True confession time? Cooking burgers makes me nervous.
In the interest of full disclosure, actually cooking protein of any kind makes me apprehensive. I have over- and undercooked, at various times, chicken, pork, steak ... pretty much every delicious meat you can think of.
Overcooking makes me sad, to be sure, but undercooking is the worst. And being afraid you're not going to cook something past the point that it could kill your friends and family doesn't make for a particularly pleasant in-the-kitchen experience.
So ... what to do?
For me, it came down to a three-pronged attack:
Problem 1: I love a juicy beef burger, but I don't want to dry out the beef by overcooking, or poison my guests by undercooking.
Solution: Make chicken burgers! It is absolutely necessary that chicken be cooked all the way through to be safe to eat, so you won't be overcooking it, just accomplishing what is required of it.
Problem 2: Won't a ground chicken burger be awfully ... dry?
Solution: Make cream cheese–chicken burgers. I don't know what compelled me to use cream cheese to accomplish that, but it could have something to do with my theory that cream cheese cures everything.
Problem 3: Won't a ground chicken burger with cream cheese be awfully ... bland?
Solution: Make jalapeño popper chicken burgers. Spicy, creamy, crunchy—how can you go wrong?
For added confidence, I decided to turn these into sliders, so that the patties would cook fast and easy without overly scorching the jalapeños before the interiors were beautifully, thoroughly cooked. (But feel free to form them into regular-size patties, or even throw them on the grill—I haven't mastered cooking with fire yet, but I think the smokiness would be amazing with the peppers.)
Then I just topped off the patties with all the yummy things I love: bright white Cheddar, crisp iceberg, smooth avocado, sweet tomatoes, and punchy onion slices. I got the slider buns in my major big-box grocer's bakery—they were labeled "Use us for sliders!" which made them easy to find. Any small roll will do, just make sure to form the patties to about the right size for your particular buns, hun.
I know that the notion of sliders has sort of an early-'90s-at-Applebee's feel to it, but they're also brilliant as a weeknight meal. Prepare the toppings while the burgers cook, and you have just about a 15-minute dinner. (Budget about 15 minutes longer if you plan to pop in some curly oven fries, which I obviously suggest.)
Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sliders
1 pound ground chicken
2 ounces Neufchâtel or cream cheese, softened
1½ jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 avocado, very thinly sliced
8 slider rolls, split
2 deli slices white Cheddar cheese, cut into 8 squares
Red onion slices
1. Mix together first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; working quickly, form mixture into 8 even patties.
2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add patties and cook, pressing down with a spatula, about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through.
3. Layer lettuce and avocado on roll bottoms; top with burgers, cheese, onion, tomato, and roll tops. Makes 4 servings.