Let’s just acknowledge that we’d be better off if we ate less meat. But then there’s the tough part: Meat is just so damned delicious! How do we break free from our addiction? I can’t envision dipping my toes into the pool of black bean burgers without recoiling with the chills.
So allow me to suggest a baby-steps method that—I humbly and wholeheartedly believe—is better and more delicious. For this we’ll use the mighty cheeseburger as our baseline, and employ a method that’s been gaining traction in the restaurant world over the past year: mixing chopped mushrooms into the beef patty. Chefs have dubbed this the blended burger.
I’m fully on board with this idea, and so should you. Let me list some advantages:
- It uses one-third less beef, and therefore, one-third less saturated fat. And everyone I served this to can’t tell the difference.
- It significantly boosts the umami in the burger, which provides that appealing meatiness with less meat used.
- I love mushrooms on my burgers as is, and this integrate those tasty flavors into the patty. There’s also much moisture within the mushroom, so it helps keep your burgers juicy even if you overcook it.
- It’s more environmentally sustainable.
- Umm, more selenium?
- I honestly think it tastes better than an all-beef burger.
To that last point, I wanted to make the mushroom as beefy and bold as possible. I used a mix of chopped portabella and shiitake mushrooms, sautéed them, then marinated it with mushroom and beef bouillon base. Then I folded this into seasoned ground beef, about 2-to-1 meat-to-mushroom ratio, and seared the patties on a smoking hot cast-iron skillet. I couldn’t be happier with the result.
- 1 lb. ground beef (80 percent lean)
- 8 oz. package of mushrooms (button, shiitake, baby bellas)
- Seasoning salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp. mushroom base (Better Than Bouillon)
- 1/2 tsp. beef base (Better Than Bouillon)
- Worcestershire sauce
Finely chop the mushrooms either in a food processor or with a chef’s knife. You’re looking for pieces roughly the size (or smaller) than a pencil-head eraser. In a cast-iron skillet, add a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat, then pan-fry the chopped mushroom for about three minutes. The mushrooms are going to give off some moisture, so don’t worry if they don’t turn golden brown. You just want to cook the rawness out and release some of its flavors. Scoop this into a bowl and let chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. After the mushrooms have cooled, add 1/2 teaspoon each of mushroom base and beef base (I suggest Better Than Bouillon) to a separate bowl and dissolve with a splash of water. Pour this over the mushroom and mix well.
Take raw ground beef and add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, fresh ground pepper and a little less seasoning salt than you think you need (maybe a few teaspoons?). Combine the marinated mushrooms with raw ground beef and mix with hands until well integrated. Form into three or four loose patties no more than 1/2-inch thick.
I highly suggest using a cast-iron skillet here. You want the pan fairly hot, at which point add a splash of vegetable oil and a pat of butter. Now add the patties, no more than two at a time, to one half of the skillet. In order to achieve that nice and crisp sear, don’t touch the patty—avoid the temptation to touch/nudge/fiddle with the patty for at least two minutes! Here’s another tip: When you flip the burgers, flip to the other half of the skillet, the part untouched by beef (this will ensure an equally hot sear on the other side of the patty). A minute before taking the patty off the heat, add a slice of American cheese and cover skillet with a lid to let melt.
I prefer my burgers cooked to a medium-rare, but it’ll be just as good if cooked to a light pink—remember the mushrooms will compensate with added juiciness.
I’m not much for accoutrements, so I say skip the lettuce and tomato. I slather some mayo on the bottom bun, splash A-1 sauce on the patty, and serve it simply—meat-cheese-toasted bread-sauce, as God intended.