burger prep
Just some of the ingredients of the best damn meatless hamburger you’ll ever eat.

You know what sucks? Stuff that’s not meat that pretends to be meat.

Veggie patties, not dogs, tofu crumbles and the like. Wikipedia calls these things “meat analogue.” I call them crap.

As someone who’s married to a vegetarian, I have to deal with it sometimes. We recently went on a three-grocery-store hunt for tofu dogs when Jenn was hankerin’ for a chili dog. And I got to enjoy a BLT with the season’s first tomatoes, while she had to eat a fakin’, lettuce and tomato. Better than nothing, I guess, but we’ve found it’s usually better just to let vegetables be vegetables instead of having them try to be carne.

A couple of years ago, we met friends at a now deceased bar in Auburn called The Independent. They made a burger patty out of okra that was unbeatable. It wasn’t trying to fool us into being a wad of meat. It was just what it was, which was delicious. We’ve tried and tried to replicate it, to no avail. Yet.

But the other weekend, while I was winding down in front of the TV, I stumbled on an episode of “Primal Grill,” where host Steven Raichlen was marinating giant portobello mushrooms and throwing them on the fire with full slices of butter-brushed onion and poblano peppers. Maybe I was just hungry, but it looked awesome. Then he brushed ciabatta  buns with more butter, toasted them and loaded them with, in order:

  1. a portobello, marinated in a pepper-vinegar sauce
  2. pepperjack cheese
  3. a grilled onion
  4. a slice of the roasted poblano
  5. and a couple of pieces of avocado
Portobello burgers, hot off the grill.

So when my mom and three friends came to C-town for the whitewater, I decided it was burgertime. And I’m pretty sure Steven has concocted a sort of culinary alchemy, because even though there’s no “magic” in the ingredients, together they turn into something downright otherworldy.

Here’s his recipe. We didn’t do the chopotle chilis in adobo sauce — we were afraid the whole thing might be a little too punchy — so I pureed some bell pepper in the marinade instead. I’ll go out on a limb and say it didn’t suck.

It wasn’t a beefy burger. It wasn’t trying to be. But it’s one of the best meals on a bun we’ve ever had.

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