The burger revolution is now.
Back for another year, the James Beard Foundation is launching its Blended Burger Project on Memorial Day, challenging chefs in New York and across the country to make 'shroom in their meaty patties for some vegetables.
Blended burgers must have a ratio of 25 percent mushrooms or vegetables to 75 percent meat. Through July 31, restaurants can put the blended burgers on menus, and diners can vote for their favorites (in addition to Instagramming their creations). The top five chefs will be invited to the James Beard House to cook for their annual food conference in October.
“It’s a simple challenge but with really great potential to change the way Americans enjoy this classic American food, the quintessential burger,” said Kris Moon, vice president of the James Beard Foundation, at the James Beard House on the evening of Monday, March 28, 2016. Last year, 250 restaurants participated in the challenge, but Moon thinks as many as 500 chefs may sign up this year.
Mixing mushrooms with meat is not totally revolutionary -- it's been done in home-cooked dishes, meatloaf, for example, for decades -- but the Culinary Institute of America helped innovate the concept to include a larger "quantity of plant-based material in an iconic food like a hamburger,” explained Bart Minor, president of the Mushroom Council (#careergoals).
Minor is "amazed at what this concept can do” because “the idea here is that if we’re truly going to make an impact on the health of America, we can’t be afraid of attacking the foods that all of us eat most often: hamburgers, tacos, burritos.” Minor hopes the project encourages a move towards a move plant-based diet.
Jehangir Mehta, "Top Chef" alum and New York City restaurateur, has already pledged to participate again in this year's Blended Burger Project, though it's said he invented the blended burger almost a decade ago. In fact, the $17 Graffiti Burger at his East Village restaurant blends beef with a mix of ground mushrooms, all seasoned with Asian spices.
"Top Chef" judge and Georgia-based restauranteur Hugh Acheson served up his own version of a blended burger at the James Beard House: A cremini-lamb burger blended with charred scallions and topped with Boursin -- "The Velveeta of France" -- a grilled tomato and pickles on a potato roll. In just a bite, the burger was juicy, meaty and savory with just enough crunch -- everything you could want in a burger.
"It's gotten a lot easier to advance the idea of a vegetable-rich diet now," said Acheson, who believes that the food revolution starts with what chefs put on menus. "We know how to impress you with Brussels sprouts, a $15 salad..." Thanks in part to the "ridiculously high price of [meat] proteins, vegetables have really come to the forefront" and have become, dare we say, trendy.
Beyond cheffed-up kale slaw, Acheson sees the Blended Burger Project as part of a larger health and sustainability initiative. "If you can get every kid eating something like a blended burger at school, you are changing the way America eats," he said.
You can try making reservations at Graffiti (224 E. 10th St.) or wait until May 30 for a Blended Burger, or you can try your hand at Acheson's James Beard recipe. Enjoy!
Hugh Acheson's Lamb-Cremini Burger
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 bunch scallions
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lb ground lamb
1 ripe large tomato
16 crinkle cut dill pickles
1 5-ounce container of Boursin cheese, divided into 4 equal parts
4 Martin's potato buns
Add 3 tbsp of the butter to a large sauté pan (12 inch or so) and place over medium-high heat. When the butter bubbles and froths, add the shallots and cook for 1 min. Reduce to medium heat and add the garlic, mushrooms and fresh thyme. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Season with 1⁄2 tsp of kosher salt. Transfer the mushroom mixture from the pan to a large bowl, spreading the mixture out with a spatula and refrigerate to cool.
Clean the pan with a paper towel, place over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the scallions to the pan and char them for 4 minutes on each side. Remove the scallions, chop into 1⁄2 inch pieces, and add them to the mushroom mixture.
Place the ground lamb into a large bowl and season with the remaining kosher salt. Add the cooled mushroom and scallion mixture and mix well to thoroughly incorporate all components. Divide the mixture into four equally portioned balls and form each into patties, about 5 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to grill.
Spread the remaining 1 tbsp of butter on each bun and toast in a pan over medium heat until each side is a nice buttery brown. Remove and cool while the burgers cook. On a hot grill cook the burgers for 3 minutes per side. When they're done, rest the burgers off the heat for 3 minutes. Top each bun bottom with a burger, then the Boursin, then a seasoned slice of tomato and finish with the pickles. Eat!