Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Umami's Earth Burger + Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Nine months after I married Bacon...
As was previously established, I have a problem when it comes to burgers.  I love them...  I mean, not enough to marry them (it's not like they're bacon)...  but I did like them so much that I was certain that they were the only delicious meaty food I would miss once I became a vegetarian (please note: I was wrong).

However, I wanted to give this vegetarian thing a fair shake so I set my sights on creating a delicious meat-free patty..  after all, I live in a big city and I know about things and I have been known to enjoy a spicy black bean burger from Chili's every now and again.  Besides, I reasoned, if I slathered enough ketchup and mayonnaise on anything in between a bun, it would kind of taste like a hamburger.  Right?

Chickpea Willy is...  pleased

The first burgers I attempted were almost completely chickpea based.  The results were mixed.  I had my favorites.  I created a smoked jalapeno patty that turned out to be delicious.  Most of the chickpea based burgers were pretty bland though...  even with herbs, spices, and peppers, there is only so much you can do to give a chickpea flavor.  They're versatile and mooshy.  They don't really have a flavor so you can mix them with just about anything and have the meal turn out "more full of chickpeas" than had you not added them...  but overall, they left me wanting.

I won't be back until they return my shirt.

Then, after a trip to mecca...  er...  Umami Burger in Santa Monica, I was inspired to try to create a new type of burger...  Umami offers a traditional-style veggie burger.  However, they also offer an "Earth Burger"- which is, as far as I can tell, edamame and mushroom based.  The combination of flavors was perfect.  It was earthy and mellow and just a little salty.  And the consistency was interesting...  most veggie patties are dry- but this one was malleable...  I can't explain it other than saying, have you ever had a Jimmy John's sub sandwich?  You know how it's so full of delicious meat and toppings that if you don't squeeze the back of the sandwich shut when you take a bite, the filling will come out the back?  Yeah- it's like that.  Delicious earth burger filling all over your hands and your plate.

Surprisingly, it was difficult to find a recipe for their burgers online.  (I've become kind of accustomed to finding recipes for anything and everything I wanted via Google searches).  Never fear.  While I was unable to find Umami's recipe, using some ingenuity and some good-old-fashioned-sticktoitivness, I was able to find a pretty good substitute.  Local chef Dana Slatkin created a recipe that, like most recipes I've been making lately, requires two ingredients that you will need to obtain from a specialty shop or order online.  (Wholefoods might also have them...  but currently I'm fighting with them, so I haven't been inside to root around their shelves).  Because I am getting married in a few months and need to lose a few el-bees, I've modified this recipe to take out some of the fat (find the original here).

OK.  Enough of the boraphyl.  Now what you really care about: how to make the burger and fries happen.

Allergic to mushrooms?  You will die.
3 sweet potatoes
Sea salt
Olive oil cooking spray

1 small onion, sliced
1 pound assorted mushrooms (I recommend using at least two different kinds)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup white miso paste (specialty store this bad boy)
1/2 teaspoon mushroom base (and this one, too)
1/2 beet, sliced
1 cup shelled edamame beans
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 pinch salt


Baked Fries: Not as good as their deep-fried brethren.  
1.  Preheat the oven to 450.
2.  Have an assistant peel the potatoes.
3.  Cut the potatoes into wedges of equal thickness.
4.  Coat the potatoes with olive oil cooking spray and toss with salt.
5.  Spread the fries in an even layer on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven for 35 minutes.

The mix will have the consistency of ground chuck


1.  Spray the bottom of a saute pan with a non-stick cooking spray and place the pan on medium heat.
2.  Add the onions, mushrooms, beet, and pinch of salt and poke with a spoon, occasionally, until browned.  (About 10 minutes).
3.  Whisk together the wine, miso paste, and mushroom base and fling that in with the mushroom/onion/beet mix.
4.  Deglaze the pan, being sure to stir up all the delicious bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Cook until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.

5.  Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the edamame beans.  Pulse, chop, and frappe until the mixture is about the consistency of ground chuck.
6.  Dump the beet pate into a bowl and have a trusty assistant mix in the bread crumbs by hand.
7.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
8.  Once the burgers are done chillin' out, maxin', and relaxin' all cool, spray the bottom of a saute pan with non-stick cooking spray and place the pan on medium-high heat.

I don't always relax all cool.  But when I do, I prefer West Philadelphia.

9.  Form the burgers into patties.
10.  Brush hoisin sauce on each side of the burgers and throw them into the hot pan and cook them until they are well charred on each side (about 3 - 4 minutes per side).

PROTIP: These patties will fall apart when you try to flip them, so be careful.

If you want to toast your buns, now's the time to do it.  Put your burgers on the buns, fix as usual, and enjoy.  I recommend making the homemade ketchup featured here.


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