Friday, October 2, 2009

Mushroom-Swiss Grass-Fed Burgers (and one Portobello Burger)

Welcome to my Flexitarian Table.

Remember that post awhile back where I declared myself a Flexitarian, someone who eats mostly vegetarian food, but occasionally eats meat? That was inspired by a conversation I had with my vegetarian (and sustainable-food-knowledgeable) friend Kara. That conversation led me to this book, The Flexitarian Table. And that book led me to this meal.

Now that my omnivorous (and meat-loving) boyfriend is back, meal planning has required a bit more thought. For the past 6 months, it was simply, "What do I want to eat tonight?" Now it's, "How can I make a meal that we'll both love without going back to my formerly meaty ways?" Which brings me back to this wonderfully written and culinarily inspiring book. The author explains that his family of foodies has a variety of requirements: vegan, vegetarian, and omnivorous. He was a chef in a vegan restaurant for years, although he himself eats not only eggs and dairy, but also meat and fish.

The thing that makes Peter Berley's book so unique and engaging is that he finds creative ways to essentially make one meal that can satisfy many dietary needs by making simple ingredient switches. Yes, sometimes this may require an extra pan or two, but by and large it doesn't make prep any more difficult.

Inspired by his strategic meal-planning, I came up with this simple dinner that could please not only myself and Ross, but our friends The LeCroys, who most definitely know their burgers. By making the burger "mushroom-Swiss" themed, that made it easy for me to just use a portobello mushroom as my burger patty, eliminating the need for extra ingredients or a whole other meal or side dish.


1 lb. 100% grass-fed ground beef (I used 85/15%)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1 tsp. Worcherstershire sauce (I never spell that right)
a few dashes burger or grill seasoning
4 slices baby Swiss cheese
3 large portobello mushroom caps (1 kept whole, 2 chopped into chunks)
1/2 large white onion, sliced into half-moons
4 brioche buns (or any hamburger buns you want)
2 lb. baby yukon gold potatoes
big handful chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used parsley, green onions, and rosemary)
3 T. olive oil
3 T. butter
mixed salad ingredients, any you like


Boil the potatoes until tender, but not falling apart, in a large pot of salted water. Drain, rinse with cool water, and set aside.


Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the beef, Worchestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and grill seasoning with the egg using your hands. Shape into three burger patties. Set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, heat about 1 T. olive oil and cook onions and mushrooms, seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper, until they're browned to your liking. Remove from pan and set aside.


In a large skillet, melt the butter and oil. Place the potatoes in the skillet, pressing down gently to smash them slightly. Allow to cook until browned on one side. Turn over and cook until browned on all sides, sprinkling in the herbs about 5 minutes before you're done. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and toss in the remaining butter and oil in the pan before serving.


Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium heat. Grill the burgers, and the portobello mushroom cap, until desired doneness, adding cheese about 4-5 minutes before you want to take the burgers off the pan.


Place each burger on an open bun. Top with some of the onion and mushroom mixture and any condiments you want. Serve with the potatoes and salad, if you're having salad. Enjoy!

A few notes on the ingredients: I wanted to use 100% grass-fed beef, because even though I wasn't going to be eating it, supporting sustainable farming practices when feeding my friends and loved ones is just as important to me as if I were chowing down on the beef myself. (Sarah even commented on how different in color my burgers were than burgers made from regular corn-fed ground beef - nothing creepy, it just makes you cognizant of the fact that whatever what you eat eats, you eat too. Corn-fed beef is fattier and lighter in color. The grass-fed beef I bought was a rich brick-red, with very white, not yellowish, fat.)

I also splurged on the bakery brioche buns, which turned out to be vegan (I didn't know that when I bought them). I usually opt for whole wheat buns, but these were absolutely delicious, and they really added that "restaurant quality" to the overall meal. The potatoes turned out great, too! I think I just found my new favorite way to cook potatoes. I've been seeing a lot of the Food Network-types make these "slightly smashed" baby potatoes, and now I understand why: when you brown them in butter and oil, and season them well, the gentle smashing opens them just enough to so that they soak up all the flavor from the pan, but they still retain that pleasant, not-too-mushy baked-potato texture.

I hope this meal, as well as The Flexitarian Table cookbook, inspires you to create meals that bring everyone - no matter their style of eating - together for a meal. Because aren't all disputes ultimately solved at the dinner table?

Thanks for reading! More soon...

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