Turkey Sliders with Grilled Bacon and Apple Slaw

This little beauty of a recipe came to me out of thin air. Fine, maybe not out of thin air, but certainly out of some kind of air. Come to think of it, what’s thick air? Humid air? Dirty air? Rain? I feel like it would be easier and/or more likely to pull things out of any of those. Maybe that’s where the saying came from… or maybe it came out of thin air.

This is going nowhere. Moving on.

This recipe is based on my simple and delicious turkey burger recipe that’s become one of my standard dinners. As I was searching for burger buns I came across a package of King’s Hawaiian rolls – you know, in the orange bag? – which inspired me to make sliders. I decided to stick with turkey (to maintain the perception of healthiness) and make some sort of slaw to complement the protein. I figured if I added a dash of spice to my original recipe I could create something salty and sweet to go with it. As an apple and a few other ingredients found their way into my cart, I remembered that my friend had just given me a package of his homemade bacon, which I knew I could weave into my creation.

I got home and got to work.

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Burger Ingredients:

  • 16 oz ground turkey (lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded pepperjack cheese
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chipotle tabasco sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 small shallot – finely diced
  • 3 green onions – finely diced
  • salt and pepper

Slaw Ingredients:

  • 1 large fuji apple – julienned
  • 2 medium carrots – julienned
  • 3/4 cup green cabbage – julienned
  • 1/2 lb bacon – grilled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Other Stuff:

  • King’s Hawaiian Rolls
  • Sweet Baby Rays
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (to make cheeseburgers)
  • Any other damn thing you want to put on the burgers

To prepare the Burgers, simply prepare and mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. If you’re thinking about subbing out the cheese, I would caution you that the richness, saltiness and moisture of the pepper-jack is important to the creation of moist sliders, especially given the use of lean turkey for the protein. Turkey dries out very quickly, so make sure you add something (such as, half a cup of pepperjack cheese) to ensure that your burgers turn out nice and juicy.

Form the mixture into eight to ten slider-sized patties (2-3 inches wide, 1/4 inch thick) and preheat the grill over medium-high heat.

To make the slaw julienne (I use this mandolin, it’s affordable and very easy to use) the apple, carrots and cabbage, and mix them with the other ingredients. It’s that simple.

These burgers are THIN, so pay attention when you cook them. Place the patties on the preheated grill, and close the lid, cooking for an initial 3-4 minutes. Flip the patties, apply cheese, and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. That’s it. There’s no second flip, and certainly no extensive cooking times. If you’re worried about the turkey being cooked, slice one of them open after resting them for a few minutes.

See? They’re done. Huh. Should have trusted me.

Give the rolls a quick toasting (you’ll probably have to halve them first) and assemble the burgers by placing the cooked patties on the grilled buns and topping them with a spoonful of the mixed slaw (and perhaps a dollop of BBQ sauce).

Serve with beer, and enjoy!

 

Brian’s Brew Review: Stone Saison

Holy crap folks, the always epic Stone Brewing Company knocked it out of the park with this easy drinking bad boy. Stone Saison is a modern reinvention of a Belgian classic.

Brewed it it’s original form to slake the thirst of hard-working Belgian farmhands, the saison is meant to be flavorful and refreshing without being heavy. The literal definition of a farmhouse ale, the saison (or “season” in French) used to be brewed during the fall and winter and saved for consumption during the hot summer months. The ale was known to be spicy and flavorful as a result of the infusion of hops, fruits and other spices, though flavors (like recipes) varied widely from farm to farm. By some accounts, farm hands were allotted up to five liters of the brew per day, and while that sounds like an excessive amount (five liters is roughly equal to just over ten pints) most traditional saisons clocked in at roughly 3% ABV.

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Thankfully, Stone has opted for a more modern approach. Given that their intention is not to motivate 18th century field laborers, but to provide delicious beverages to thirsty millennials, their Saison registers a healthy – but nearly sessionable – 6% ABV.

The brew pours a hazy light golden color and is capped by a thin, milky-white head. The nose is simple at first; an initial sniff yields just a hint of classic Belgian notes, but a deep, robust inhale reveals notes of apple, citrus and spice.

These hints of flavor are immediately amplified with the first sip. Though I expected the traditional heavy breadiness of a Belgian, the initial flavor is surprisingly subtle. The flavor of bread is certainly present, but it’s balanced by a creamy malt characteristic reminiscent of a classic pilsner, all of which yields to a delectable combination of citrus and floral flavors as the beer washes across the palate. The finish is decidedly Belgian, though a resurgence of breadiness once again gives way to a hint of spice and the subtle sweetness of honey.

Stone Saison is an interesting and wonderfully drinkable brew designed for the back porch, but strong and flavorful enough to be consumed all year long. Pick one up today, you won’t be disappointed!

