You would think after ending my no carb/no sugar/no fat diet, where I drank a strawberry-based protein shake EVERY SINGLE DAY for 3 months, that I’d be sick of strawberries. Gladly, I am not. (I am sick of protein shakes, though.)
As summer approaches (not that we’d know it here in Dallas – we’ve had so much rain I’ve put a reward out for a dove with an olive branch in its mouth), I’m eager to use these fabulous ruby berries in as many things, and in as many ways, as possible. Enter this jalapeno-strawberry salsa. The sweetness of the strawberries pairs so perfectly with the spicy jalapeno and, when it’s topping a quasi-healthy/quasi-decadent burger like this herbed chicken burger, it’s a complete home run.
P.S. If you have any extra salsa leftover and also happen to have some vanilla ice cream hanging around, make that combo happen. It’s AMAZING. You’re welcome.
Herbed Chicken Burgers with Bacon, Brie, and Balsamic Jalapeno-Strawberry Salsa
Makes 4 Burgers
For the jalapeno-strawberry salsa:
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, dried, tops removed, and diced (or quartered)
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, and diced
1 ½ Tablespoons good aged Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup chopped green onions, with both white and green parts
1 Tablespoon chopped mint
1 Tablespoon chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the burgers:
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped basil
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons chopped mint
½ small yellow onion, grated
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 Teaspoon Kosher salt
½ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken (See Note)
8 ounces brie, sliced into 1 ounce slices, and at room temperature (I lay mine out on a plate or wax paper for easy lifting)
8 slices of uncooked bacon
Canola oil (or bacon grease. Actually, just use bacon grease.)
1 cup baby arugula (optional but recommended as it really gives a great balance to the richness and sweetness of the burger and salsa)
Note: I only use standard ground chicken and not the white meat-only kind. Chicken is naturally so lean, the extra little bit of fat provided by the dark meat is what keeps the burger as moist as possible. But feel free to use white meat only if that’s your preference. Adding the raw grated onion will also add in some moisture so we’re hedging our bets a little with that ingredient too.
If you’re using an actual grill, fire it up for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).
Make the salsa: Combine the strawberries, jalapeno, Balsamic Vinegar, green onion, and herbs in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Depending on the strength of flavor of your herbs and your own personal taste, you may wish to add more herbs to the salsa. Set salsa in the fridge while you prepare the rest.
Cook bacon: Place bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet (makes for easier cleanup) and place in a cold oven. Turn oven on and set temperature to 350. Cook bacon to desired crispiness. I like mine as crispy as I can get it with it still having a little bend to it and that usually takes about 10 minutes. Generally, when you begin to really smell the bacon, go take a peek and see where it is in the crispy process. Once cooked, remove from pan (BTW, see that bacon grease? It’s the cleanest, most pure bacon grease you can get. If you’re so inclined – SAVE IT!) and place on paper towels to drain.
Make the burger mixture: While the bacon cooks, thoroughly combine the herbs, onion, garlic, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Once combined, add the ground chicken and gently mix the herb mixture into the chicken until thoroughly combined, taking care to not overwork the meat.
MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Please please please – COOK A TEST PATTY! Even if you’re grilling outdoors, place a small bit of the mixture into a pan heated to med-high on the stove and cook until done. A tablespoon of the mixture will do fine. Flatten it some so it cooks quickly. Taste when ready. Add more salt/herbs/pepper to the burger mix if needed. There’s nothing worse than going through all this work and inadvertently making underseasoned burgers!!
Divide the rest of the mixture into four equal parts and form each part into a patty slightly larger around than the size of your buns (shrinkage will happen here).
Why mix them separately? Given the tenderness of ground chicken, we want to have our hands in it as little as possible but we also want that herb mixture to be really well integrated into the chicken. By mixing them separately, we get to make sure they combine in the best possible way, without overworking the chicken.
Cook the burgers: If you’re using a grill pan/other pan indoors, get it hot over medium-high heat now.
Brush the patties with oil (I’ll admit it, I brushed mine with bacon grease because it rocks) and cook via either method for 8 minutes, turning once. During the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, toast the buns (via grill or broiler) and add 2 slices of bacon and 2 slices of cheese to the burger. (I add the bacon first so that the cheese melts over it and locks it down to the burger but I’m a little OCD, so you do you.) In order for the cheese to melt perfectly, you may need to cover the patties at the end.
Burger assembly: Add a light layer of baby arugula to the bottom toasted bun and place burger/bacon/cheese awesomeness on top. Spoon at least a couple of tablespoons of the strawberry-jalapeno salsa on top of the burger, thrown on the top bun and eat immediately. With a lot of napkins.