Friday, September 16, 2011

Turkey Burger Tacos and Courage

Ingredients for Turkey Burger Tacos
"Courage...."
I thought while folding the freshly grilled tortilla across its concocted innards. "....even if it doesn't look right, it should be edible!" But I knew better.  Sure, it would pass in my home.  Home's where sometimes  presentation means somebody remembered the napkins.

But it wouldn't do, just wouldn't do if I had any hope of competing on shows like America's Master Chef.

I caught my reflection in the glass cabinet and shook my head.  "Courage?  That's the least of your problems!"

See, I'd done a crazy thing.  I sent in my email application for season three of America's Master Chef....did it without thinking twice. Did it without thinking once, even. Did it because the stupid waffles, waffles ferchrissteaks, came out perfectly.  Not one dud.  And with the ancient waffle iron, no less.  Waffles....and suddenly I wanna go cook before Chef Ramsay!  Sheeh!

My face looked back at me with grave determination.  "Cook like you mean it, study....learn,..... pray." Sounded like my Kitchen Spirit was at it again.  "Yes, Grasshopper..."

"Oy!"  With that, I returned to the present moment. 

Ground turkey meat
I was making an experimental dish for dinner....this involved two things one, the ingredients and the other....hungry humans.   Why I wanted to play mad scientist when we were having company was beyond me, but hey.   If it didn't work out, I could always resort to waffles.

Hmmmmm.....Courage.

What we had going on was an adaption of Turkey Burgers.....Turkey Taco Burgers.  Why not?  Blame it on the tortillas, of which we had an abundance.....and the ground turkey.  Ground turkey has never been a household favorite, but ground beef was $14.99 for three pounds. Ground turkey was $6.59.  Once I got over the sticker shock, the choice was a no-brainer.  Even though I'd be met with some resistance on the home front. 

See, Jack's a purist when it comes to burgers....he'll try to be enthusiastic about ground turkey, but very rarely finds it a good substitute for beef.   And as for ground chicken, Textured Vegetable Protein, or Soy....let's not even go there.  He'll eat it if offered by a host or hostess but at home....Nada.

I'm always trying to figure out how to make the ground turkey thing work.  I've succeeded with versions of meatloaf and chili, but wanted something different.  The vision was a turkey burger served on a tortilla, trying to incorporate the best of both worlds. And if it flopped, so be it.  The dinner guest was a last minute addition to the line-up anyway.  I wondered if he liked waffles.

NOTE:  Because ground turkey is so moist, it's best not to add any egg. It won't help the patties hold shape. It'll just make things more soggy.   Usually I use something like rolled oats or oat bran or another bran as kind of a binder....a replacement for bread crumbs.

Crushing the tortilla chips
This time I wanted to infuse the meat with a bit of "Mexico" from the word jump.  So I got some tortilla chips and crushed them with my trusty rolling pin.  Crushed 'em til they were crumbs.  Then to that I added a few spices; garlic powder, a dash of dried onion, a speck of cumin....then added it to the ground turkey.  To that I added some very, very, very finely chopped green bell pepper, a finely chopped green onion and a dash of chili powder.  Then I stirred the whole thing around until it was well blended.

I took this opportunity to chop some tomatoes, lettuce, avocado  and cheese to stuff the tacos.   I also took some of the tomatoes and put them in a skillet with onions, garlic, chili powder and a dash of cumin...this would qualify as a sauce...at least for this first experiment.

Turkey patties browned and ready
After making sure the cast iron skillet was hot I coated it with a very small bit of grape seed oil.   Then I shaped the ground turkey into patties and began cooking them.   Five minutes on side one seemed to bring the right shade of brown to them, so I flipped the over and did the same.  When they were done, I set them on wire cake racks to drip any excess grease.

Then I heated the tortillas over an open flame on the stove-which had been impeccably cleaned-and set them aside on a plate.  Then it was all about construction. 

I didn't want the "standard" taco fold,  I wanted the dish to be somehow reminiscent of a hamburger.  That meant something a person could pick up in their mitts and shove into their faces....like a burger-but with a lighter bread component.

Pan browned Origami
I put a tortilla in the middle of a plate, sprinkled a small dab of cheese in the middle then added a turkey patty.  So far, so good.   The cheese would act like a glue.  I'd need more "glue" on the fold side too. So I added some of the pan "sauce" and a bit of chopped avocado, then topped if off with the "glue," er, I mean the cheese.   Looked okay.   
I decided to put the finished product on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes rather than putting more stuff inside.

Then it was Origami time......I folded the sides over, then folded the ends in on themselves, creating two "tabs."  Finally I brought the two "tabs" together across the top of the thing and pressed down.  The tabs popped apart, but otherwise the thing held its shape. A quick minute or two on the heated cast iron skillet seemed to persuade the little buggers to stay put.   And it didn't look too bad, either.

Turkey Burger Tacos 
Seeing that, I continued until all eight patties had been wrapped in their tortillas and finished with a moment on the heat.   Once the things were plated, they looked edible....even a bit interesting.  But would they be good?

Would they pass Jack's scrutiny?  Would our dinner guest like it, or long for waffles?

Turkey Burger Taco cut in half
I soon found out.   The meal was a qualified success.  Next time I'll serve a side of refried beans, and perhaps offer sour cream as a condiment....but other than that, there were no complaints.

While cleaning the kitchen after our meal, I saw my reflection in that glass door again and smiled.
"Courage..." I whispered, "courage and craziness.  Why not?"