by contributing writer Mary Cressler
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – grill season!
In my house we like to grill almost everything, but like many Americans we have a strong affinity for burgers. Being the health conscious one in the family, I’m constantly buying ground turkey for burger night. My husband on the other hand tends to think turkey burgers are boring. The primary reason is this lean protein dries out easily because of the lack of fat, so where do we compromise? Introducing bacon in a unique way.
I discovered a few years ago a concept that transformed my turkey meatballs; by incorporating bacon paste into the mix. So, we thought, why not try this technique on the turkey burger? Add flavor and moisture at the same time.
What is bacon paste you ask? It’s not a product you need to seek out at the grocery store (though I’m sure you can find some bizarre store bought versions). You can make it yourself. All you need is bacon and a food processor. That’s it, you take uncooked bacon (cold preferred) and grind it into a paste in your processor and add to your burger mixture.
Many recipes for bacon turkey burgers will recommend using cooked bacon crumbles. Adding cooked bacon will certainly give your burgers texture and flavor. However, adding the paste instead of the bacon bits adds a dimension that is incorporated into every bite, which is why we think it’s the perfect way to jazz up that boring turkey burger.
And the best part is that the amount of bacon added is so minimal that these burgers remain healthy and low in calories compared to their beef counterparts.
- 1 package (approx 1 lb) of ground turkey meat (85-93% lean)
- 2 slices cold (but not frozen) bacon
- ½ medium sized onion, diced
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 4 slices smoked cheddar cheese (*make sure the cheese is “smoked” – this is a key ingredient to the overall flavor of these burgers)
- 4 buns (we love brioche for flavor and texture)
- sliced avocado
- sliced tomatoes
- Pre-heat your grill to a medium heat.
- Place the bacon in a food processor and pulse several times until it turns into a paste. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the ground meat, onion, panko bread crumbs, Worcestershire, and seasonings. Gently combine together being careful to not overwork the meat.
- Divide into four parts and form into patties. We like the patties to be fairly even and flat to avoid undercooking the center and overcooking the exterior.
- Cook burgers on grill for approx 5-6 minutes on the first side, then flip. Place a slice of smoked cheddar cheese on top while the other side cooks through (another 5-6 minutes). Ideally you want to cook the burgers until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
- Toast the buns on grill.
- Remove and add desired toppings.
There are two key ingredients to take into consideration when choosing a wine – the bacon paste and smoked cheddar cheese. In general, poultry pairs best with mild reds and bolder white wines, but the smoky flavor of these burgers allows for more flexibility, including wines with bigger and bolder flavors. In addition to rosé, my favorites are Syrah or Syrah blends.
2012 Domaine de Triennes Rosé, Vin de Pays du Var, France ($12-$15)
I was sipping on this rosé as I was cooking the burgers and decided to see if it could hold its own as a pairing.
The wine alone, made primarily from Cinsault grapes, was lovely and light with aromatics of apples, raspberry, and strawberry with strong minerality on the palate and a mouthwatering acidity.
Paired with the burgers the wine remains refreshing and provides a cooling effect and acts as a nice palate cleanser in between bites. The wine is light, but still holds its own with the turkey and is acidic enough to cut through the tomato and creamy avocado nicely if you should chose to add those toppings.
Nothing is overpowered in this pairing and is a nice option if you prefer something lighter, but still strong enough to hold its own with these bold flavored burgers.
2006 Justin Vineyards Syrah, Paso Robles, California (Current vintage, approx $25)
Reviews of this wine when young will tell you it is powerful and inky. But seven years did this wine a lot of justice. It has mellowed out into a beautiful well-rounded Syrah. It is still fairly “big,” and has some powerful dark berry fruit on the nose and palate, but is incredibly luscious (not inky at all) and balanced on the palate with mild tannins.
After about a half hour of being opened, the wine reveals more dark berries, but also plums, violets, and bacon fat! This touch of bacon fat in the wine matches the flavors of the burger almost perfectly. My notes describe, “The bacon in the burgers sings with the Syrah. These two were meant to be together!”
Cheesy? Perhaps. And while we’re on the subject of cheese, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the melted smoked cheddar is another wonderful match for this wine. This was my favorite pairing of all.
2010 Jacques Delatour Domaine de la Lyre, Côtes du Rhône, France
I was searching for a lighter bodied wine that still had Syrah, and this fit the bill. Strong acidity is noticeable from the beginning in this wine; a key component for flexibility with food.
It takes some time, but once the wine opens up it shows perfumed aromas of violets, dark black cherry, blackberry, spice, and toast. It is earthy with slightly tobacco and smoky notes that go well with the smoky flavors in the food. The mouth is medium-bodied with light tannins and a supple mouthfeel (soft, not heavy or thick).
Paired with the burger, the bacon and smoky notes of the burger are enhanced. The perfumed fruit in the wine adds a nice element. This wine is lighter bodied than the Justin Syrah, with less powerful mouthfeel, resulting in a nice alternative if you prefer something more light in body than the Syrah.
Notes on Wines
You need not seek out these exact wines, and in fact they may be hard to find (except for the rosé). But the idea is to determine what style you prefer. For a big, powerful wine, look to New World Syrah (California and Washington make excellent examples). For something medium bodied, Côtes du Rhône (Syrah and Grenache based blends from France). For a light bodied alternative Southern French Rosé is a nice choice with its bright fresh flavors and strong acidity.
With grilling season underway, try out this easy but amazing technique combined with some exquisite wine pairings. And hey, it is bacon after all. And maybe you’ll be inspired to add the paste into other great dishes of your own. If you do please let me know!
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners.
She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Connecticut with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.