I have this thing where I try to transform familiar fork and knife meals into pizzas and burgers. I swear, you name it, I can somehow, someway turn it into a burger or pizza. A few months ago, I took my favorite French sandwich and transported all of the classic flavor profiles to a killer pizza, — runny eggs and all; before that, all the characteristics of a traditional spanakopita (my favorite of all the Greek foods) were twisted into the most luscious, drool-worthy burger; and most recently, a classic Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich was turned into a ridiculously delicious pizza with pickled veggies, savory pork and a seriously crispy crust.
And today? Today we have possibly one of my favorite transformations yet — chicken marsala burgers.
I don’t know if it’s the kid in me, or the creative in me, but there’s something about taking the ordinary and turning it into something completely different than what people would normally expect that makes me giddy. Plus, who doesn’t love to eat their food sans utensils??? Or is that just me?
For most people, a burger isn’t anything more than ground beef sandwiched between two buns and topped with melted cheese; but to me, a burger can be SO much more. The patty possibilities are endless and vary anywhere from 100 percent beef to 100 percent vegetarian.
While I crave a greasy all-beef burger like any other carnivore, I happen to adore lighter options just as equally, and one that so often gets overlooked – ground chicken – is one of my favorites.
I know ground chicken isn’t really something you see that often at grocery stores, and it can be kind of expensive, but a great option and tip I use myself, is to just buy whole chicken breasts and grind them yourself – a task that seems a little bit daunting but couldn’t be easier.
What I do is cut the chicken into small pieces, spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pop it into the freezer until each piece is chilled, but not quite frozen and then throw everything into the food processor. Turn it on and within minutes you have ground chicken breast. SO easy, and super cost effective.
The way to ensure a chicken burger doesn’t live up to its bad reputation relies heavily on two factors:
1. Do NOT overcook the meat
2. Pump as much flavor as you can into the meat itself instead of just in the toppings
While a ground beef burger doesn’t need much additional work in terms of flavor, ground chicken is a blank canvas, so YOU need to create the flavor. For this chicken marsala version, I laced the ground meat with plenty of diced onion and grated garlic for a base flavor, and also grated a half of onion directly into the meat to help facilitate in a juicy burger.
A splash of marsala wine is poured in, along with a few tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan, Italian-style breadcrumbs and plenty of salt for maximum flavor. The mixture is formed into patties and then ready to be cooked.
Some of the marsala flavor comes from the patty itself of course, but for the most part, the essence of chicken marsala lies within the mushrooms. I like to use a baby portabella mushroom, or more commonly known, cremini mushrooms, since they tend to be a little bit more hearty and meaty than a traditional button mushroom, but really any variety will work just fine.
The mushrooms are browned up in a little bit of butter and then drowned in about ½ cup of good-quality marsala wine; once the liquid reduces and the mushrooms soak up most of the liquid, they’re seasoned with just a touch of salt. You really don’t want to salt the mushrooms while they’re browning; because salt releases some of the moisture in the mushrooms if you add it too early, it will prevent the mushrooms from browning up as quickly.
The last component and something that’s not typically traditional in chicken marsala is a quick sauté of hearty kale. I love the addition of kale to the burger; I think it adds a little bit of freshness and heartiness to the sandwich that I just love. You could also sub with spinach, rainbow chard or even a little bit of peppery arugula.
Lastly, you just need to cook up the burgers! I like to use a cast-iron skillet, it gives the patties this great, crispy crust and evenly cooks each burger, but if you don’t have one, no big deal, just use a large non-stick pan. When the burgers are just shy of being done, I pour a tiny bit more marsala into the pan, top each patty with a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese and cover the skillet until the cheese has melted and the burgers finish cooking.
The kale is nestled onto thick onion buns, topped with the chicken patty, covered in marsala mushrooms and then ready to be devoured!
Chicken marsala sans fork and knife. Looks pretty darn good….