Food & Wine (June 2010)
Flipping burgers on the grill is a quintessential rite of summer. And while we'll never tire of the classic taste of a nice grilled burger piled high with fresh fixings, it's fairly easy to fall into a burger rut.
Which is why we were so excited to make these chicken burgers. They sounded like they'd be light and summery, and we were already salivating at the thought of that spicy peanut sauce.
As it turned out, these burgers were delicious -- but they need a few tweaks.
First, the chicken. We had some issues. It comes together quite easily -- just mix in onions, oil and spices, and then form patties with your hands. Simple enough. The problems came once we started grilling. Our patties stuck to the grates of our grill. Like, a lot. As in, we lost a fair amount of each patty when it came time to flip it.
We have a couple theories on why our burgers stuck so badly: For one thing, we used ground turkey instead of ground chicken. The grocery didn't have any ground chicken, and we thought turkey would make a fine substitute. We were careful to buy turkey that was 15 percent fat, but maybe that still wasn't enough to hold up to the heat of the grill?
More likely, our problem was that we forgot to brush the patties with oil before we grilled them. That step is in the recipe; it just slipped our minds.
Don't get us wrong: The issues were relatively minor, and the burgers tasted great. The chile powder and the garam masala really give them a terrific flavor and heat.
And let's be honest: The burgers in this case are really just a vehicle for the peanut sauce. And believe us, the sauce is amazing!
But the sauce needed some tweaks as well. This recipe essentially just makes a peanut butter that's thinned by unsweetened coconut milk and spiced with a little chile powder. We found it boring, bland and wan.
So we kicked things up by adding a few squirts of Sriracha (1 1/2 teaspoons), about a tablespoon of sugar, and another hefty teaspoon or so of salt.
Adding those extra elements gave us a rich, satisfying peanut sauce with a great depth of flavor. The chile powder gave it a decent under-layer of heat, but the Sriracha made it nice and spicy. And the sugar and extra salt really brought out the flavors of the peanuts.
(Oh, p.s.: We used all-natural peanut butter, just peanuts and salt. So maybe that was our fault as well. If you're using processed PB, you'll want to tweak the flavors on your own. Like, you probably wouldn't need to add additional salt and sugar.)
Anyway, the sauce -- with our slight adjustments -- made a really delicious complement to the burgers. Warm and spicy, with a great mix of sweet and salty, the sauce is absolutely terrific.
We served the burgers with arugula instead of plain lettuce, as the recipe calls for. The arugula just added that much more flavor, its peppery zest making a great counterpart to the peanut sauce.
We'd definitely make these burgers again -- we'll just be sure to oil them before we grill!
TOTAL TIME: 30 MIN
. 1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons very finely chopped red onion
. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
. 2 teaspoons chile powder
. 1 teaspoon garam masala
. 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
. 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
. 2 tablespoons hot water
. 2 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts
. 4 round ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
. Lettuce, for serving
In a medium bowl, combine the ground chicken with 1/4 cup of the chopped onion, 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of the chile powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and the garam masala. Using slightly moistened hands, form the ground-chicken mixture into four 4-inch patties.
In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped onion and 1 teaspoon of chile powder and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter and hot water. Stir in the peanuts and season the sauce lightly with salt.
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the chicken burgers with vegetable oil and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until they are golden and crusty and just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Spread the peanut sauce on the rolls. Top with the burgers and lettuce, close and serve.