Meatloaf Burgers with Onion Marmalade

meatloaf burgers

Meatloaf does not have to be limited to the loaf pan shape. If you think about it, meatloaf is just the big brother of the burger and meatball. These personal-size meatloaf burgers are inspired by my mother's Hungarian hamburgers or fasírt (fuh-sheert). When I was a kid, the only way I could explain my mom's fasírt to others kids was by calling them Hungarian hamburgers. I've never been able to decipher the history of fasírt, but I'd like to believe it's a leftover from the Ottoman rule over Hungary since they most resemble ground meat kebabs. Traditionally, fasírt is not eaten on a bun, but is usually served with vegetable stews, potatoes, or pickles. But here I take fasírt and reinterpret it into an American gourmet meatloaf burger, that's no less flavorful than it's Hungarian cousin.

Good ground meat is the most important ingredient in meatloaf or fasírt, which are both commonly made with beef or a combination of beef and pork. In this recipe I use turkey for its leanness and pork for its unbeatable flavor and to keep the burgers moist. Mushrooms are also added for moistness and earthy flavor. Some cooks prefer using finely ground meat for fasírt, but there is a tendency for a very dry patty. Regular ground meat or very finely minced meat works the best. Dry bread reconstituted in milk adds lightness and is far better than store-bought breadcrumbs. Fresh parsley is a key ingredient in fasírt, but I switch it out for sage instead. Sage, a pungent and peppery herb, native to the Balkans and Turkey, is the perfect complement to pork and poultry. It brings the recipe back to its Ottoman influences.

To make these meatloaf burgers extra special, I serve them topped with an onion marmalade. Sliced sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Texas, are slowly caramelized with brown sugar and honey; and red wine and balsamic vinegar is added for color, tartness, and rich flavor. Served on a whole-wheat challah roll with lettuce and tomato, it's a sandwich made for enjoyment at any time. With a craving for home-style cooking emerging as autumn approaches, this meal is just right for a large family gathering before the cold sets in.

Meatloaf Burgers

2 dry dinner rolls or 3 slices of dry bread
1/4 to 1/3 cup whole milk
1 pound ground dark meat turkey
1 pound ground pork
2 large shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed into paste
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh sage
2 large eggs
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil
12 whole wheat brioche or challah rolls, sliced and toasted
Boston lettuce leaves
large tomato, sliced
onion marmalade, recipe follows

In a small bowl, crumble dry bread and moisten with just enough milk as needed.

In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, sage, moistened bread, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Form meatloaf mixture into 12 evenly sized burger patties and place on a tray lined with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear patties in batches until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Place patties on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until cooked through and juices run clear when pierced, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Assemble sandwiches on toasted rolls with lettuce and tomato. Spread onion marmalade on burgers. Serve immediately. Yield: 12 sandwiches.

Onion Marmalade

2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large sweet onions (about 1-1/2 pounds), halved and sliced
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add onions, sugar, and honey; sauté until onions are caramelized and brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine, vinegar, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer until liquid has reduced and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.