Firecracker Shrimp Burgers with Avocado Tartar Sauce / by Chelsea Zwieg

Summertime always has me wanting to eat all of the summery things, which usually leads to me wishing I had a grill....and some grilling knowledge. But since I don't see that happing anytime soon, I have found some pretty spot on ways to pretend I'm grilling. Like cooking corn on the cob over flames of my gas stove and making chicken kebabs on a panini press (try this! chicken always tastes better with grill marks!). And for me, nothing feels as summery as burgers.

Whether they are grilled or not, meaty, meatless or seafoody, a burger on a really good bun with lots of sauce and crunchy topping makes me want to pull a full on High School Musical and sing that summer is finally here. If you don't get my HSM references, please excuse yourself now to go watch it. 

Now don't hate me, but as pro-burger as I am, I have never been a huge fan of beef burgers. I don't even know why, it just doesn't do it for me. So I am always on the hunt for new non-beef burgers. Turkey burgers are always a win, I have Spinach and Artichoke Chicken burgers in my freezer right now that are pretty great and veggie burgers do me right about half the time (like these). But let's just put all of those aside because I have found my new love of the moment: shrimp burgers.

Did you know that you can grind shrimp in a food processor, mix it with breadcrumbs and a bunch of other good stuff and instantly be in burger paradise? Because I had no idea until a few days ago. And then I got so excited that I rushed to the store after work the next day to buy shrimp. Except I got so excited that I accidentally bought un-peeled shrimp. Have you ever peeled and deveined shrimp? Don't. It's disgusting. Please, for the sake of your mental health and not having your hands smell like seafood no matter how many times you wash them, do yourself a solid and go for the pre-peeled shrimp. Unless you are a tougher, more rugged DIY cook than myself. In that case, high five, sister. Peel that shrimp. 

After you get your shrimp situation in order, all you need to do is pulse it in a food processor until it is the consistency of ground beef/turkey/whatever. Then you mix in a binder (egg and breadcrumbs) and all of the good stuff. In this case, sesame, garlic, lemon and gochujang. Gochujang is a Korean pepper paste and it is so so good. It's becoming more popular recently and you should definitely be able to find it in the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores. It's spicy and pairs perfectly with the sesame situation happing in these burgers. To offset the spiciness of the burgers I made a cool and creamy avocado tartar sauce and a quick sesame slaw to add crunch. Add it all to a toasted bun and you are ready to go. 

And in case you were wondering what to serve on the side of your summery shrimp burgers, I've got you covered. In the form of fried (but not really) pickles. Coming up next! 

On an unrelated note,  I'm so happy to tell you guys that I am going to have a weekly produce column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel every Wednesday through the end of summer. If you live outside of Wisconsin, the articles can also be found online here

Firecracker Shrimp Burgers with Avocado Tartar Sauce

Serves 4

| Ingredients

For the burgers: 

  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. gochujang
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds  
  • 4 buns or rolls, split

For the sesame slaw: 

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage/carrots etc. (I used a bag mix of carrots, napa and red cabbage) 
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

For the avocado tartar sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 small avocado
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. pickle juice
  • 1/4 cup mini sweet pickles, sometimes called cornichons or gherkins, finely diced (If you don't like sweet pickles, you can use dill pickles)

| Instructions

  • Place shrimp in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until very finely chopped, similar to the consistency of any other ground meat. Transfer shrimp to a bowl and add breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, sesame oil, gochujang, pepper flakes, lemon juice and sesame seeds. Stir until completely combined. 
  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Divide the shrimp mixture into four portions and shape each into a patty. Place the patties in the skillet and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. Since the patties are a little sticky, it's easier to place four balls of the shrimp mixture in a skillet and flatten them into patties in the pan, rather than trying to peel them off of whatever surface you shape the patty on. 
  • Meanwhile, make the coleslaw. Combine the cabbage, oil, vinegar and sesame seeds in a bowl. Stir well. 
  • To prepare the tartar sauce, place mayo, avocado, lemon juice and pickle juice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in diced pickle. If the sauce is too thick, add more lemon juice until it reaches a tartar sauce consistency. 
  • Once the burgers have cooked, wipe the skillet clean and return it to the stove over high heat. Melt a pat of butter and add the buns, split side down and cook until toasty and golden brown. 
  • Spread the top half of each bun with avocado tartar sauce. Place salmon patties on the bottom portion of each toasted bun. Top with slaw and the top of the bun.