A few weeks ago I ate lunch at Penguin, in Charlotte, NC, and ordered their veggie burger. Wow, I thought, naively, this doesn’t taste much like the other veggie burgers I’ve been eating. It’s so rich and savory and— Something didn’t seem quite right. I asked our server about it. “Let’s see,” she said, “I know it’s a mix of chickpeas and black beans. . .” “Yes,” I said. “Go on.” “And maybe there’s some chili powder in there?” I stared at her skeptically. “And?” “And maybe he puts some cheese in with mixture? But don’t take my word for it.” All this didn’t seem to add up. On my way to the bathroom I peeked into the kitchen and instantly discovered the missing link: a bubbling vat of oil. The veggie burger was deep-fried. Of course.
Now I don’t have any real issues with deep-frying. When done correctly, deep-fried foods don’t necessarily turn into a heavy mass of congealed starch. Deborah Madison even anectdotally mentions (in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) that if done right, deep-fried foods don’t absorb any more fat than pan-fried dishes. But in life one must be stingy with indulgences.
I decided against deep-frying this one, opting instead to be liberal with the cheese and to pan-fry it in a more [cough] modest amount of oil. They aren’t called Pub Grub for nothin’.
Pub-Grub Veggie Burgers
Yield: Eight 4-inch burgers
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 t salt
1 t chili powder
1/4 c chopped parsley
1-1/2 cups panko crumbs
1 cup grated nice-melting cheese such as pepper jack, muenster, mozzarella, or fontina cheese
Oil for frying
Combine the onion, eggs, beans, salt, and chili powder in a food processor and pulse until combined. Turn the bean mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the parsley, panko, and cheese. Shape into 8 patties.
To cook, heat 1/2-inch oil in a deep skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers, in batches to avoid crowding, until uniformly browned on each side, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate or a flattened paper bag to drain of excess oil.
Photo by Christina Heaston