let’s talk turkey…and corn chowder.

I have always loved a tender, juicy Thanksgiving turkey.  But it’s not an every day occurrence that a whole turkey is roasting in my kitchen.  The more approachable split turkey breast has definitely made its way through my oven and into my belly more than once.  The turkey breast doesn’t take nearly as long to cook as the full bird does, and it can be easily seasoned and roasted to juicy perfection. 

My first impressions of ground turkey were not nearly as positive.  It was never a meat that I ate at home as a kid.  And when I did begin tasting ground turkey out in the world, it was usually dry, chalky, and tasteless.  The recipe that turned me around was one for Southwest Turkey Burgers.  I wish I could tell you from whence that original came, but over the years, and with a little tweaking, it has become a staple in our home.  Moist, flavorful, and able to be modified with tons of different flavor profiles, turkey burgers are a great option for a novice in a kitchen, for one trying to cut back on red meat or calories, and for anyone who craves more variety in their diet.

This dinner of turkey burgers and corn chowder gets its flavor from lots of vegetables, herbs, chicken broth, and well…a really little bit of bacon.  Just to start the soup!  And to garnish it.  Three pieces of bacon for a whole pot of soup isn’t going to bust anyone’s waistline.  But this isn’t about bacon!  It’s about turkey and chowder. 

The turkey burgers take mere minutes to put together, so I constructed my corn chowder first.  I used to be intimidated by the thought of making soup.  But once I learned how it worked, and how simple and rewarding the process is, I became a serious soup making mama. 

After browning some bacon in a big soup pot, I removed the bacon and began to cook up the onions.  When they had softened a bit, I added shallots and a yellow bell pepper.

When building a soup or a sauce, I am mindful about the color of the ingredients.  It’s real easy to make brown, folks.  And brown food can be seriously unappealing (unless it’s a beautiful golden brown cheese topping or the caramelization on a piece of meat.)  I don’t want green peppers to cook down in a light yellow soup, just as I wouldn’t add a bunch of tomatoes to a green goddess dressing or an asparagus puree.  So, I stuck to whites and yellows for this soup.

Next came the garlic and then time to crank the heat and make a rouix with flour.  Once the flour had a chance to cook for a minute or two, I added 1% milk, chicken broth, and salt and pepper.  After that, I added diced potatoes, which provide great texture in a corn chowder.  I also placed a few of my stripped corn cobs in the pot to release some of their sweet corn milky goodness along with a pinch of sugar for encouragement. 

That pretty little bundle of fresh thyme hung out while the soup simmered and was easy to retrieve when it had fulfilled its herbacious duty.  After the broth had a chance to develop its flavor and come into its own, I added about two thirds of my corn kernels that I stripped off the cob and let them cook down for a few. 

The next step was blending my soup.  I love to use a stick blender for this type of task.  It is one of my very favorite kitchen tools.  You can also use a food processor and blend the soup in batches.  For me, that tends to be a messy ordeal.  When my soup was smooth and lovely, I added the remaining kernels of corn to the pot.  I enjoy the feel of the silky, luxurious soup paired with full, just-tender kernels of corn.

Alright- don’t blink now.  You might miss the speedy turkey burger part.

Ground turkey has a tendency to be dry and bland.  So, this time, I added shredded carrots, one egg white, and two tablespoons of chunky salsa to the meat.  I seasoned with fresh garlic, cumin, chipotle, and dried oregano.  Another key to producing happy turkey burgers is not to over mix the ingredients.  I used my hands to quickly combine the ingredients and then formed two patties.  These patties are always extremely wet, which used to scare me, but after much practice, I know the wet = success.

These cooked for about 6 – 7 minutes per side on medium heat.  Whenever I flip them, I fear the burny, charred appearance.  But that black just captures the flavor, like the crispy cheese that hits the pan when you’re making a grilled cheese.

Speaking of cheese, I opted for Jack and Adam chose Swiss and a piece of smokey white cheddar. 

Whole wheat buns, a little spicy mustard, sliced tomatoes, and kosher dill pickles completed these burgers.  I topped the corn chowder with a bit of the crumbled bacon that started it all.

Yum!  This hot, simple meal warmed us up on a cold winter’s night.  The burgers just oozed flavor and moisture, and the soup was so very comforting. 

By the way- these burgers only used half of a package of ground turkey.  Inexpensive and tasty!  The second half of the meat was destined to become turkey meatballs to be paired with homemade tomato sauce.

My clients and I have been delighted again and again by the satisfaction a flavorful turkey burger brings to the table.  Think outside the box with your ground turkey- Greek meatballs in a whole wheat pita with cucumbers and tzatziki sauce!  Turkey meatloaf with orange pepper glaze on top.  Turkey patty melts with caramelized onions and mushrooms on rye.  Mmmm.  This versatile ingredient is your oyster and mine.  Play with it and enjoy!!! 



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