Open the Tailgate

Andy Mueller

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | aug. 2018

The only downside to the official start to tailgate season is the fact that Jack Frost's annual visit is that much closer, and the days of backyard barbecues are numbered. Soon enough, you'll be tempted to put the cover on the air conditioner; just don't put it on the grill. With pigskins getting ready to take flight, now is the time to get your tailgating game on and fire up some mouthwatering game day grub.

The sights and sounds on game day are something to behold, but the aromas that fill the air are nothing short of magical. The staple palate pleasers like brats and burgers are always inviting, but over recent years, I've noticed people using their parking lot plots much like a pop-up restaurant in big cities.

Gone are the days when the only proteins we see at a tailgate are comfortably tucked in a bun with a blanket of ketchup. I'm as big a fan as anyone for the "burger/brat gate" any given Sunday, but when I see aspiring chefs and parking lot foodies tripping the culinary light fantastic, I get all amped up for a season of fun.

Staying in the comfort zone of burgers, it's not always beef that gets the nod on my grill. I'll mix in ground turkey, chicken and one of my all-time favorite go-to burgers: salmon. You can use just about any type of fish, but salmon has what every good burger needs to be juicy and full of flavor: a good amount of fat. Unlike a beef burger, the fat from salmon is the good kind. The monounsaturated fats salmon provides does the body good, and it's a double-edged sword as it's what also keeps the patty juicy. After all, if I don't need at least three napkins to take care of the chin music from a good burger, it's just not a burger.

A good salmon burger is like canvas to an artist. You can add just about any seasoning you like. Add Cajun seasoning for a bit of a bite, or push the Mediterranean envelope with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil pesto and garlic. Try this simple salmon recipe at your next tailgate and watch your crowd do the wave around the grill.

Grilled Salmon Burgers

In a food processor add:

Three 8-ounce salmon fillets, skinned, de-boned and cut into small cubes

Pulse the salmon to get a fine chop but do not puree the mixture. You still want small flakes of salmon for proper texture. Transfer half the salmon mixture to a bowl. Continue to pulse half the salmon still left in the processor a few more times to get a finer grind. This will help bind the patties.

Transfer finer pulsed salmon to the mixing bowl with the rest of the salmon then add:

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup diced green onion

1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup Japanese breadcrumbs (Panko)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Mix ingredients to combine. Do not over mix; you want small pockets of air to trap the juice!

Form into six patties of equal size, being careful not to overwork the mixture — again, the juice thing. When the patties are formed, place them on a baking sheet and place them in the fridge for at least an hour. This will help the patties bind together and prevent the burgers from falling apart on the grill.

Cook over medium heat for about 4-6 minutes per side or until patties are just cooked through. You don't want to overcook salmon or it will be dried out.

For the sauce:

While the patties are resting in the fridge and the grill is heating up, you can make the sauce.

In a mixing bowl add:

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon dill weed

1/2 teaspoon. sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar ( or rice wine vinegar)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

salt and pepper to taste

Place the salmon patty on a brioche or other soft bun, top with arugula, sliced tomato, sliced red onion and finish with a generous amount of dill sauce. Enjoy!

--Banner image by Alex Lau.


Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club 'Galley 57' in Allouez at 2222 Riverside Dr.

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