I don’t eat red meat, and haven’t for a few years now. I don’t really miss it all that much, but there are some great American recipes that use beef that I miss – namely burgers and salisbury steak. I thought about adapting salisbury steak by using ground turkey.
At home, we never ate salisbury steak – but I used to get it occasionally in my school lunch. In Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood’s St. Pancratius school, I was served salisbury steak in prepackaged heated lunches that resembled airplane food. The steak would come sealed in a tiny foil tray with a foil lid that one would have to roll off. Like a mini TV dinner, there would be a compartment for the steak and another for the mash potatoes – which I have to assume was made from a mix because the potatoes were silky smooth – almost liquid.
When we would get the salisbury steak, I’d make teeny tiny sandwiches with the roll we got – I buttered the roll, and chopped up my steak and made a little butty for me to dip in the gelatinous gravy. Looking back, I’m sure the food was junk, but at the time, I loved the meal, declaring it to my friends as “the best meal I’ve ever eaten!”
I asked my Polish grandmother to make salisbury steaks – but the closest thing we got was sznycel – basically, hamburger cooked in a green casserole with charred onions and mushrooms. Like any immigrant kid living in the U.S., I was spitefully ungrateful of this transgression – it looked nothing like my cute little lunch. I wanted the thick, almost gel-like gravy and the over-salted patty, and I wanted potatoes whipped up to the consistency of Cool Whip.
As I grew older, I found an appreciation for the dishes my grandmother tried to make, and I find myself looking back a lot. My partner on the other hand, had childhood memories of salsibury steak – his mother used to make it for him as a child. I always liked to quiz my partner on his childhood meals, his mother making the kinds of dishes I only knew about from television: tuna fish casserole, chicken and dumplings, meat loaf, and salisbury steak. These very Americana dishes informed a lot of his growing up. He described his meals as “a meat, a vegetable, and a starch, like potatoes or rice.” He also described how he hated it if his food touched, so to be cute, I dug around and found ceramic TV dinner trays that I ordered from Uncommon Goods. I bought the trays to be funny, but we actually use them now.
So, I researched salisbury steak on the Internet to find out how to make it, and found the most recipes followed a pretty basic template: ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, canned soup, powdered soup, onions, mushrooms, and ketchup.
I’m trying to eat healthier, so I worried about all the salt in the canned soup and the powdered soup, so I left that out. I still needed the flavor, so I replaced the canned soup with dry red vermouth. Instead of powdered soup, I used Vegeta, a sort of one-size-fits-all spice that is used to toots up soup or sauces. Instead of ground beef, I looked for ground turkey, but was thrilled to find that Perdue also makes ground chicken, which I always found to have a nicer flavor (and a quick comparison of the nutritional information showed that they both were comparable when it comes to health benefits).
To serve, hopefully you have a heavenly batch of fluffy mashed potatoes or a loaf of crusty bread.
Chicken salisbury steak – serves 2, very generously
- 1 lb of 99% fat free ground chicken (or ground turkey, beef, pork, or whatever kind of meat you’re eating – I think lamb might be nice)
- 2 cups of chicken broth – all recipes suggest “low sodium” but I always buy unsalted, and if I can’t find that, Rachael Ray’s low sodium chicken broth is really good with very little salt.
- 1/2 an onion, minced finely, divided in half
- 8 oz. of mushrooms – I like baby bella, but usually people get white button.
- Dry red vermouth – you’ll be splashing/sloshing this into the recipe, so it’s up to taste
- 1 tablespoon of Coleman’s mustard
- 1 tablespoon of garlic powder – not garlic salt, but garlic powder
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup of dried breadcrumbs – get the plain kind without any seasonings or cheese
- Olive oil
- 1 tbl of ketchup – I used an organic brand with low sodium.
- Worcester sauce (some folks say soy sauce works okay)
- 1 tbl of flour
- 1 tbl of butter – I used Land O Lakes butter, cut with Canola oil to cut down on the fat and cholesterol.
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
You’ll need a big, heavy pan with a lid.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the ground meat, half of the minced onion, the Coleman’s mustard, the garlic powder, the egg, breadcrumbs, cayenne pepper, ketchup, salt and pepper. Mix it well, but don’t over mix. At this step I realized just how different ground chicken is versus ground beef – ground chicken acts almost like a paste, and it’s very sticky, so be careful how you handle the meat that you don’t accidentally brush some off on your cooking surfaces. Divide the ground meat into four sections, and form patties – you should get four patties, about the size of tennis balls.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, carefully slide the meat in and cook, letting the patties brown on both sides. This will take about five minutes on each side. The patties won’t be cooked through, but there will be more cooking later, so that’s fine. Another quick note – some dredge beef patties in flour to create a crust – I don’t know if that’s possible with the chicken because of its sticky texture, and I didn’t try it – I don’t suggest you do, as well.
Once the patties are browned on both sides, remove and set aside. Add the remaining minced onion and mushrooms and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. While cooking, add a bit of salt to draw out the mushrooms’ liquid and slosh in some of the red vermouth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are browned and the onions are translucent – all this should talk about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add the butter, and stir quickly – the pan is really hot, so it’s important that you move quickly, otherwise the butter will burn, and burnt butter tastes very bitter. Once the butter melts, add the flour and stir quickly – you’ll be making a roux. Mix and stir constantly, making sure that none of the roux burns – you’ll get a brown, crumby mixture. Add the broth slowly, whisking constantly, so that you get rid of the lumps. This step is difficult because the lumps are really hard to whisk out. Also, be careful what kind of whisk you use – on a nonstick pan, you should use a good plastic whisk to avoid scratching the pan’s surface. Keep adding the broth until you run out, and raise the heat to high and let it boil. Add the Dijon mustard and keep stirring, letting the mustard break up. Splash a bit of the Worcester sauce – just two or three shakes. Grind some fresh pepper. Boil the sauce for a bit until it thickens and reduces a bit – maybe down a quarter. Slide the chicken patties back into the pan and drop in the onion-mushroom mixture. Spoon some of the sauce over the patties. Cover and cook for about 10, 15 minutes, until the patties are cooked through – your meat thermometer should read 160 F. Once you uncover the meat, the sauce should be reduced to a thick gravy – if not, remove the meat and place in a hot oven and raise the heat, stirring constantly until it cooks down more.
To serve put the patties on a heated plate and spoon the gravy. Serve with your starch of choice – rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. Last night I served it with a simple tomato salad (chopped tomato with sliced red onion and chopped basil, sprinkled with olive oil). Oh, and enjoy.