Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Anybody Here?

Posted: May 30, 2011 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Peek. Peek. Anybody still here?
I’m sure that everyone has noticed my distinct absence of late. And by “of late”, I mean “over the past 7 months”. As sometimes happens to people, I went through some hard times emotionally and personally this winter, and cooking just stopped being fun. Writing stopped being fun. In fact, most things stopped being a whole lot of fun, and started feeling like a whole lot of pressure and pain.

But, with changes in seasons, come changes in outlook, and as the spring started, I got a much-needed return to normalcy and joy. And so, here we are. Memorial Day. Day of grills, and outdoor day drinking, and the official unofficial start of the summer. Many people will be firing up their grills today, and indeed I can smell my next-door-neighbors’ smoker, already working. And yes, I am WICKED glad that I managed to score an invitation to go over to their place tonight and hang out in their yard and eat food and talk smokers. I WIN.


I recently received a gift of a subscription to Food and Wine Magazine. Their most recent issue was about grilling, and involved an article on the best way to cook a burger – on a grill, or on a griddle.


Let me just say, any recipe that requires a cast-iron skillet, and gives you a turkey (yes, TURKEY) burger that looks like that one up there? Is the ultimate.

Burgers are one of those things that people get pretty passionate about, while still being kind of easygoing. We all have our favorite method, but we’ll all also agree that you have to work REAL hard to make a burger that’s just flat-out BAD. The smashed burger method gives you a way to use whatever meat you want, make small, flat burgers, and get great results. There’s a LOT of surface area for this burger, which means there’s a LOT of caramelization. And you don’t have to worry about overcooking them, because you have to accept that these are NOT the kind of burgers that you can make medium-rare, whether you’re using beef or turkey (I don’t have to tell you that you cannot, under any circumstances, make a medium-rare turkey burger, right??) And best of all, there are literally zero special ingredients.

Shall we begin?
Turkey SmashBurgers

1. Begin with a pound to a pound and a quarter of your ground meat of choice. For beef, go with something higher in fat content, like an 85/15 or 80/20 — this is sometimes called “chuck”. For turkey, if you have the option, go with dark meat. Season the meat liberally with salt, and shake or grind in some pepper as well.
2. Mush, mash, and smash your meat until you have something cohesive. Form into balls, like you’re making mutant meatballs. If you’re making single burgers, obviously you only need one per eater. We like doubles in this here establishment, however, so make two smaller meatballs per eater. Take this opportunity, after you’ve washed your hands, to get your cast-iron skillet, cast-iron griddle, or a heavy skillet that is NOT NON STICK over medium-high heat. Also, turn on the vent system in your kitchen and/or open a window if you’re lucky enough to have one.

3. When the pan is hot, place the meatballs into the pan, and let them sizzle there for about 30 seconds. Then, smash them flat with the back of a spatula.
4. Once the burgers are smashed, cook for about 30 more seconds, maybe a minute, then top with thinly-sliced onions and flip. The onions will steam, and cook, and get all the juices from the meat that are already in the skillet, and transfer them into a vortex of deliciousness.
5. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, top with cheese, and cover to let the cheese melt. For turkey burgers, you are totally allowed to let them go a little longer, and trust me when I say that all these times are approximate, since who slices the onions before she puts the burgers in the pan?! Not this Improviser.

In the end, you get a burger that looks like this.

And let me just say, it is delicious. It may not be the thing you make for Memorial day, since you’ll probably want to use your grill a little more. But if it’s sturdy enough to hold your skillet, and since even mine is I’m pretty sure everybody’s is, you can have your first successful grilling of the summer, without worrying about ANYTHING sticking to the grill grates. :)

3 Comments on “Anybody Here?”

  1. 1 Alyssa said at 12:09 pm on May 30, 2011:

    Welcome back friend, I’ve missed you.

  2. 2 Mom J said at 12:21 pm on May 30, 2011:

    Yipppeeeee!!!! She’s back!!!! Burgers sound amazing. Dad is intrigued by the onions UNDER the burger. I’m betting this will be his next try at burgers. Personally, I certainly hope so!

  3. 3 Erin said at 12:09 am on May 31, 2011:

    Glad you’re back!

Leave a Reply

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.