Veggie Burger Beginnings

Tuesday December 28th, 2010

For the past two Christmas Day dinners, Elizabeth and I have taken on making a new dish. It’s become our little tradition since we don’t normally travel to our respective families for the holidays. This year Elizabeth made a delectable apple pie and I made 5 mounds of veggie burger slop.

As a long-time vegetarian and lacking a tried and true veggie burger recipe, I’ve suffered through the store bought varieties and vicious bullying from hippies for too long. But a week or two ago I had a mind-blowing veggie burger from The Griffin in Loz Feliz. This thing was heaven wrapped in a grilled cheese sandwich (which was the bartender’s recommendation) and it cemented my decision that a veggie burger would be this year’s immaculate conception and awesome spicy beans will have to wait till next year.

My work started on Christmas day at 3pm (at the grocery store, which took me 2 hours) and dinner was served at about 12:30am (so it was actually a day-after-Christmas Christmas dinner). E worked on her’s, along with the sides, while I mad-scientist-ed my way through 4 of the 5 recipes, cutting, mixing, food processor-ing, onion-crying, dish washing, and repeating. There was no time for the fifth and I had to throw out the finished fourth mix because of adding 1 tbsp of concentrated veggie broth instead of the 1 tbsp of “instant veggie broth” that was listed. E was like “honey, that stuff’s concentrated, which makes a big difference”. To which I replied “no way, it’s all the same. I’m sure simply wrote it down incorrectly. It’ll be fine”. Yeah, it wasn’t fine.

For most of the spices and seasonings listed, I had little or no idea of their taste and contribution, especially when mixed with other unknown ingredients. Take for instance Gravy Master, I’ve never heard of the stuff. Well, now I know that mixed with soy sauce and vegetable bullion it will be pretty overpowering due to all three having basically the same taste and high sodium content.

The problem was the process in which I came to the 5 recipes. Starting with 10 I found online and loaded into a spreadsheet, I proceeded to combine the deltas of similar listings, based on the main ingredients of beans, rice, oats, potatoes, tvp or tofu, into 5 golden recipes. I thought it was a good idea, but instead it caused the births of 5 horrible Franken-burger mounds. In the hands of someone with more experience this might have worked, but I was not Him.

So, determined not to give up, I did some more research and thought this recipe looked pretty good. Leaving out the ingredients I didn’t have, I halved the amounts to get the following:

1/2 egg
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup can black beans, drained

I cooked this baby up, miniature-style, topped it with cheese, salt, black pepper and mustard and wrapped it in a toasted little wheat bun. Although a little plain (due to little seasoning), it was pretty tasty and had good texture and consistency. Much better than the last attempts.

With a mind to fix the plain taste, I went to the spread of seasonings and spices left out from Christmas day (I have no cupboard space for all this shit) and started smelling things to gauge their effect on the taste I still had in mouth. While a little strong and sweet in the bottle, the BBQ sauce talked to me, “Just put a razor-thin coating of me on there and I promise it’ll rock you world” it said. I listened and so another mini-a-fied burger went into a bun, substituting the mustard with the recommended razor-thin coating of BBQ sauce (I used Bull’s-Eye Memphis Style as it was the only option with real sugar instead of HFCS).

The little voice in that bottle wasn’t shitting me, this burger was awesome. I even took a photo to capture its beauty.

I’m pretty excited and so I’ll be trying other additions to this base (including the grilled cheese wrapper!) and will update this post with any successful additions. Any recommendations will also be welcomed.