Labor Day weekend has evolved into so much more than a celebration of the contributions of American workers. It signals the confluence of several all-American rites: the end of summer, the beginning of a new school year, harvest season and, for avid sports fans, it is where the best of both worlds collide: baseball and football. Baseball season ignites in the final stretch to the playoffs and football fans are pumped up as a new season kicks off. The agony of defeat in one area can be smothered by the excitement of the possibilities that lie ahead. For some of us, it just means more fun barbecues and tailgate parties!
For our family, the end of summer and beginning of fall also means we are celebrating another wedding anniversary (this year it was #24!), my birthday (which often falls on Labor Day weekend) and College Girl’s big day a week later, followed by Don’s birthday in October and then it’s the holidays! Basically, the festivities don’t end until January 2nd!
For summer’s last hurrah, I came up with this flavorful turkey burger with a slight kick from Hatch chiles two ways. Forget the bland turkey burgers we’ve all experienced and spice it up with Hatch chile powder (mild or hot depending on your taste buds) and some smoked sweet paprika. But don’t stop there, just as bread can make or break a sandwich, a flacid white bun can kill a burger. Get the best buns you can – the ones I choose are baked by OC Baking Company – a premiere artisan bakery here in Orange County which supplies many of the OC’s finest restaurants, burger bars and delis. You can purchase them at their store in Orange or at several area farmers markets. Living in SoCal I might be grilling this burger on New Years Day
Hatch Fever Turkey Burger
Perfect for barbecues or tailgating, a burger bursting with flavors of caramelized onion and Hatch chiles in the mix and then topped with a schmear of Hatch Chile Pesto.
1 – 1/4 pound ground turkey
1 Tablespoon Don Enrique Mild Hatch Chile powder
1 Tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 cup sliced sweet onion, caramelized
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup shredded Manchego cheese (or 4 slices)
Hatch Chile & Parsley Pesto
1 cup parsley, packed (thick stems removed)
2 grilled or roasted Hatch chiles, skin and seeds removed
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Garnish: 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and halved
Heat your grill on high heat.
1. In a glass bowl, mix the Hatch Chile powder and paprika in with the turkey meat. I use a fork, but you can also clean hands. Form 4 evenly sized balls and flatten into patties.
2. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over med heat. Cook the onions until browned. Blend into the turkey mixture.
3. Prepare the pesto by combining the parsley, hatch chiles, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and process until well combined but not pureed. Over processing can cause the herbs to turn black.
4. Grease the grill grate using tongs and a paper towel moistened with oil. When temperature reaches 400 degrees, put the burgers on the grill. After about 5 minutes, turn the burgers and move them to continue cooking over indirect heat (off to the side in a charcoal grill, or turn off one line of burners on your gas grill) and cook for another 5 minutes or until the burgers are done to your liking. During the last minute, place 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese (or slices) on each burger and grill the buns.
5. While the burgers are cooking, grill the red pepper halves until skin is blackened. Remove and place in a bag to steam. Then remove the skin and cut into slices.
To serve: Arrange arugula on the buns. Arrange red pepper slices on top of the burger and top with a spoonful of pesto on top.
Grilling tips: It’s all in the tools and the heat of the grill. Invest in a mega BBQ spatula like the one pictured below from Pampered Chef – you could really hurt someone with this monster, but the edges are sharp and can get under anything for easy turning – unless you didn’t grease the rack first. To prevent sticking and achieve a good sear, make sure your grill is very hot before putting your meat or fish on the rack. For turkey burgers I use a small grid rack because they do have a tendency to break apart.