Sometimes Sweeter Is Better: Mini Hawaiian-Style Salmon Burgers

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Salmon burgers with a sweet-tart tropical glaze. [Photographs: Morgan Eisenberg]

There was a time when you couldn't pay me enough to eat a fish sandwich. Years of Friday Lent lunches in Catholic school left an unpleasant taste of fried-from-frozen fish in my mouth that lasted for over a decade. Never did I imagine that I would one day voluntarily eat—let alone enjoy—a fish-based sandwich.

Thankfully, I eventually learned that, when done correctly, a fish sandwich can be way more than a mere stand-in for a sandwich with meat. One of my favorites to make now is a salmon burger, and my latest version is a tiny one with a sweet glaze of pineapple and brown sugar.

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To start the recipe, I focus on the glaze, a mix of pineapple juice, brown sugar, and teriyaki sauce. While Kenji said in his teriyaki burger post that the pairing of teriyaki and pineapple is often too sweet for his tastes, I'm here to proudly admit that it's not too sweet for me.

When it comes to salmon, I like it on the sweet side, too—specifically, I like it sweet enough to cut through some of the fattiness of that salmon. Still, I've balanced those sugary flavors here with earthy soy sauce and minced onion, garlic, and ginger, with a splash of rice vinegar for acidity. And for the teriyaki sauce, it's also much, much better if you take the time to make your own; our recipe here is quick and easy.

For the glaze, I reduce the above ingredients in a large pot until they become thick and syrupy, which will make it that much easier to paint it onto the burgers in a sticky shellac. Even though it's a relatively small amount of liquid, a large pot is important here, since the glaze can bubble up and overflow in a smaller pot.

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As the glaze reduces, I work on my salmon burgers, which I make by chopping fresh salmon fillets, then folding in mayo (for moistness) and chopped green onion. A food processor makes quick work of this.

I sear the patties in a skillet, brushing them with glaze toward the end of cooking. I like to leave them medium-rare in the center (about 115°F on an instant-read thermometer), but feel free to cook them to the doneness you prefer.

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For toppings, taking inspiration from Half Baked Harvest's Hawaiian salmon burgers, I decided to caramelize some fresh pineapple with the glaze in a skillet, and mash up a bit of avocado as well. Instead of resting the burger on lettuce, I use a small pile of peppery watercress, which contrasts well with that sweet glaze and pineapple.

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Served on top of Hawaiian-style rolls, these miniature glazed salmon burgers are irresistible. As a certified onetime fish sandwich hater, you can take my word for it.