The reputation of the turkey burger is not the finest. To most, it's an also-ran, a compromise, a substitute for the true love of the genuine article. Today's recipe is a plea to let a turkey burger be a turkey burger, not a simulacrum of the beefy ideal, but a thing in itself, touting its charms without reference to the gifts of others. Properly topped and wrapped, preferable in lettuce as we've done here, it offers up a perfect balance of meaty umami, unctuous Thousand Island tang, and light, herbaceous crunch. Consumed midday, it delivers the immediate, gut soothing satisfaction of fast food, but without the enduring ballast or the yawning, post-prandial descent into lethargy, biliousness, and self-hate.
As recipes go, it doesn't get much easier. Ground turkey, minced onion, bread crumps, salt, pepper, a squirt of ketchup and heat. The trick, if there is one, is temperature regulation. It's important to start with a smoking hot pan, so the burger sears shut from the start. If the pan isn't hot enough, the meat will turn out grey in color and taste, and never develop that beloved layer of crisp caramelization. Once the initial sear is done, the heat needs to be dialed back a touch, so the turkey has time to cook thoroughly without burning. The trick is keeping the pan hot enough to prevent the burger from sweating out, but not so hot that the oil in the pan and the burger smoke and burn. But it's not brain surgery. Eight to ten minutes of semi-focussed attention is all it takes. Give it a try, and let us know what you think.