Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Gastronomy: A Better Burger (Without Waiting in Line!)

Posted on: July 27, 2011

There’s nothing like a burger, and New York has its fair share to offer.  Some are overrated, some are truly excellent, and most of the latter require patience unheard of by the sane and reasonable (ahem, Shake Shack on a sunny day).  And while I am consistently impressed by the creativity of some burger joints, generally speaking, there’s nothing better than a home-cooked burger.  Maybe it has something to do with my intolerance of long lines, but I’m often happiest with the burger borne from my own kitchen.  And, hey, it doesn’t have to come pink in the center to qualify as a true burger.  I personally get the same amount of pleasure from a delicious veggie burger done up with the works as I do from a nice hunk of meat, so I have an offering for the vegetarians too.  No more Boca Burger for you!

Portobello + Beef Burgers (or Portobello & Beef Patty Melt, according to Eating Well)

Calling this a “beef patty melt” doesn’t do it justice.  It’s a cheeseburger.  And it’s among the best I’ve ever had.  The magic is in the Portobello.  Mushrooms are unique in that they taste meaty, which make them an excellent substitute for (or complement to) meat.  This burger is about half meat and half mushroom.  The end result is light and extremely flavorful, thanks to a classic, well-balanced spice blend.  And don’t skimp on the relish and cheese; they’re the perfect toppers.  Yes, this recipe may have been crafted for the diet-minded, but don’t do it for your health: do it because they taste amazing.

Portobello & Beef Patty Melt

Recipe from Eating Well magazine

12 ounces 93%-lean ground beef

2 cups finely chopped portobello mushroom caps, (about 2), gills removed

3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 slices rye bread

1 clove garlic, peeled

8 teaspoons pickle relish

4 slices Swiss cheese, (2 ounces)

1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Line a broiler pan with foil.

2. Gently mix beef, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire, thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Shape into 4 patties and place on the prepared pan. Broil until cooked though, 4 to 6 minutes per side.  (You can also grill them for about 4 minutes on each side.)

3. Meanwhile, toast bread. Rub each slice of toast with garlic.

4. Place 1 patty on each piece of toast, top each with 2 teaspoons relish and cover with a slice of cheese. Remove foil and place the sandwiches on the pan; broil until the cheese is just melted, 30 to 60 seconds.

Bulgur and Spinach Patties

Ever since bulgur was introduced into my grain repertoire, I keep finding more and more uses for it.  Tabbouleh, tagines, and now burgers.  It releases a lot of starch during the cooking process, which makes it a little sticky and a very suitable base for a veggie burger.  The spinach lightens up the whole mix, and adds a freshness that you just can’t get from a box in the freezer.  A little feta cheese mixed into this recipe would work beautifully.  Be sure to exercise patience (you should have plenty of it lying around, since you’ve decided against Shake Shack, after all), and let the burgers cook for plenty of time on each side.  It helps them hold together during the flip and develops a golden, crispy layer on the outside.  The sauce that goes with it, skordalia, is totally unique and very delicious.  It’s quite garlicky, very creamy, and nutty.  I had a lot left over and found myself spreading it on everything from toast to pretzels to other vegetables.  Serve with the burger on a challah, brioche, or other soft roll.

Spinach-Bulgur Patties with Skordalia

Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying the patties

1 tablespoon minced garlic

About 8 ounces (1 pound before trimming) spinach leaves, chopped

1 cup bulgur

4 to 4 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water

Salt and black pepper

1 thick slice day-old bread, preferably whole wheat

1 cup whole, skin-on almonds (not raw)

3 garlic cloves, or to taste

1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 teaspoon not-too-hot ground dried chile, or to taste

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste

1. Put 3 tablespoons of the oil in a pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the minced garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and stir until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the bulgur, 2 1⁄2 cups of the stock, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook until the grain is starchy and thick like porridge, 45 to 60 minutes. Add another 1⁄2 cup stock if the grain becomes too dry. Let the bulgur-spinach mixture cool to room temperature.

2. Meanwhile, make the skordalia. Put the bread in a food processor and saturate it with some of the remaining stock. Wait a couple minutes, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the almonds, 3 garlic cloves, and cayenne. Process the mixture until the almonds are ground. With the machine running, pour in enough of the remaining stock to form a creamy sauce. Add the lemon juice and some salt and pepper and pulse one last time.

3. When the bulgur-spinach mixture is cool, put a thin film of oil in a skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Form the bulgur mixture into 1-inch balls and flatten the balls into patties. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, fry the patties until crisp and golden, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Drain the patties on paper towels and serve warm or at room temperature with the skordalia.

Freya Bellin writes weekly for Mark Bittman’s web site and alternate Wednesdays for Frontier Psychiatrist. Her recent FP recipes include Urban Picnicking, Incredible and Edible, Indeed, and All Up in My Grill.


2 Responses to "Frontier Gastronomy: A Better Burger (Without Waiting in Line!)"

WWWOOOWWW!!! This sounds great! I recently got some Himalayan pink salt and organic peppercorns from Sustainable Sourcing and I’ll have to try them out in this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

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