers were all the rage, and even after they did become the rage I never thought I’d find one that was good enough to rival my mom’s.
Then I found the Asian Turkey Burgers in Diane Morgan’s book, “Grill Every Day” (Chronicle, 2008). What I love about them is that while they remind me of my mom’s — big, juicy and packed with flavor — they are entirely different, being made of turkey rather than beef, and spiked with cilantro, scallions and fresh ginger. As a bonus, they are topped with a dollop of soy mayonnaise and sometimes a slice of provolone cheese and lettuce, an unlikely but delicious combination.
I have made these burgers on the grill and in my seasoned cast-iron skillet, and they are great both ways. The only change: I’ve replaced some of the ground turkey with ground pork to give the patties a little more substance, though you can certainly use only turkey to keep things light.
The recipe is after the jump.
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Serve with an Asian-style slaw, or with a green salad dressed with a ginger-soy vinaigrette. To drink: Try a pinot noir from the West Coast.
MAKE AHEAD: You’ll have some soy sauce mayonnaise left over, which can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Adapted from Diane Morgan's "Grill Every Day" (Chronicle, 2008).
For the burgers
1 pound ground white-meat turkey
8 ounces ground pork
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 scallions (trimmed), including 2 inches of green tops, cut crosswise into very thin slices
3- or 4-inch piece peeled ginger root, minced (2 tablespoons)
2 or 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for the grill rack
4 thin slices provolone cheese (optional)
4 sesame-seed whole-wheat hamburger buns
4 lettuce leaves (optional)
For the mayonnaise
1/2 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the burgers: When ready to cook, prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 to 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.
Combine the turkey and pork, cilantro, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl; mix well. Divide into 4 equal portions, then shape each into a patty that is 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the patties until the grill is ready.
Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill. Brush the patties on both sides with the 2 tablespoons of oil. Place them directly over the hot fire and cook on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn and sear on the second side until almost cooked through, about 4 minutes.
If desired, place a slice of cheese on each patty. Place the buns, cut sides down, on the grill rack to toast at the same time. Cover with the grill lid and cook for about 1 minute, until the cheese has melted.
For the mayonnaise: Whisk together the mayonnaise, soy sauce and lemon juice in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To assemble the burgers, place lettuce on each hamburger-bun bottom, if desired, then place a patty on top. Spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise on each one. Top with the remaining buns.