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Monday, 28 December 2020

Christmas Dinner... Burger-style!

I have to confess that, despite largely eschewing this blog this year, in favour of quick-and-easy, hashtag-enhanced Instagram posts, I'd thought my Christmas Dinner pizza was a more recent event than it actually was... Perhaps my recollection had become 'slightly' skewed by the emergence this year of Pizza Hut's take on my idea (which is heartily recommended, BTW - the Red Wine Gravy base alone is delicious, though the use of rotisserie chicken rather than turkey makes it a little less authetic), but it was way back in 2014... and I didn't even get round to writing up my 2016 magnum opus, the salmon en croûte with cream cheese, cranberry sauce and orange zest that Courtney and I made for my parents as Christmas Dinner that year.

Nevertheless, it had occurred to me a month or so back that it'd be nice to follow that up with another form of junk-food-ised Christmas Dinner, and the most obvious option seemed to be burgers... While Courtney and I have eaten fewer burgers at home this year than previously, I did end up visiting the McDonald's round the corner from my last Temping placement, in Islington, a little too frequently while I was there.

She was very much on board with the suggestion, so I went ahead and started looking into how best to make turkey burgers from scratch. In the end, largely through lack of care and attention, I made the most basic option in the world - just turkey mince (500g of 2% fat turkey mince from Tesco), seasoned only with salt and pepper, and formed into two patties. These were pan-fried, one at a time, in a little vegetable oil, with the use of a meat thermometer to ensure they were properly cooked all the way through, since I couldn't easily eyeball it.

Turkey is only part of a good Christmas Dinner, though. I also wanted to add a patty of stuffing and a Christmassy hash brown at the very least, while thoughts of cranberry sauce and lightly toasted slices of Brussels sprouts seemed to round off the concept nicely. Courtney mixed up a red cabbage coleslaw, because we had some red cabbage, and it went well with her planned vegetarian option.

For the stuffing patties, I had the option of going for something simple, like sage and onion, but ended up choosing a pork, chestnut and onion stuffing from the Tesco Finest range - a 400g pack divided up into four patties. The hash browns were home made, using a mixture of parsnips, rainbow carrots, onion and potato with egg and potato flour added to aid binding. These were pan-fried and still didn't hold together especially well, but the rainbow carrots added some seasonal colour to what could otherwise have been quite anaemic hash browns (hash beiges?). The sprout slices were simply chucked in the oven, unadorned, alongside my stuffing patties and Courtney's vegetarian sundries, while the hash browns and burgers were being cooked on the hob.

Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without pigs in blankets and, rather than buy them oven-ready, I decided to piece together my own using a combination of Pork and Caramelised Onion cocktail sausages and Chestnut Smoked Streaky Bacon, both from the Tesco Finest range. Weirdly, the packs were of different sizes - 18 cocktail sausages versus 16 slices of bacon - so I ended up with a couple of unwrapped sausages. However, about 30-35 minutes in the oven created a tray full of pigs in blankets, with enough leftovers to cover my lunches for the following couple of days.

Bun-wise, I'd originally ordered a pack of Warburtons' Brioche Burger Buns but, with the only delivery slot available to us being the 18th December, these would have been out of date and probably growing stale before Christmas Day, so we ended up using them for other things and buying a pack of standard sliced buns locally, a couple of days ahead of time.

The buns were assembled with a helping of Courtney's red cabbage 'slaw on the bottom, the stuffing patty, the turkey burger, some cranberry sauce, and the toasted sprout slices substituting for that old burger staple, the pickled gherkin slices. I only got one of the hash browns, because Courtney miscounted, and they hadn't held together very well anyway, so much of the mixture ended up in a pile on her plate. I served my pigs in blankets on the side, and nicked one of her Brie Bites (Tesco's own brand) for a bit of variety, since my plate was largely made up of meat.

The results were a little mixed... and, unfortunately, my hastily taken, blurry, poorly-lit photos don't help...

The pigs in blankets were excellent and, for once, I was able to taste the difference between fancily-smoked bacon and the normal kind, these rashers having a pleasantly sweet, spicy edge to them rather than just being super-salty.

The stuffing patties tasted great, but I misjudged their size before baking them: their circumference shrank, while their height increased - I'll know to take that into account if I try this again in future, and make them shallower and wider before putting them in the oven... though the chunks of chestnut might make that a bit tricky. Courtney's red cabbage 'slaw was nice on its own, but ended up becoming rather overwhelmed by the rest of the burger, including the bun itself. The hash browns turned out really well other than their tendency to fall apart - we'll really need to research how to make them stay together... Personally, I suspect a mold may be used for the shop-bought kind or, at least, some sort of press to compact them together rather more before they're cooked.

Less impressive were the turkey burgers, since they ended up very dense and very dry. I'd definitely like to try making them again, but actually following one of the myriad recipes out there, in the hope of a more succulent result. At the very least, there should have been some additional seasoning - I had been reluctant before starting, since the other contents of my burger were, theoretically, going to be seasoning of a sort. Some of the recipes available online also feature things like egg white and breadcrumb, and these may have helped considerably. Part of the problem, though, was that I split a 500g pack of minced turkey into two 250g patties, which ended up being far too large in and of themselves. Considering a Quarter Pounder burger would only be a little over 100g, I really overdid it. Another part of the problem is that minced beef - the main constituent of a normal burger - would tend to comprise more than 2% fat... and the leanness of this minced turkey contributed to the dryness of the end result. Topping the burgers with cranberry sauce added surprisingly little to the flavour but, again, a smaller burger may have made all the difference.

Possibly the most disappointing part was the toasted sprout, which ended up getting utterly lost in the burgers. In retrospect, I suspect they should have been seasoned and oiled... So I'll know better for next time.

We're already considering options for next year's non-traditional spin on the traditional Christmas Dinner, and a curry is the front runner. We just need to look into how things like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger into a curry sauce that can accommodate both turkey and whatever vegetarian substitute Courtney ends up using...

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