Didi’s Kasha-Crunch Burger


This burger is a favorite. Your main mission is to pan fry the burgers until a thick crust forms. Any heavy-bottomed seasoned skillet will work but, to create the perfect texture, my pan of choice is cast iron. Be warned: no-stick pans will not do the job properly!

I like this burger served “naked” with a dollop of Thai hot chili sauce. Another excellent way to serve these is to make small “meatballs” and serve them on top of spaghetti with tomato sauce. Or for a satisfying brunch dish, make one rather large and flat panfried burger for each person and nestle a poached egg on top of it.

Serves 8

2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. short or long-grain brown rice
2 t. kosher salt (more or less, to taste)
1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped mushrooms (button, crimini, Portobello)
1 c. kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 c. chopped toasted walnuts (cashews, hazelnuts, or other nuts)
3-4 T. chopped fresh tarragon (or parsley)
Flour for dredging the burgers
Vegetable oil for frying

To prepare:
Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a couple of minutes more.

Add the rice, salt, mushrooms, and 5 cups of water to the vegetable mixture and bring water to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 25 minutes. Now stir in the kasha and cook until the rice and kasha are tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about another 20 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts and herbs. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer the mixture in batches to a food processor and pulse until coarsely or finely chopped. The mixture can also be left “whole,” as another option. Put processed burger mixture in a large bowl and cover it if you aren’t forming the burgers right away. Otherwise, proceed as follows.

Dust your hands with flour and, using your hands, form the mixture firmly into large patties. Lightly coat each pattie with flour to create the crust.

Heat a generous amount of oil (1/8- to 1/4-inch depth) in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Pan fry the burgers until the undersides are dark golden brown, about 5 minutes, checking frequently to prevent burning. Flip the burgers, and brown the other side in the same manner.

Note: These burgers can be formed into patties, separated by wax or parchment paper and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. For longer storage, up to 2 months, burgers can be frozen. It is best to individually wrap burgers in plastic before freezing. Frozen burgers must be defrosted completely before cooking.

I find that defrosting them in their wrapper in the microwave for two minutes makes the burger easier to handle and able to keep its beautiful rounded shape. The added bonus is that it is already warm inside, therefore it cooks and browns much faster. Microwaving also gives you the flexibility to cook up a burger at a moment’s notice.

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