• October 2015

Prepare to Make a Better Burger

When the James Beard Foundation (JBF) kicked off its Better Burger Project™ this summer, it challenged chefs across the nation to create a more healthy, delicious, and sustainable burger by blending ground meat with finely chopped, cultivated mushrooms.

From hundreds of entries from chefs whose burgers appeared in the Instagram photos, uploaded by their customers, five emerged victorious:

  1. Chef Dan Nichols at Quaff ON! in Bloomington, in: quaffon.com
  2. Chef Carolyn Manning at Blue Southern Comfort, in Shreveport, LA: bluesoutherncomfort.com
  3. Chef Rob Ray at Belly Acres in Memphis, TN: bellyacres901.com
  4. Chef Lorin Watada at Bachi Burger in Las Vegas, NV: bachiburger.com
  5. Chefs Kiel Campbell and Fiore Moletz at Burgh’ers Restaurant in Harmony, PA: burghersinc.com

This month, on Oct. 18, these chefs will travel to New York City, where they will serve their “Better Burgers” at the official welcome reception of the 2015 JBF Food Conference at the historic James Beard House.

“This year’s conference will look at the future of food through three lenses: the farm, the kitchen, and health,” says Kris Moon, senior director of strategy and development at the James Beard Foundation. “In keeping with the future-focused theme, the Better Burger Project was an inventive contest that challenged the culinary community to create new versions of an American standard, working toward a better tomorrow for food lovers nationwide.”

Why Meat + Mushrooms?

Moon explains that blending meat with mushrooms reduces calories, fat, and sodium while adding important nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, and B vitamins. A blended burger also brings more sustainable, plant-based items to menus, allowing Americans to enjoy the taste and flavor of the burgers they love, knowing the preparation is healthier and more sustainable.

“Burgers are an iconic American food, particularly for summer grilling, so we are eager to host the Better Burger Project™ and explore how blending meat with mushrooms can create new versions of burgers that are healthier and more sustainable,” notes Moon. “An exciting part of the future of food is creating better-for-you versions of beloved foods. The Better Burger Project is a great example of how we can work with chefs to make these healthier options a reality.”

Chefs are jumping on the bandwagon.

“As a chef, restaurateur, and chair of the D.C. Food Policy Committee, I’m thrilled to join the Better
Burger Project™ in an effort to help educate diners across the country on the many benefits of blended burgers,” says Spike Mendelsohn, who was a fifth place finisher of the fourth season of “Top Chef.” “We have an amazing opportunity to highlight how strategic food choices can reduce strain on the environment, and also provide a variety of flavors and nutritional benefits. A blended burger is the perfect example of how a small change can make a significant impact on our food system.”

Want to try the blend at home?

Ann Butler, founder of the national, kids-focused cooking school Edible Education, has been teaching her students about blending mushrooms with burger meat for years.

Butler instructs:

  1. Chop up your favorite mushrooms to match the consistency of ground meat.
  2. Cook and season the mushrooms the way you would the meat.
  3. Combine with sautéed onion mix and sauce, form into four patties, about 3/4-inch thick.
  4. Prepare on a hot grill or hot fry pan, turning burgers only once, and cook until internal temperature reaches 165º — about 4 to 5 minutes for each side.

Scroll down for more real food recipes from Edible Education.

And check out the place that was voted the Best (mushroom) Burger in Richmond, VA, for its mouthwatering Truffle Burger: Brux’l Cafe


Ann Butler’s Favorite Classic: The Hamburger

What you’ll need:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. ketchup, divided
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. pickle relish
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • And, of course, a bun, lettuce, and tomato

Here’s how:

  1. Sauté the onions, oil, and 1 T. ketchup in a medium saucepan — cook until tender.
  2. Combine the remaining 1 T. ketchup, mayo, relish, and vinegar in a small bowl — for sauce.
  3. Add beef and Worcestershire sauce to the onion mixture and form into four patties, about 3/4-inch thick.
  4. Prepare on a hot grill or hot fry pan, turning burgers only once and cook until internal temperature reaches 165º — about 4 to 5 minutes for each side.

Nutrition information: 393 calories per serving, 18g fat,
4g sugar, 27g protein, 41% vitamin A, 39% zinc, 26% iron


Chicken Cordon Bleu Burger

What you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 5 T. finely chopped shallots, divided
  • 1 ½ T. fresh thyme, chopped and divided
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ⅓ c. diced ham
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 4 slices of Swiss cheese
  • 8 slices of pumpernickel bread
  • 12 large spinach leaves

Here’s how:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, 1 T. shallots, and ½ tsp. thyme in a small bowl for sauce. (Spread the sauce on the buns after the burgers are cooked.)
  2. Combine remaining shallots, thyme, chicken, ham, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl, and form four patties.
  3. Cook each burger 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until temperature reaches 165º.
  4. Top each burger with cheese and cook until the cheese is melted.

Nutrition information: 368 calories per serving, 19g fat, 1g sugar, 29g protein, 2% vitamin A, 160% potassium, 25% folate, 23% vitamin C


Sweet-Potato Fries

Ann Butler asks: Do you say sweet potato or yam? Another great American debate. “In fact, the colorful potato we eat in America is a sweet potato, which comes in a variety of shades — including white, orange, and purple.”

Yams, she explains, are actually grown in Africa and Latin America, and can get really huge, “like 3 feet long. They have scaly, thick skin and have to be pounded out and boiled for a long time to be prepared correctly.”

For un-wimpy sweet-potato fries:

What you’ll need:

  • 4 T. olive oil,
  • 4 tsp. sea salt
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Sweet potatoes, unpeeled, sliced into “fries”
  • 3 T. powdered sumac (This is not the wild, poisonous stuff from the woods!)

Here’s how:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425º — you will need the high heat to get a good crisp.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together olive oil, sea salt, and ground pepper.
  3. Lay the potatoes flat on a baking sheet — be sure to leave those washed skins on, for this is the most nutritional part of the potato.
  4. Brush the olive oil mixture on the sweet potatoes.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until they are slightly caramelized and brown. You will want to flip them a couple of times during the baking process. Tongs work very well.

“Upon removing them from the oven, I love to sprinkle powdered sumac on the fries,” Butler shares. “I had this once at a German restaurant, and it was so good I had to try it for myself at home.”

She notes that powdered sumac “can be a little difficult to find, so check out your specialty spice stores or order it online.”

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