I blame my Auntie Donna. Lovingly, of course. She came to visit this past Friday for Patrick’s graduation.
When my mother threw some tasty looking steaks onto the grill, she quietly slipped out of the house and picked up some spicy black bean burgers from the grocery store.
Apparently, she hasn’t eaten beef or pork in years. Sticks mainly to chicken and seafood, and didn’t want to have a dinner of rice and vegetable medley.
She grilled up two of the four patties and enjoyed them at the table with us. Later that evening, her and my grandmother left to head back to Maryland. The remaining two patties were my lunch on Saturday and suddenly the container of black beans in my fridge became fodder for creating my own spicy black bean burgers.
Up until setting out to make my own black bean burgers I had just been tossing handfuls of beans into salads, and occasionally throwing some into my mini food processor to experiment with bean dip recipes. So far I had discovered a few things — I like my black beans with some heat, and curry makes an excellent accompanying flavor.
So, armed with a recipe I had found on the Washington Post’s website, I set to turning my four cups (conveniently!) of beans into ten chipotle curry black bean burgers.
A few tips on making these chipotle curry black bean burgers, or any bean burgers for that matter:
- Don’t puree all of your beans. I don’t care how much you want to get the most use out of your food processor, or how much fun it is to watch them all whirr around in there. Your burgers will have more substance and bite to them if you leave half of the beans whole. And, much like some fruit is left in tact to show guests how much painstaking work you put into your homemade jam, you’ll want anyone eating these burgers to know you worked hard on ’em… even though they’re real easy to make!
- A device like the Tupperware burger press shown below will come in handy. If you haven’t got one, do your best to form the patties free hand. Although you could probably pick a burger press up for just a few dollars, I hate trips to the store just to pick up a nonessential kitchen gadget. Put it on your list for next time and make due with your hands. Enlist the aid of a child still enamored with Play-Doh, or channel your inner child and go to town. Don’t go much over 3 inches in diameter, although if you’ll be eating these on some big honkin’ rolls feel free to make them as big as you like. As for thickness, I would recommend staying around one inch.
- You’ll want to place a sheet of wax paper between each burger to keep them from sticking to one another. Since you’ll likely cut more squares of wax paper than you need, just use the extras to keep the burgers from sticking to the cutting board and burger press, if you’re using one. Nonstick spray works fine too, but you get funny looking mid-process scenes like this if you use wax paper.
- If you’re stacking your burgers like I did, don’t stack many more than three or four at a time. I mean it. Even your best efforts to keep the burgers level will not prevent them from eventually toppling over when the stack gets too tall. Trust me. I know. So does most of the neighborhood… Oh the yell I let out when I realized what gravity was doing.
- Do all of your taste testing BEFORE you add in the eggs. Given the recent squabbles over Nestle’s cookie dough, I would hate to let it go unsaid that you shouldn’t eat any of this stuff until after you’ve cooked it. It’s a no brainer, but can’t hurt to offer a friendly reminder.
- And on that note, season a little at a time. My idea of just right with the spices may elicit a “Tch, what a wuss,” or a “Gosh darn that’s too hot,” from you. This is another no brainer, but it’s a real pain trying to un-spice something.
- Even if you’ll be freezing these to reheat later, like I did, lightly fry them before you do. They’ll survive the freezing process a little better if you do. In fact, as you’ll read in the recipe, you want to chill these at least 15 minutes before they even hit the pan. It helps them hold together once they do. You can fry them without oil or butter, as the WaPo recipe suggests, but I couldn’t help myself and used a light layer of nonstick spray on the griddle. No harm, no foul. If you want more of a crust on the outside, oil and butter away!
- Be patient when cooking these burgers. You can’t fidget, poke and bother these guys every few minutes once they’ve started cooking. I practically had to set a timer and banish myself from the kitchen. They need to just sit and sizzle — read: firm up — for at least 4 to 5 minutes before you get in there with your spatula. Even then, be gentle. It also couldn’t hurt to throw a lid on the pan for a minute or so while you’re frying/reheating these to ensure they cook/reheat throughout. Nobody likes a burger with a chilly center. Or salmonella.
- If you like a juicier burger, vegetables are your friend. I prefer my onions and bell peppers sauteed to the point of sweetness, but I would imagine that cooking them less or not at all would mean they release more juicy goodness into the burgers while you’re frying them later. I didn’t use them in this recipe, but some diced tomatoes, or corn would also be great ways to add moisture.
- Get creative with your fixins! I already have a delicious looking recipe for Avocado and Corn Salad from Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything” picked out that I’m going to make when I reheat one of these. I’ll heat the burger, chop it up and throw it in with the salad with some shredded cheddar since I’m not a huge fan of buns. Maybe add a few dollops of sour cream… Anyway, my point is not to feel too confined to eating these the way you would traditionally eat a burger. Or with conventional condiments.
Now then, here’s the WaPo recipe with my alterations noted in italics.
Spicy Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from “Recipe of the Week: Burgers” by Sally Sampson
4 cups cooked, rinsed and drained black beans (about 2 ½ 15-ounce cans)
1/2 cup Japanese-style panko breadcrumbs (If you’re adding anything that’ll increase the liquid, you’ll want to adjust this. Generally, the burger mix should be stiff enough for a spoon to stand up straight in it and resist gentle prodding. Real scientific, I know.)
2 large eggs
4 scallions, both white and green parts, minced (I just used half a medium onion, and added half a bell pepper too)
3 tablespoons (a small handful) chopped basil or cilantro, or a combination
2 teaspoons each chipotle chile powder, paprika and curry powder
2 heaping teaspoons red pepper hummus
2 tablespoons horseradish mustard
2 tablespoons hot sauce of your choice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2-2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Place 2 cups of the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chunky.
Add the hummus, onion and bell pepper. Pulse a few more times.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining whole black beans, plus panko, eggs, scallions, fresh herbs, garlic, cumin, oregano, extra spices, hot sauce, mustard and red pepper flakes and mix until well combined.
Using a dough cutter, portion mixture into patties about 1 inch thick. Suggested diameter: 3 inches; otherwise, the patty will be difficult to flip when cooking. KOD extra step that’s worth doing: Place patties on a plate or tray and chill for 15 minutes so they can set up.
When ready to cook, remove patties from refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat, without any fat; when it is hot but not smoking, add burgers to dry pan.
Cook for about four minutes on first side or until well seared and with a flipping spatula, turn onto second side and allow to cook for an additional five minutes, over medium heat.
Serve immediately with fixins’: Monterey jack, cheddar or queso fresco, lettuce, fresh tomato slice, pico de gallo or jarred salsa, sour cream, avocado. Good on a soft bun or by itself.
Makes four to six burgers. I got ten good sized burgers out of this recipe, but obviously this recipe yields more or less depending on how large you’d like to make your burgers.
As always, enjoy!