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Check me out on Untappd for more of what I’m drinking!

 

Simple Smoked Salmon Spread

It’s a Northwest heatwave folks! Peel off your shirts (leave the jeans on though, please), take the socks out of your sandals, and buy Lowes out of their stock of portable air conditioners. That’s right, it’s finally hit the mid 80’s here in the Seattle area.

Now, you might say, “The mid 80’s? That’s not hot!” 

Well, you’d be absolutely right… but it IS the state of our present weather pattern, and as you may know those granola-crunchers down on First and Pike need something to passively complain about.

So if you find yourself taking a break from forming a chain of kayaks in an effort to stop an oil rig from leaving the port of Seattle, you may want to whip up a batch of this simple smoked salmon spread, which is perfect as a savory appetizer, or a simple, delicious dinner on a hot day.

PS – A word to granola-crunchers: this has fish and dairy products in it, it is not granola.

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Ingredients:

  • 6-8 oz. smoked salmon (preferably pre-spiced)
  • 1/2 cup lite sour cream
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat whipped cream cheese
  • 3 green onions, diced (separated)
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Baguette for serving

Place the smoked salmon in the bottom of a large bowl, and gently flake the fillet into small pieces using a fork. Prepare and add the sour cream, whipped cream cheese, two of the onions and the shallot. Fold the ingredients together in the bowl until they’re thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I find that this recipe is better if you let it sit for a few hours before serving, which allows the flavors to blend together, and the sharpness of the onion and shallot to mellow.

Serve the spread on sliced rounds of the baguette (toasted or grilled if you wish) with the remaining onion sprinkled on top for garnish.

Serve and enjoy!

Brian’s Brew Review: Beer Camp There and Back (English Bitter)

I bought two 12-packs of Sierra Nevada’s collaborative brewing endeavor, Beer Camp Across America, when I first saw them in stores during the summer of 2014. I purchased them in late August, brought them home and happily stored them on my brewing station… and then subsequently forgot all about them. The school year began, and with it came a whole host of other considerations – new students, an altered schedule, a brand new class, and working with a full-time student teacher – all of which took precedence over my methodical beer sampling. I knew that I would need to spend some time with these brews; to savor what was sure to be the only examples of these limited collaborations that my taste buds would ever be privy to. So I let them sit… until a few weeks ago, when I noticed the forlorn boxes sitting in the same place I had set them so many months before, practically begging to be opened. So in honor of the first one of these special brews I am also kicking off my new “Brian’s Brew Review” blog format.

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The first thing you notice when you take a sip of There and Back English-style Bitter is (oddly enough) the bitterness. It’s not a citrusy, hop-forward character, like that of your generally-floral American IPA, but a smooth bitterness characteristic of the style. While that first impression lingers on the tongue and slowly coats the roof of your mouth, you begin to notice the easy-drinking medium bodied feel of the beer. This gives way to a subtle breadiness, and then a lingering bitter aftertaste. Most notably, both the aroma and flavor of the copper-colored brew have a subtle note of caramel that’s oddly comforting. It begs to be consumed.

Sip, savor, repeat.

There and Back is the collaborative endeavor of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and New Glarus Brewing Co. Pick one up… if you can still find them!

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Check me out on Untappd to see what I’ve been into lately!

 

Best Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies!

I don’t normally bake, but when I do… I make something delicious!

My wife has made a concerted effort lately to force us to eat healthier, and by that I mean she has consciously chosen not to bake very much. She made this choice knowing full-well that I like to grill and cook, but baking isn’t my strong suit. However, I can overcome any obstacle when I set my mind to it, especially when I have a hankering for cookies!

This recipe is a twice-modified version of a recipe that I found after realizing that I only had brown sugar in the pantry.

The resulting cookies are gooey and delicious, with the dark, rich flavor that the combination of light and dark brown sugars, and an abundance of chocolate and peanut butter chips, adds to the recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups butter – softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter and the sugars at high speed.

Add the two eggs and vanilla, and mix it all together at low speed, then add the salt and baking soda and continue to mix.

Add the flour, and mix until it’s all just combined.

Gently fold in the chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Scoop out small balls of dough onto a cookie sheet (I use a silpat as well), space the balls a couple inches apart, and bake them for 9-10 minutes.

Remove them from the sheet and cool them on a rack.

Enjoy with milk; cookies are better when dunked.

