Wild-caught shrimp make sophisticated burger

More often than I determine my household’s menus, the food dictates what I’m serving.

This time of year, it’s our garden with its seasonal bounty that compels me to get creative with summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans until my repertoire is exhausted. After several repetitive weeks, it comes as no surprise when my husband steps in with his dinner wish list.

Most recently, Will’s requests included “enchiladas” composed with strips of zucchini instead of tortillas, chicken skewers that evoke Buffalo hot wings and a “good” burger. What qualifies the last in this list has much to do with the quality of the bun, some unexpected condiments and a patty composed of something other than run-of-the-mill beef. It could be fish, lamb, a turkey-miso-tofu blend or even a homemade bean-and-veggie substitute for meat.

I suggested these shrimp burgers prepared with the frozen, wild-caught Gulf shrimp that I’ve taken to keeping on hand. Even better that the Chicago Tribune’s recipe incorporates a variation on aioli, which Will can’t resist.

The method requires a bit more work than the average burger, but that’s precisely the reason to make these. With fresh herbs, juicy new cloves of garlic, heat from sun-warmed jalapenos and that perfect slice of garden tomato, these burst with flavor.

Tribune News Service photo

Shrimp Burgers With Jalapeno Mayonnaise

1 ½ pounds peeled, deveined uncooked shrimp

½ small onion, peeled and quartered

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 loosely packed cups brioche or white bread cubes

1 egg white

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley

6 brioche burger buns, split

12 very thin slices ripe tomato

1 ½ cups fresh watercress or baby spinach leaves

Safflower, sunflower or expeller-pressed canola oil

Put about half of the shrimp into bowl of a food processor; pulse several times to chop coarsely. Transfer to a large bowl.

Without cleaning processor bowl, pulse the onion and garlic until finely chopped. Add remaining shrimp and the bread; pulse until shrimp is finely chopped. Add the egg white, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times until mixture is a coarse puree.

Add shrimp puree mixture to bowl with chopped shrimp. Fold in the chives and parsley. Divide mixture into 6 even mounds. Refrigerate up to a few hours if desired.

Split the buns and toast them lightly in a toaster oven or under broiler (watch carefully). Have the mayonnaise, tomato slices and watercress near cooking surface.

Heat a large, nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a thin film of the oil. Once oil is shimmering hot, add a shrimp mixture mound. Use a spatula to press mound into a 1-inch-thick patty. Repeat with remaining shrimp mounds. Cook burgers over medium heat until bottoms are beautifully golden, for about 6 minutes. Flip carefully. Cook until golden on second side, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Spread insides of buns generously with mayonnaise. Put a pile of watercress on bottom bun; top it with 2 tomato slices. Add a shrimp patty and top bun. Repeat and serve. Makes 6 servings.

JALAPENO MAYONNAISE: In a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, cook 1 medium-large jalapeno until charred on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. When cool, remove stem. Cut in half and scrape out seeds. Chop flesh very finely and transfer to a small bowl. Add ½ cup mayonnaise and stir in 1 tablespoon each chopped, fresh chives and parsley; ½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest; and a pinch of salt. Refrigerate, covered, up to several days. Serve at room temperature.

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