Makeover of a Mushroom Burger
Homemade veggie burgers can be brilliantly delicious. One of our favorites is an early recipe, ”Mushroom Pecan Burgers” from my first cookbook, The Everyday Vegan.
A few months back, I was talking veggie burgers with a close friend. We agreed that many homemade versions are not firm enough to hold up in a burger bun… my recipes included. Quite a few of my veggie burger recipes are best suited to eating on their own or popped into a pita - largely due to my own preference for eating bean and grain-based veggie burgers.
But, sometimes, you want a patty that is denser, ‘meatier’, and that can be easily picked up and popped on to a bun rather than falling apart or squishing out the sides. Most commercial vegan burgers fit this bill, but here’s the problem with store bought varieties: selection isn’t always stellar, those that are widely available are primarily soy-based (and salty), and those that aren’t soy-based can be quite pricey.
I decided that for my next cookbook, I would design several veggie burger recipes that taste fabulous and can hold their own. So far I have ‘Nutty Veggie Burgers’, ‘Chickpea Sunflower Burger’… as well as a makeover to my classic ‘Mushroom Pecan Burger’.
If you have a copy of The Everyday Vegan, you’ll find a photo (yes, far jazzier than mine) of these Mushroom Pecan Burgers. The patty is attractively presented with a burger bun. So, if it’s already pictured so nicely on a bun, why make any changes to the recipe? Well, you see, there’s a little something called food styling.
For my first cookbook, I was new to this food photography business. A food styling virgin you might say. So, when the food stylist wanted to alter my recipes to enhance the final product, I didn’t kick up a stink. I figured this was standard practice. That photographed burger didn’t taste very good, because we added far more breadcrumbs than the recipe called for, and then omitted other ingredients, just to stiffen up the patties. If I had the opportunity to reshoot that photo, I would cook the recipe as is, and showcase the mushroom pecan burger in a pita pocket. (For my next cookbook with food photos (ed&bv), I insisted on making the recipes exactly as written so the reader would cook something fairly similar to my own final product.)
So, while the original recipe for my Mushroom Pecan Burgers was a household favorite – flavorful, moist, and satisfying – I knew it could be improved texturally. I have changed the ingredients slightly (for a wheat-free option), but more importantly I have changed up the cooking technique (sauteing the mushrooms first to remove moisture and add flavor before mixing and shaping into patties).
Just as we evolve in our eating habits, cooks evolve with their recipes. I hope this adaptation is a hit in your household as well as mine.
(Ironically, the night I took a photo of these burgers, we were out of burger buns. So, you see it tucked inside a pita. But trust me, these burgers can hold up on a bun!)
Mushroom Pecan Burgers, Take II
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb brown (cremini) mushrooms (ends of stems trimmed), chopped (cremini have more flavor than white button mushrooms, but white mushrooms can also be used)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ cups onion, diced
couple pinches sea salt
3 – 4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 – 2 ½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp light miso (ex: brown rice)
½ tsp ground sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
1 ¾ cups quick oats
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce (optional, omit for wheat-free version)
½ cup pecans, lightly toasted (see note)
In a large skillet (as large as you have) over high heat, add the oil, mushrooms, and black pepper (no salt yet). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have started to brown and concentrate down (about 8-10 minutes). Then, push most of the mushrooms to the outer edges of the skillet (creating a ‘well’ in the centre), turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onions and salt first and cook for a couple of minutes, and then add the garlic (adding garlic later to help prevent it from burning). Then stir the onion/garlic mixture through with the mushrooms and let cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the onions are softened and starting to caramelize. Add the 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar to the pan, stir through, and then remove from heat. In a food processor, add about ¾ of the mushroom/onion mixture with the tahini, miso, sage, oregano, 1½ tbsp of balsamic, tamari, quick oats, and parsley (and vegan worcestershire sauce if using) and puree until it just comes together. Then, add the pecans, pulse through once or twice (to break up but not fully process), and then the remaining mushroom/onion/garlic sauté and pulse through once or twice just to incorporate into the mix. Remove blade from processor, and take mounds of the mixture and shape into patties with your hands (yielding 6 – or 5 quite large). Patties can be refrigerated or cooked straight away. To cook, fry on a non-stick skillet (very lightly oiled) over medium/medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes until a golden sear has formed on each side. Serve up!
Note: Toasting develops more flavor in the pecans for these burgers.Toast pecans in a toaster oven (or oven), baking at about 400 degrees for about 6-10 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Be careful, watch the nuts after the first 4-5 minutes, they can go from golden to burnt very quickly!