Monday, January 11, 2010

Recipe for Chicken Burgers with Mushrooms, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions

On Friday night, I had what may well be the worst meal of my life. Forces combined to cause our merry band of four to dine at Pure Food and Wine - a raw, vegan restaurant in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. While I'm not going to write a full review, let me state simply: the food was appalling - and not because it was vegan.

I have nothing against vegan restaurants - in fact, quite the opposite. Long time readers may recall my delight in dining at both Hangawi (a wonderful vegan, Korean place) and Blossom Cafe, for example. Up until Friday night, every vegan meal I've ever had has been extraordinary. While our meal at Pure Food and Wine could indeed be called "extraordinary" ... its for all the wrong reasons.

I chose the trio of "pizzettes" as my second course (don't even ask about the first) and, honestly, I'm at a loss to describe them. Certainly, they were like nothing I've ever seen. The first of the trio had an unpalatable rosemary-ish "crust" topped with a paste of some sort that I can only describe a rancid. Yes, rancid. I'm quite certain this paste was made of some kind of nuts that had gone off. I wish I were kidding, I'm not. The paste was topped with halved grape tomatoes and something which bore a vague resemblance to shredded cheese. One bite was all it took for me to know that all was not well with this little creation.

I never made it to the other two unappealing circles of mystery which shared the plate. And my friend, who ordered the same dish, had to have the staff take it away simply because she couldn't bear the smell of that paste. Trust me, she was the wiser of the two of us - hours later I was regretting what little I ate of that mess.

It is, perhaps, unfair to judge a restaurant after only one visit. I realize that. But here's the thing - I can't envision a circumstance in which I'd be compelled to give this place a second chance. It was just that bad across the board. And, to make matters worse, its expensive. Needless to say, we were still hungry when we left. Feh.

As an antidote, I'm prescribing meat and plenty of it. Cooked meat - as in all the way cooked. People, there is a reason God invented heat and the grill pan. We need burgers. Stat!

Savory Chicken Burgers with Mushrooms, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions:
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
  • 3/4 cup packed, diced fresh mushrooms (I used Baby Bellos)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of Herbs de Provence
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1/4 teaspoon Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning*
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of shredded fresh pear
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons plain (unflavored) instant oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used Fig Balsamic)
  • some sliced blue cheese (I used Gorgonzola Dolce)
  • some caramelized onions
  • some whole wheat rolls or a whole wheat baguette
  • lettuce
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and to it add the shallots, mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pepper and a pinch of Herbs de Provence. Saute until the shallots have become translucent and the mushrooms have softened and are beginning to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, reserve and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl combine the ground chicken, Bavarian Seasoning, poultry seasoning, rosemary, parsley, a bit of salt and pepper, the shredded pear and the reserved mushroom and shallot mixture. Mix well to combine. Add the beaten egg and the oatmeal and mix well to combine. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and shape into 4 patties.

Heat a grill pan over high heat and brush it with a bit of oil. When the pan is good and hot, but not yet smoking, add the chicken burgers and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, about 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until cooked throughout. Chicken burgers should be firm to the touch when done and fully cooked throughout. Brush the grilled burgers with a bit of balsamic vinegar on each side, then top with some sliced or crumbled blue cheese, cover the pan and allow the cheese to melt. Serve the finished burgers on whole wheat rolls or baguettes, topped with some caramelized onions and atop some crisp romaine lettuce. Enjoy!

*Notes: While not strictly necessary, the Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning is a really nice blend and well suited to this savory, earthy burger. Santa left me a jar of it in my stocking this year and enjoy it, I do! If you don't happen to have any, fear not, add whatever spices you like or simply proceed without.

I happen to like a bit of shredded pear in this mixture - it adds both flavor and moisture, which is altogether necessary when using ground chicken breast. You could certainly substitute some apple, if you like, in place of the pears. Do as you see fit.

Either way, you'll be rewarded with a slightly unusual, yet thoroughly delicious burger that's just perfect for the season. Its hearty, earthy and just completely scrumptious. I hope you'll try it!

So, have any of you had a meal at Pure? And, if so, how was it? Not that I'm likely to return, mind you, I'm just curious.

Bon appetit!


Katherine Aucoin said...

Did you speak to the manager about the ingredient you think may have turned. I would have definitely let them know i wasn't happy.

Now the burger, that is something serious girlfriend! Burgers as amazing at as that are best found at home!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Normally, I would have (and def. should have) spoken to the manager - but the evening had taken so many unusual turns by that point we were all dazed and confused. We just paid the check and got the hell out! I will say this, the staff was lovely.