Spicy Burgers with Chipotle Mushroom-Onion Topping

In honor of National Burger Day (yup, that’s a thing) I’m sharing my recipe for spicy adobo burgers with a chipotle mushroom and onion topping. But first, I’d like to share a few helpful tips for grilling burgers:

  • DO NOT flip your burgers more than once. Multiple flips lead to overcooking.
  • DO NOT overcook the burgers. An overcooked burger is a dry, mealy, gray meat cake that looks vaguely like a hockey puck. Don’t eat hockey pucks. Those are for playing hockey.
  • DO NOT press down on the burgers. This squeezes all the juice (flavor) out, leaving you with a dry, overcooked (see last burger tip), flavorless meat wad . That’s gross.
  • FYI: If you claim to like your burger “well-done” I have some news for you: you don’t actually like burgers. Do the cook a favor and specify what you actually want so there’s no confusion. In other words, don’t ask for “a burger, well-done,” ask for “a dry, flavorless meat wad,” or “a hockey puck,” they’ll know what you mean.

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Burgers:

  • 1 lb ground beef (80-20 is best, remember, fat = flavor)
  • 1 tsp adobo seasoning
  • a pinch of salt and pepper

Onion Topping:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
  • ⅓ cup beef broth
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo
  • salt and pepper

And so forth:

  • Beer (In this case, a Hop Valley Alphadelic IPA) for drinking while grilling… and while eating… and other times, too
  • Pretzel Rolls
  • Pepperoncini rings
  • Cheeses (I use a jalapeno jack and a medium cheddar)
  • Other toppings (My favorites are Sweet Baby Rays and Beaver Brand)

Step one: Open a beer.

Step one: complete.

Step one: complete.

To make the topping, slice the mushrooms and the onions. Preheat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and saute them, stirring frequently, until they’re lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced onions, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are just translucent, about another 2-3 minutes.

Puree the chipotle pepper (use more than one for a spicier topping) into the tomato paste and beef broth, and then add the resulting mixture to the pan. Stir to combine, allow to simmer, and then reduce the heat to low. Allow the mixture to continue cooking (stirring occasionally) as you cook the burgers.

To make the burgers, mix the listed ingredients in a bowl, and form ½-inch thick patties. I usually make 1/3 pound patties to serve my gluttonous desires (and because my wife won’t let me make half-pounders) but I would encourage four ¼ pound burgers of normal size.

I usually mix my own adobo seasoning (I really like this simple recipe), but a store-bought mix will do just fine!

Preheat the grill over medium-high heat, and either coat the grates with grill spray or brush them with oil.

Cook the burgers on the pre-heated grill for no more than three minutes on each side (for a total of six minutes). If you’re going to add cheese, do it just after the first flip, close the lid, and allow the cheese to melt.

Remove the burgers from the grill, and – much like a steak – allow them to rest so that those delicious juices have a moment to diffuse back into the meat. You don’t need to give them the 5-10 minutes needed for a steak, but maybe 2-3 minutes, which is (coincidentally) just enough time to slice and toast your buns.

Load the bun up with the topping, the burger, and whatever else you’d like, crack a new beer, and enjoy!

I will leave you with the immortal words of the burger-purist, Ron Swanson:

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Make Your Cookout Stand Out: 5 Tips for Hosting a Better Barbecue

Well folks, Memorial day is right around the corner, and what better way to spend the first long weekend of summer than in the back yard or on the beach, cookin’ up some memories (and some great food) with your friends and family?

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…like this paella for instance!

 

The team over at Man Crates recently reached out to me to see what kinds of things I would suggest that people make sure to have to create the perfect grilling experience. These guys specialize in gifts for dudes which come in wooden crates that need to be pried open with a crowbar. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you my five tips to make your cookout stand head and shoulders above the rest:

Tip #1: Grill Up Some Options

People want choices. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if you spend hours marinating and smoking the perfect ribs, and then a few minutes grilling up some store-marinated chicken; people want to have the options and they remember if you provide it to them. Hey, even in the barbecuing stone-age they had hot dogs AND hamburgers.

Do your research ahead of time, plan out some options, and make a decision. A great grilling book, like Weber’s Way To Grill is essential in this case, especially if you’re not totally comfortable controlling the outdoor cookspace, or coming up with recipes on your own.

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Once you decide on your main dishes, make sure to tailor your sides to the theme. For example, were you to make my Sesame-Soy Marinated Flank Steak, it would stand to reason that you’d also whip up a batch of my Sesame Noodle Salad as a side dish. Likewise, a serving of Drunken Salmon and Rockfish Tacos would be incomplete without a helping of my Jicama and Grilled Corn Salsa or some Mango Guacamole.

Finally, make sure that you have a few different, delicious drink options. Thankfully (hopefully), the age of the “light beer” is finally waning, whilst the era of the full-flavored, sessionable brew comes into it’s own. With available craft beer like Day Hike and Trailhead ISA from Two Beers Brewing Co, Even Keel from Ballast Point, and even something more out there, like Hell or High Watermelon from 21st Amendment, its possible to have a happy, flavorful and hop-fueled day without having to take a nap in the early afternoon.

