This past weekend revealed a disturbing trend in my post college life. One Friday night out late leaves me dragging all the way into Monday.
Getting older sucks.
Gone are the youthful days where a 3 a.m. meeting with my bed would not start a 48 hour chain reaction of sweat pant immobility. Its during these trying times that I need to muster the strength to put on real pant and go to the store in order to feed myself. This weekend was no different, there was NFL playoffs on, and a relaxing weekend on the couch with a full french press at my ready was in my sights. It was in this moment of content on my Sunday morning when the lazy guilt and hunger pangs decided to tag team me in a mental back alley.
I should probably find something to eat today.
Watching my girlfriend be productive, by cleaning up the remnants of a lovely Christmas season (Including about a bazillion tree needles) it became clear that perhaps I need to make something other than cereal or Dino nuggets (Better believe this is a post to come!). If for anything, it will distract her from asking for help! ( I Kid!)
The next step in this progression is to check the fridge and freezer to see what our future evening might hold. The first thing I see is a package of Chicken, Spinach and Feta Sausages that I procured from the local supermarket a few days prior. Knowing the healthy weeknight meal regimen was fast approaching and these would not qualify, I knew that these little babies would need to be my focal point tonight before they became a waste of my income.
My mind first went to a soup (damn you, cold winter weather), but I knew that I wanted something better. I recalled an idea from few months back that I first read about on the foodie website seriouseats.com, written by the wonderful J.Kenji Lopez, in which he used high quality store bought sausage links and turned them into a burger! Without hesitation my lady gave the nod of approval to this confused sausage sandwich and even offered to go to the store for some ciabatta to eat it with. I’m a lucky guy!
Back to the meal planning.
With such strong flavors that accompany any sausage, I needed to find complimentary toppings. After brainstorming a little with my dining partner and firing a few ideas across her bow we had settled on caramelized onions for the sweet component, tomatoes and fresh spinach for the light refreshing crunch, and a homemade tzatziki sauce to cool it all down and give it some Greek flair and direction.
The resulting burger exceeded my wildest expectations. The Tzatziki complimented the sausage like few condiments could have, with the acid of the lemon juice perfectly balancing the garlic and cucumber, all of which helped tone down strong flavor of the sausage allowing no single ingredient to dominate. I know when we land on a good recipe in my household when Katie mutters between bites something along the lines of “Holy Sh**, I would definitely order this”. Its amazing how something that seems destined for one or two kinds of preparation, in this case a humble sausage, can be so versatile. Its successes like these that lead to more experimentation which I have found on so many other great blogs. Without further adieu…
Chicken Tzatziki Burger Recipe:
- 4 chicken spiniach & feta sausages (equals about 2 large burgers, can be divided into 4 for sliders, you can use any sausage combo you prefer)
- 2 ciabatta rolls
- 1/2 cup of spinach
- 1 medium tomato (you can leave this off if you prefer, some winter tomatoes can be mealy and bland in the winter)
- 1/2 cup of white onions, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup of white mushrooms, chopped (optional, to give the onions a meatier quality, and for umami)
- 1 Tbls butter (optional, for better onion caramelization)
- 2 Tbls of olive oil
- 2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 cup of plain non-fat greek yogurt (I used Chobani, my favorite!)
- 1/4 cup of thin sliced cucumber
- 1 Tbls chopped garlic (about 2-3 cloves)
- 1 Tbls lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
-First, to prepare the tzatziki sauce, mix all of the ingredients in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. No complicated mixing techniques here! You will want to do this a good hour ahead of time in order for the flavors to truly marry.
-Now its time to prep the sausages, the first thing you will want to do is remove the sausage innards from the casings.
-To do this, you simply need to run a sharp knife from tip to tip on one side of the sausage and the skin should be able to remove from there. Remove the sausage meat and portion out into the burger size of your choice. Once portioned out, do your best to gently form into patties, similar to how you would any burger for a summertime bbq. It is easier said than done, as sausage has a higher fat content then most burgers at the supermarket, so the heat from your hands has a tendency to melt it slightly. If you are worried about the sausage sticking to your hands too much, you can throw these into the freezer for about 15 minutes to help buy you some hand forming time. It should be mentioned that this is a very messy operation, so please roll them sleeves up!
-Once sausage patties are formed, lightly cover them on a plate and place them in the fridge to firm up and wait for their turn!
-Next, you will want to caramelize you onions, this is the most time consuming process of the sandwich. Many of you will have a tried and true caramelized onion recipe with which to work with, and if that is what you are most comfortable with and confident in, I would say proceed on with that! For the rest of you, follow me.
-The first step is to cut your onions to the thickness of your desire. For this operation, I chose to go with thin slices, as it just sort of happened that way for me. I was using a leftover white onion from a meal I made the night before, and the portion that was left for me was better suited for the thin slice approach. With your onions sliced, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and in it put 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Since this is a slow approach, there is no need for high heat or for the oil to reach its smoke point for a quick saute. When the oil is well heated and gliding across the pan with small tilts, place the onions in the pan. At this juncture, I like to immediately start tossing the onions, to ensure a full coasting from the oil on the onions. No need for a select few to hog the oil bath treatment! Continue to move the onions around every few minutes to ensure nothing is sticking. After about 10 minutes, when the onions are starting to soften and sweat, stir in 1 tablespoon of water and cover the pan. Let it steam until the water evaporates, to help soften the onions even further. The next step is optional, but it really enhances the flavor, and seeing as I have side stepped every other healthy option in this recipe thus far, I went for it. Go ahead and add that tablespoon of butter to your softened onions and continue to cook down. If the onions are cooking a little hotter than expected and starting to brown and burn, turn the burner down to low and continue. What your looking for here is soft, not mushy, onions that have a sweet and savory flavor. When they are ready, remove the pan from the heat and get a new one ready for the sausage burgers.
-You will want to pull the sausage patties out of the fridge about ten minutes prior to cooking them, so that they come up to room temperature. This is crucial to even cooking, and with chicken, that is always needed. While the patties are sitting and warming up from their cold nap time, get a frying pan, or in my case a griddle pan if you have one, and place on medium high heat. Spray the pan with PAM or any other slick cooking lubricant if you would like. I chose the old pancake trick of dropping a little oil in the hot pan then wiping it up with a dry paper towel. It leaves a greasy residue that is perfect for our searing purposes. Place the patties on the preheated griddle or frying pan and press just once with a firm spatula to help it form a crust from the sear. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so, letting that crust really form. This is where the flavor gets some amazing depth. Flip once to sear and brown the other side for another 4 minutes. Remove the patties from the pan and let them cool for an additional 5 minutes, this will help it retain its juice.
-While the patties are cooling, slice your ciabatta rolls, or bread roll of your choosing, and lightly brush the insides with the last remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place the rolls, oil face up under the broiler until golden brown.
You may also achieve this on a pan, face down, or on a grill if you don’t have or want to use your broiler. This minor step is actually quite important. When you toast the rolls and form a crust, you help create a moisture barrier. You will be thanking this crusty barrier when eating time comes and the bread is able to hold its own against the moisture of the tzatziki, tomato and sausage juices.
- The final step is putting it all together, and layering as you wish!