And the burger ... awesome! You're right, why dine out when you can eat so well at home?! Thanks, Katherine!

Heavenly Housewife said...

Mmmm.... that picture of the burger has my mouth watering. I just adore carmelized onions. THey make anything good taste even better.

The Duo Dishes said...

Yikes! That is a scarring expensive. Good thing you've eaten at vegan spots before to know that that is not the norm. A chicken burger overflowing with all this goodness will set you right again! Gotta check out Penzey's now that you've mentioned it...

Astra Libris said...

I love your idea of shredded pear in the burger! SO fabulous, and it simply adds to the already wonderful health profile of chicken burgers, too - Diva, you are brilliant as always!

I'm so sorry to hear about your disappointing meal! How dreadful that any restaurant at all, and especially a restaurant of that "poshness" would allow something rancid to be served - I completely agree with you about no second chances after that experience... Especially when you have such luscious caramelized onions at home!!

Astra Libris said...

P.S. Penzey's Spices are the best!! :-)

Catherine said...

That looks so delicious! I wish I had that right now! Yummy!

Sook said...

That is what I should have had for lunch instead of my leftover food from last night. sounds delicious.

Daily Spud said...

Boo hiss to bad restaurant experiences and hurrah for homemade burger goodness!

Maven said...

Oh my sweet YUMM!!!!

Those burgers look to die for - and I'm starving right now!

I've never eaten in a vegan or raw food restaurant so don't have a concept of what that would be like. Sorry the restuarant wasn't good!

pixelgal said...

As you may know, one of your favorite Aunties has become a vegan for the New Year! She's experimenting with it now both physically and philosophically and studying it thoroughly. She'll be glad to know there are some vegan places she can visit in the big city with her Diva. How horrible that someone in charge actually let those dishes out of the kitchen! Glad you didn't have a visit from Sam and Ella.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about your meal at Pure, but the burger is totally awesome! I love the blue cheese addition and that you serve the burger on a baguette, yum!

Fresh Local and Best said...

My goodness! Sorry to hear about your experience at Pure. I just visited Pure's sister restaurant, One Lucky Duck. I had a dulse salad, which was good, but nothing else. I don't have too many experiences with raw cuisine, but it sounds awful for me to find out for myself. I think I will visit just to see if it indeed is that bad. LOL! ;)

doggybloggy said...

gross rancid nuts - I would have totally said something and its not too late to still do it - hook me up with one of these burgers!

Gelareh @ Orange Truffle said...

Mushroom, blue cheese and caramalized onions? wow all of my fav things on a burger.. looks really good

stephchows said...

uggg what a bummer!!! well at least this burger has me feeling better ;)

Donna-FFW said...

Loving the additions to the burger. Blue cheese, caramelized onion, mushrooms, cant beat it. Truly tantalizing!

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Wilma said...

That's what you get Auntie for trying to forgo meat. Something wrong with that. Mom and Dad talk about it sometimes and I shudder. Meanwhile, make mine without onions, no good for dogs.
Kisses xxxx

Jennie said...

Brilliant post! You made me chuckle!
That paste sounds gross! The burger, however, sounds AWESOME! Totally bookmarking it!


Jennie :)

Jackie said...

That meal sounds like a horrible disappointment. Remember, meat is good! Start with the burger next time!

Tangled Noodle said...

Wow! What a great idea to added shredded pear to ground chicken for moisture. My husband won't even entertain the idea of chicken burgers because of the dry texture - I'm excited to try this! As for the unfortunate meal at Pure Food and Wine, it's so frustrating to consider the wasted time, money and appetite.

Your meat antidote is just the thing to re-balance the universe!

Richard said...

Wow,you are so right. I only wished we'd said something to the manager. I was burping up something awful the rest of the night. We certainly need a do over.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Thanks for all the empathy, folks, and for the lovely comments on my burger recipe as well! This one is a keeper, for sure. The restaurant ... not so much!

Richard - what a pleasure to see you here! I think we all suffered some rather unpleasant after-effect of the "meal". Yikes! As I've been telling O., though, it sure makes for a funny story. I have a feeling we'll be laughing about this one for years! ;)

Charmian @Christie's Corner said...

Sorry you had such a bad experience. Raw food is one thing, but rancid? Perhaps it's best you left hungry.

Love the burger idea. I have caramelized onions in the fridge just begging to be used!

While I don't mind vegan food now and again, I have never met a raw meal I liked -- beyond a fresh salad and fruit platter. :-)

Yasmeen said...

Hearty burger.Pears sounds like an interesting flavor ,must also make the burgers really moist.

s said...

sorry about ur disappointing meal...but that burger looks super yummy!