23 May 2011

Bacalhau Burgers

After a week of boring meals (hello again, roast chicken) and not-terribly-successful-meals (homemade empanadas, I am looking at you!) I am diving back into the pool of bacalhau experimentation.

The inspiration for Bacalhau Burgers came from King Arthur Flour's blog, which suggested this week that I master my recipe for homemade burger buns in anticipation of Memorial Day.  Great idea, KAF!  This is why you are a valued member of my email inbox.

Once I had it in my mind that I was going to make some tasty burger buns, I immediately thought of putting bacalhau inside of them.  I have made salmon burgers and tuna patties, and they are tasty enough.  But when a woman decides to make her very own burger buns, it requires a burger which is nothing short of WOW, you know?  I had to seek out something different, something with exclamation points.

It was this quest which led me into the capable Gallic hands of Chef Eric Ripert.  He is the ingenius Executive Chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York, a certified seafood-making legend and.... uhhh... mighty easy on the eyes.  See for yourself in this intro to his show Avec Eric, a PBS cooking show I just discovered online and cannot stop watching:

When I saw his recipe for fish burgers, I knew I had to bacalhau them and see what happened!!  (See, exclamation points... aren't you getting excited, too?)

The recipe got its first exclamation mark when it told me to puree some of the fish, and to keep some of it in full pieces.  That made the texture so much nicer than the other fish patties I have tried-- more of a BURGER than a filet o' fish.

I wanted to really infuse these with  bacalhau-friendly flavors, which meant-- you guessed it-- onion and garlic.  I tried my hand at a traditional refogado, cooking onions and garlic on a low heat for more than half an hour, until they were so soft I could chuck them in with some of the fish and puree it into a smooth, thick paste.  It was a great replacement for the mayonnaise which Monsieur Ripert suggests, and a healthier one as well.

Since the refogado saturated the burgers with a delicious garlicky kick, I thought the suggested aioli mayo would be overkill.  Instead, to finish things off I made up a quick tomato coulis and added some shredded emmental before they went in the oven.


4 out of 5 fins
In the end, the Bacalhau Burgers were outstanding!  Exclamation points!!!  They had a great burger texture with the deep, sweet flavor of onion and garlic and tangy bacalhau, tempered with the tomato coulis on top.  Bacalhau Boy and I both agreed that on their own they would merit a 5.  The bun was lovely, too-- soft, eggy, chewy.  Unfortunately, the tasty bun overwhelmed the WOW burger.  It wasn't bad, it was just... 4 fins, not 5.  As Bacalhau Boy said, in this case "the parts are actually greater than the whole."

*Note: we had leftover Bacalhau Burgers on toasted wheat bread, and it was a much better balance.  Ditto for the burger rolls filled with a big grilled breast of teriyaki chicken.

Bacalhau Burgers
adapted from Avec Eric, Fish Burgers with Aioli
serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound/500 grams of bacalhau filets, on the bone and desalted
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 egg yolk, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
dash of tabasco sauce
lemon, cut in half
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup shredded emmental
Burger buns (see note at end)

1. First, get the refogado started.  Heat the oil over a low heat in a deep skillet.  Add the onions, cover, and let cook over the lowest heat for about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, re-cover, and let cook on lowest heat for another 15-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on this-- you want everything to sweat, nothing to turn brown.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the bacalhau for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool while the refogado finishes up.

3. Once the refogado is done, take it off the heat and put in a bowl to cool down a bit.  While it is cooling, shred the fish.  Place about 1/2 of the fish in the bowl with the refogado, and the other 1/2 in its own bowl. With either an immersion or regular blender, blitz the refogado and fish into a smooth paste.

4. Mix together the paste and the bacalhau, and add the parsley, mustard, baking powder, and egg yolk.  Blend together, and add salt, pepper, tabasco and fresh lemon juice to taste.

5. Form the mixture into 4 equal patties and dredge in the breadcrumbs.  Place on a plate covered in parchment paper and let cool in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and heat the oil in a heavy skillet.  Gently place the burgers in the hot oil and cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes until the underside is golden brown.  Flip the burgers, top with emmental, and place the skillet in the preheated oven to finish cooking (about 3-4 minutes).  If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, you can do what I did and let a greased cookie sheet preheat in the oven and then flip the burgers onto the cookie sheet when they are ready to be baked.

7. Put the burgers on some small burger buns or between some nice toasted bread, top with tomato coulis, and enjoy!

Tomato Coulis

1 can peeled whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and plop them in a small saucepan with the olive oil.  Cook over a medium-low heat until the tomatoes become soft and the oil starts to bubble. Add the spice, to your taste.  Let boil down until the tomatoes have lost most of their liquid, and it is a pasty consistency.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temp or colder before serving.

Burger Buns

I am a novice breadmaker and certainly not good enough to start changing yeasty recipes around and suggesting them to people.  But if you want to try a simple, excellent recipe for burger buns, I highly recommend this one at King Arthur Flour: Beautiful Burger Buns.  The pictures make it so easy to see if you are on the right track.  I think I messed it up anyhow, but the buns STILL came out delicious.  What more could you ask for?

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