A Bite Inspired By…Shenandoah National Park in Luray, Virginia:
Imagine rolling hills, sweeping forests, and gorgeous wildflowers dotting vast meadows. Now imagine a juicy turkey burger with crisp vinegary cabbage, sweet apples, and crunchy peanuts. Got your attention? Perfect! Now let’s take a quick trip to the lustrous Shenandoah National Park that will leave you inspired to cook the easiest and most delicious turkey dish you’ve had since last Thanksgiving.
Toward the end of the summer, I had the pleasure of taking an impromptu trip to Shenandoah National Park. It. Was. Absolutely. Breathtaking. Inspiring doesn’t even begin to encapsulate all the natural beauty found in this incredibly vast expanse of forest, valley, and mountain (199,173 acres to be exact).
My family and I had three spectacular days of hiking, animal spotting, and star gazing. We watched a monarch caterpillar crawling on the dirt, countless birds, and we even spotted a baby black bear hiding in the trees (vaguely terrifying, but also super exciting).
It was kind of hilarious because we were in our car driving down scenic Skyline Drive, when the car ahead of us abruptly stopped. We were about to honk when we realized the driver was staring at a bear crawling a little ways above us. Soon after, about six other cars stopped behind us to stare at this little cub. Literally, the SECOND the bear vanished into the trees, all the cars started honking like crazy like “show’s over… let’s MOVE”. But, honestly, the fact that all these cars even stopped to look in the first place was pretty magical. If we all stopped to take in our surroundings a little more often, would the world be a better place?
Anyway, enough with the philosophical musings. It was, of course, nearly impossible to spend 3 days in a place like Shenandoah and not be inspired. Sadly, though, the only thing that wasn’t too inspired there was the food. After a long day of hiking, we wanted a filling, but healthy meal. We went to the two sit-down restaurants at the park and had subpar food at sky high prices at both. Disappointing.
One interesting dish both restaurants had though was what they called the “New Deal Turkey Plate”. Yes, this does refer to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which holds historical significance at Shenandoah because of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ (CCC) work in the park. There’s your dose of history for the day. Anyway, the New Deal Turkey Plate basically consists of dark and white turkey meat, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy—yes, thanksgiving on a plate.
I was inspired to lighten up this dish and put my own twist on it with ingredients that remind me of Shenandoah. Nothing makes me think of the outdoors more than fresh, crisp veggies. Today’s Bite of Inspiration (BIB) recipe is a delicious Cranberry Turkey Burger with Napa Cabbage and Apple Slaw. This dish contains a generous portion of lean protein and veggies with no bun to weigh you down—a perfect pre or post-hike meal!
I love turkey burgers. They contain less fat than their beef counterparts and taste every bit as good. The biggest pitfall people run into with them is that, when not made properly, they can be dry as a bone. I’ve completed eliminated that problem with this recipe. I’ve added mayonnaise to my ground turkey to give it much needed moisture. On top of that, I also put whole cranberry sauce into the mix. The cranberry sauce does triple duty by 1) giving the turkey more juiciness, 2) giving a nod to the cranberry sauce on the New Deal Turkey Plate in Shenandoah, and 3) adding an amazing slightly sweet flavor to the meat.
I also used a 93 percent lean/7 percent fat ground turkey mix. This ensures that the meat retains enough fat to not dry out. In addition, to make extra sure your turkey burger will have the PERFECT texture, you can also use a meat thermometer, if you have one. Pulling the burgers out at 165 degrees will guarantee that your burger is safe, but not overcooked. No dry, flavorless turkey here, I promise you!
The accompanying slaw has apples in it, which is inspired by Shenandoah because that area of Virginia is known for apples. They even have an apple butter festival in September! The napa cabbage adds a fresh crunch and some greenery, alluding to the outdoors. The slaw is then topped with peanuts (which you can omit, if you’re allergic), a well-known Virginia ingredient. The slaw is dressed lightly in a vinegar dressing to keep the crunch and the integrity of the produce.
This dish takes me back to that beautiful Shenandoah moment with the sun setting perfectly over the vast valley. Hard not to be inspired, huh? Enjoy!
- For the turkey burger:
- 1 pound ground turkey
- ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons whole berry cranberry sauce (whole berry is a must so that you get chunks of cranberry in the burger!)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil, for the pan
- For the slaw:
- 1 head napa cabbage, finely shredded
- 2 carrots, finely shredded
- 1 large apple, cored and diced small (I used a Braeburn apple because they have a good balance of sweet and tart)
- ½ cup champagne vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Handful of crushed peanuts, for serving
- Add cabbage, carrots, and apple to a large bowl.
- Add champagne vinegar, olive oil, and sugar to a small bowl. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add champagne vinegar dressing to bowl with cabbage, carrots, and apple. Toss well. Place slaw in fridge, so that flavors can meld while the burgers are cooking.
- Place ground turkey in a clean, large mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs, cranberry sauce, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper. Combine well (feel free to use your hands!)
- Shape turkey mixture into 4 equal sized patties. Put aside.
- Heat cooking oil in a large skillet (preferably non-stick) over medium-high heat.
- Cook burgers 5-6 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- Divide burgers between 4 plates with slaw alongside. Sprinkle each serving of slaw with a little of the crushed peanuts. Enjoy!