Culinary adventures: A savory souvenir from a trip to wine country

  • Enjoy Thai Chicken Burgers with a crunchy topping or two.

    Enjoy Thai Chicken Burgers with a crunchy topping or two. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

Posted6/16/2021 6:00 AM

While often frustrating, the last year being quarantined also allowed me to have some virtual experiences never possible before. For example, I set alerts for Gesine Prado and King Arthur Flour's free Isolation Baking Show via Facebook Live every Thursday. (The episodes are still online to watch if you are interested.) Yes, like many of you, I was contributing to the flour and yeast shortage in the country but was still feeling stir crazy, so at the urging of a friend, I embarked on something completely new; a virtual wine tasting sponsored by Corked Wine Bar in Long Grove.

The folks at Corked delivered the bottle of wine along with some cheese and meats to eat with the tasting. Then, when the time was right, we all logged into Zoom and were met with the winemaker himself, Robert Foley of Robert Foley Vineyards, and his wife, Kelly. Over the next hour, we learned about wine, snacked and had a break from what was going on in the world around us; it was perfect.


Fast forward one year, and my husband I get to take the Napa Valley vacation we had planned last year but had to cancel. As I planned what vineyards we would visit, I remembered how much we liked Kelly's Mountain Cuvee, the wine we had during our tasting, and arranged a tasting at Robert Foley Vineyards. You can imagine our surprise when we realized our tasting was private and with Kelly herself.

It didn't take long to realize Kelly and I have something in common: We both love to cook. Shortly after our arrival Robert (Bob) Foley arrived, and before we knew it, Kelly and I were sharing recipes, and Bob and my husband were discussing the mechanics of making wine. They made us feel like we were old friends, and two hours flew by in no time. Before we left, Kelly agreed to share her recipe for Thai Chicken Burgers, a recipe she invented on her own so that I could share it with all of you.

When I think of Thai flavors, I think of sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and maybe a little bitterness. These unique Thai flavors are often achieved by long lists of ingredients, but please do not be intimidated by this. You can find these items at your local grocery store. It is well worth dragging out all the sauce bottles and jars and maybe hunting for a new ingredient to achieve the perfect balance of flavors.

Thai Chicken Burgers cook in the oven. If you want grill marks, you can put them on the grill for a minute or two after they are baked.
Thai Chicken Burgers cook in the oven. If you want grill marks, you can put them on the grill for a minute or two after they are baked. - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier
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These burgers are no exception as the list of ingredients seems long, but every component contributes something important to the overall flavor. The finished burger is amazing.

So, get out your cutting board and favorite knife, and start chopping. As you are putting the ingredients together, it will seem like there is too much moisture to hold the shape of a burger, but trust me, it will be fine. Chilling for at least an hour or overnight is key.

I know we are knee-deep in grilling season, but these burgers are baked in the oven, not grilled. The meat mixture is too wet to grill, so baking is best. However, if you'd like some grill marks anyway, feel free to place them on a hot grill for a couple of minutes after they come out of the oven.

As with most burgers, toppings are essential. This burger is very moist and soft in texture, so it needs some crunch. Kelly recommends sweet pickles, chopped peanuts, and more cilantro. Feel free to add a little fresh basil or mint if you have some on hand as well. I added some sweet pickled red onion to mine, too.


The spicy part of the Thai flavor ensemble is brought to the burger by a homemade Sriracha mayonnaise; one part Sriracha and two parts mayo. I know some of you may shy away from this part of the recipe because you are afraid it might be too spicy, but please don't. You can control the heat level by adding more or less of the mayonnaise mixture, but you will miss out on another layer of flavor if you skip it altogether. If this is a deal-breaker for you, taste your burger after adding a little of the sauce to your bun. If it is too spicy, add a little more mayonnaise, as the fat in the mayonnaise will help subdue the heat.

Since this all started because of wine, I should add Kelly recommends their Charbono variety. I am by no means a wine expert, but I know what I like, and I like the Charbono, especially with these burgers.

I learned from Bob and Kelly that Charbono is a grape brought to Napa Valley in the 1800s and initially used by Inglenook to blend with their cabernet sauvignon. While Charbono grapes used to be plentiful, Bob shared the variety has since become very rare. According to, there are only 65 acres of the variety left in all of Napa. The wine is dark red, smells like wild berries, and is smooth on the palate. It is very easy to drink, especially with these burgers.

Kelly shared she has served mini versions of these burgers as sliders on Hawaiian rolls, and in case you don't have any buns, she has even shaped the mixture into meatballs and served them atop jasmine rice. I served my burgers with a side of shaved Brussels sprouts slaw with an Asian peanut dressing.

Father's Day is in just a few days -- this new twist on a traditional burger maybe just the meal to serve that special someone in your life. Enjoy!

• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.

You'll need carrots, shallots and more to make Thai Chicken Burger mixture.
You'll need carrots, shallots and more to make Thai Chicken Burger mixture. - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier
Kelly's Thai Chicken Burgers

1 large carrot, grated and chopped

1 large bunch cilantro, save a few sprigs for on top of the burgers, then chop (stems and all)

2 large shallots, minced

3 cloves garlic, grated or minced

1/3 cup finely minced fresh ginger

1½-inch piece of lemongrass stalk, minced fine

Zest of one lime

Juice of 1 lime

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1½ teaspoon hot chili sesame oil

1/3 cup honey

½ teaspoon salt and pepper (to taste)

2 large eggs

2 pounds ground chicken

¾ cup panko bread crumbs

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup Sriracha sauce

8 hamburger buns

For garnish: cilantro, chopped basil and/or mint, sweet pickles, jalapenos, pickled onions, chopped peanuts

In large bowl, combine carrot, cilantro, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, along with the lime zest and juice; stir to combine and set aside.

In small bowl combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, honey, eggs, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.

Place ground chicken in large bowl and add liquid mixture, stir to combine. Add vegetables and panko. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate at least an hour, but overnight is OK too.

Combine mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce in small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide meat mixture in bowl into eight sections. With wet hands, form into patties and place on greased baking sheet. Mixture will seem very wet, but will hold shape when baked. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes, flip burgers, and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until thermometer inserted into the center of the burger registers 165 degrees. (These are very moist, so they are forgiving in case you leave them in the oven a little too long.)

Building you burger: Spread Sriracha mayonnaise on inside of bun, top with burger and other toppings of choice. Be sure to use something crunchy as burger is soft.

Quick sweet pickled cucumbers or onions: Combine ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1½ teaspoons salt and 1 cup warm water; stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Add 1 large sliced red onion or seedless cucumber (recipe works for either) and allow to sit an hour.

Serves 8

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