Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thai chicken tofu burgers

As I have remarked in other posts, I am not a fan of ground poultry dishes, though I make and eat them for economy and health.  But I really like these burgers.   The tofu has the effect of both lightening the ground chicken and keeping it moist, and the Thai seasoning,  a traditional combination of white pepper, garlic, and coriander roots (Thai cuisine is one of the few that use the roots of this plant) lends the dish a deep savory flavor.  I make it with a pound and a half of ground chicken because that seems to be the size of all the packages in the market.  This makes about 10 patties.  You can adjust the recipe proportionately to make more or less. This is based on a Japanese dish, and I will suggest some substitutions to make this at the end.  But if you can find coriander roots, do try it this way:

Thai chicken tofu burgers

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken breast
  • 1 pound superfirm tofu (Nasoya markets this) or 1 1/2 pounds pressed extrafirm tofu (see below)
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns (you can substitute black but they will darken the dish)
  • 8-12 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons coriander roots (see below)
  • 1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg's Aminos or light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon  salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
Method
  1. If you do not have superfirm tofu, take extrafirm or firm tofu, wrap it in paper towels, put it in a dish with a rim. Weight it down for about a half hour.  I use a pot filled with water or a heavy Thai mortar.  Pour away the considerable water that exudes.
  2. Grate the tofu using the largest whole of a box food grater.  This will go fairly quickly and I don't think that it pays to dirty a food processor for this.
  3. Mix the chicken, tofu and panko crumbs in a large mixing bowl.  This is best done by hand (remove all rings, etc.) but us a large mixing spoon if you must.
  4. Roast the peppercorns in a hot skillet until they are aromatic and a few shades darker.  Put them in a mortar along with the smashed peeled garlic cloves.
  5. Prepare the coriander roots: cut them off the stems, and scrape off the hairlike small roots with your fingernails. You should be left with just the main white roots.  Chop these coarsely and measure them.  You should have between one and two tablespoons, which would be the yield of a large bunch of fresh coriander. (Don't get bent out of shape if you can't get enough roots, but this recipe should be incentive to start accumulating them whenever you have coriander.  Clean and freeze them until ready to use, and defrosted, they will be easier to pound in the mortar.) Add these to the mortar.
  6. Pound the peppercorns, garlic and coriander root to a paste.  Adding a teaspoon or so of coarse salt can help the process along.  You can also use a minichopper, but it has to be able to handle small amounts efficiently.
  7. Heat 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small skillet. Add the paste and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the aroma changes, about 3 minutes.  Set the paste aside on a plate to cool for a few minutes, then add to the beaten egg and mix into the chicken. 
  8. Mix in the Bragg's or soy, the fresh coriander, the scallion, and more salt if you wish.
  9. Form into 10 patties about 1 inch thick.
  10. Spray a nonstick skillet with oil spray and heat on high.  Add 1 teaspoon to one tablespoon of oil.  After about 30 seconds, when the oil is very hot, add 4-5 patties.
  11. Cook the patties on one side for three minutes, the turn and cook on the other side on high for three minutes.
  12. Turn the heat down to medium low, cover the pan, and cook the patties for an additional 5 minutes on each side. If you don't have a cover that fits the skillet, just drape it with aluminum foil.
  13. Repeat with the remaining patties.
  14. These can be served hot or cold, on buns or rolls or without.  I happen to like them on a toasted roll smeared on one side with a mixture of dark miso, mayo and Sriracha, and on the other side with ketchup and a few slices of avocado.
Japanese style: omit the paste of coriander root, garlic and peppercorn, as well as the coriander leaves.  Grate a 2-inch piece of ginger and squeese the juice out in your hand directly into the chicken mixture.  Add about 1/2 teaspoon of Togarishi or other Japanese hot-pepper based spice mix if you would like.\

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