"Something simple." That's the response I received after asking a friend—who had come to me for some quick-and-easy recipe ideas—what her favorite burger toppings are. Keeping that (somewhat vague) goal in mind, I decided to come up with a basic turkey burger recipe and then give her three topping options, so that she could mix it up during the week without feeling like she was stuck with the same thing over and over again.
Why turkey? I like that turkey is lean yet flavorful. It also adapts well to the flavors that are paired with it. Some people will point out that this is just a nice way of saying that it doesn't taste like much on its own, but I'm actually okay with that: It gives us a solid base with which we can have a lot of fun.
For burgers, I opt for turkey thighs over breast meat because it has a little more flavor and fat, resulting in tastier, juicier patties. Still, you can easily make this recipe with white or dark turkey meat.
While I don't normally advocate for mixing ingredients into beef burger patties, since it creates more of a meatloaf texture, in the case of turkey burgers I think the more flavorless meat can use some help. I mixed the meat for these patties with garlic, salt, pepper, and cilantro. The key when adding them, though, is to not overwork the meat. I repeat: Do not overwork the meat. You want to gently mix it just enough to incorporate the ingredients, but any more than that and you'll end up with tough, rubbery burgers.
Now for the toppings: Up first is a fun, summery burger that I like to call "the California." It's topped with creamy, ripe avocado that's seasoned with cumin and brightened with fresh lime juice, almost like an avocado toast in burger form. Then in a nod to diehard California health food, I top it with fresh, crisp sprouts.
Next is an Italian-inspired burger topped with soft-cooked shallots, sautéed tomatoes, and a generous dollop of fresh ricotta (plus, of course, some requisite fresh basil). I enjoy serving this burger alongside a light arugula salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, parmesan shavings, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Finally, I created an Asian-style burger that uses one of my favorite condiments: sriracha-spiked kewpie mayo, a.k.a. "crack mayo." This bold and spicy burger sits on top of a quick cabbage slaw tossed with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and a touch of fish sauce. Finished with some sautéed scallions and toasted sesame seeds, this burger is great served with a spicy cucumber salad and beer to balance out the heat.
As for the bun, I'm generally in favor of a lightly toasted potato or whole-wheat bun that stands up to the juicy meat and toppings. All in all, I think this is simple enough.