Behold, the wall of beer!

Behold, the wall of beer!

For those who don’t drink beer, a flavorful cocktail makes the perfect backyard bevvie. While I prefer the simple beverages (and barstool wisdom) provided in Old Man Drinks, my wife would probably encourage you to pick up a copy of Mrs Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook, which provides fun, easy to follow recipes for “classic cocktails with a twist.”

For the old men

For the old men

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For everyone else

Tip #2: Provide Entertainment

You know what sucks? A party where there’s nothing to do. Don’t be that host.

Make sure that your friends have something to actually do; you can only watch a person grill for so long before you start contemplating the meaning of life, and you can only have someone watch you grill for so long before you begin contemplating the meaning of their death. Keep it light. Buy some games.

Since retailers in our kindergarten-country have for some (I’m guessing: legal) reason banned the sale of those badass metal-tipped lawn darts I played with in the 80’s, you’re going to need to come up with some other options.

For the non-athletic audience, I would recommend something low impact, mildly competitive and team-based, like Trac Ball, or Ladder Toss, both of which can be played with a beer in hand.

For the more athletically inclined,  would recommend a frisbee-based game, like KanJam (which you could buy on Amazon, or simply make by cutting holes in plastic trash cans), or my new favorite game: Spikeball. Either would provide you guests rounds and rounds of competitive fun.

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Oh, and worst comes to worst, you can always grab a hammer and some nails for a rousing (and potentially life-threatening) game of stump, a drinking game that involves tossing a hammer above your head with one hand while holding a beer in the other. Don’t forget your steel-toed boots.

Not for the uncoordinated or the over-inebriated

Not for the uncoordinated or the over-inebriated

Tip #3: Make Sweet Music

No one wants to hear you talk for an entire afternoon, so make sure that your guests have something to listen to, and a way to listen to it. I don’t mean that you should go out and buy some fancy speaker system (although if you did, I would definitely consider starting with a few SONOS Play:1 speakers and building from there), and I certainly wouldn’t recommend handing out earbuds to your guests. I would, however, encourage you to get a simple portable speaker, like the Rugged Rukus, which is solar-powered, bluetooth-ready, and loud enough to annoy the neighbors. As an added bonus, you could throw on some early Wu-Tang, and repeatedly tell people to “Bring the Motha-F***** Rukus.”

Bring the Motha-F***** Rukus

Bring the Motha-F***** Rukus

Of course, you can pick whatever type of music you want, but I’ve always found that a nice ‘default’ station that pleases most listeners is Pandora’s ‘Laid Back Beach Music’. It’s free and easy to listen to, unless you happen to hate Jack Johnson, in which case you should pick a different station.

Tip #4: Have The Required Equipment

If you’re going to serve food and drinks to a yard full of people, you’re going to want to make sure that people have things to eat off of and drink out of. You DO NOT want to be doing dishes for the three days following your party because you forgot to buy paper plates and plastic cups. It’s bad for the environment, but it’s good for your sanity. Make a choice.

That part is simple. Pick a theme, buy plates, cups, napkins, tableware, decorations, etc. To be honest, that’s not really my department. I advise you to bring your significant other to Target and set them loose.

There are some grilling mainstays that I don’t think you should do without.

First, have a good grill brush. The best one I’ve found is the Tuff-Built Industrial Grade Grill Brush. I’ve had mine for two years. I use it year-round. I’ve scrubbed every outward-facing surface of my grill with this thing, and it’s still holding tough. Get one. They’re awesome.

If you want the perfect grill-marks on your meats, I’ve recently found that GrillGrates raised rails work REALLY well. They’re easy to use, easy to clean and provide a perfectly even cook.

So THAT'S how they get those perfect lines!

So THAT’S how they get those perfect lines!

Finally, make sure you have a useful, versatile knife that’s easy to use and easy to open, especially with one hand. Most importantly, make sure it opens beer bottles. In other words, you want a Leatherman Crater. I know, I know; I could be suggesting any number of barbecue cooking utensils, expensive knives or novelty bottle openers to add to your drawers full of kitchen junk, but this wonderful little tool is by far the best and most useful pocket knife I’ve come across. I love these so much that I gave them to my groomsmen as gifts before my wedding. Get one. Seriously.

boring stock knife photo

boring stock knife photo

Tip #5: Party Favors

Finally, you want your guests to remember your gathering, so give them something useful that they can take away with them. In my experience, the best useful party favor were the custom koozies that my wife had made up over at CustomInk. They’re useful, fun, and give your guests a reason to grab another beer (as if they needed one).

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I’m outdoorsy in that I like drinking at the cabin

I hope these tips were helpful! Enjoy the grilling season, and happy Memorial Day!