Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rebar's mushroom pecan burgers + vegetable slaw

Temperatures in the -30C range, two-hour bus commutes, and pre-Christmas work stress make for a lot of thrown-together, freezer-based, comfort food-type meals. But I did get a chance to make one real meal recently, for Diane's second birthday party, which was at my house yesterday afternoon. The women in the family generally get together when one of us has a birthday, so present were: my mom, Diane, my aunt Barbara, Grandma Lulu, and me.

I wanted to make something fun that I could do mostly ahead of time because this is a lunch and I didn't want to be getting up at 4:00 a.m. to start the preparations, and I turned to the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook for inspiration.

I must have got my shopping lists confused, though, because despite extensive and uncharacteristic planning ahead, when I came to make the burgers, I realized that I had forgotten to buy fresh mushrooms. So I used reconstituted shiitakes instead of fresh buttons, and the result was actually really good—a much more intense mushroom flavour than would have been the case with buttons, which paired well with the bittersweet roasted pecans.

This I did on Wednesday. I tested out one of the burgers on that day (seen here with the steamed vegetable wraps with ponzu sauce from the opposite page of the Rebar cookbook), and it was great, earthy, sweet, subtly spicy, and it held together well.

Then I froze the buns and the rest of the shaped uncooked burgers until Saturday morning. Tragically, this did not work out as well as I had hoped, as the thawed-out burgers tended to break very easily apart. Perhaps I should have re-made them, but it was too late, so I baked them at 350F for about half an hour and they were still pretty crumbly. So the wise will profit by my mistakes and either make these burgers on the day they're to be cooked, or freeze the raw burger mix and form the patties from the thawed mix.

I found the recipe here, so with no further ado, here are:

Mushroom pecan burgers
from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook
makes 10-12 burgers

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, diced
1 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
6 cups sliced button mushrooms
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1 cup pecans, roasted and finely ground
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and sauté onion. Turn up the heat and add the garlic, mushrooms, salt, thyme and chile flakes. Stir and sauté until the mushrooms have released their juices and the pan begins to dry out. Deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar. Let the liquid evaporate, turn the mushrooms out into a large bowl and let cool.

2. Add the brown rice and grated carrot to the mushrooms. In a food processor, pulse the mixture in two or more batches until well combined but still coarse in texture. Return to the bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly and season to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight. Shape into patties.

The Rebar cookbook says to sauté the patties until golden brown on both sides, but I find this doesn't get them cooked, so I experimented with a few different methods, and the most successful was to brush the patties with canola oil and bake them at 350F on a parchment paper covered pan for about 35 minutes, flipping once.

These burgers really are good, but as I was moaning about how they weren't holding together so well, my mother very kindly offered that hamburger patties often don't either, which made me reflect that it's been so long since I've tasted a meat-based burger that I can't remember the texture of them at all, except the fast food kind (Teen Burgers from A&W purchased from a drive-in and eaten on long car trips which were even more mushy than anything vegan I've made). So maybe I'll just stow the crazy unreal expectations of attaining some perfect burger texture and enjoy the fantastic taste of these burgers. The recipe made more than I knew we would eat, so I didn't cook them all, but pressed the rest of the mix into a little casserole for meatloaf, which maybe I'll try tonight.

I baked my own buns:

And served the burgers with fried onions, the horseradish mayonnaise recommended by the cookbook (1 part horseradish to 4 parts Veganaise: I have come to the conclusion that anything mixed with Veganaise will be ambrosial, and this really was no exception), condiments and toppings of various kinds, slow-roasted beets, and the Vegetable slaw with jalapeno-lime dressing from the Rebar cookbook (more Veganaise, how could it go wrong?). The flavour of the slaw dressing was, as usual with Rebar sauce and dressing recipes, divine, and the red cabbage turned the slaw a lovely pink, which beautifully complimented the antique Bridal Rose pattern china that belonged to Grandma Lulu's mother and is over a century old, and that I use on most special occasions when I am entertaining, since I only have four settings of my everyday dishes:


  1. Oh my -- what a beautiful luncheon -- exquisite table setting -- I love it! I agree with you on the issue of cooking veggie burgers -- for me they also tend to fall apart in the frying pan. The oven is def. veggie burger's best friend. What works well for some of the burgers I make is to cook them totally; then freeze and reheat gently in a toaster oven or microwave just before serving. I wonder if perhaps a bit of extra binding material would help these -- I was just looking over the ingredients and they wouldn't bind easily unless the cooked rice was quite hot and starchy. Perhaps adding a 1/4-1/3 cup mashed potato or 1/4 cup thick white sauce might help? Anyhow congrats on the beautiful event you hosted!

  2. Could one add a beaten egg or egg substitute to the burger mixture to help bind?

  3. Hi, Anonymous. Yes, that would be a good idea. This is a vegan recipe, so eggs are out, but an egg substitute (lately I've been experimenting with urad flour) would be a good idea. That said, the texture of the burgers wasn't bad before I froze them.