The first time I tried the title item at Brooks Headley’s little New York sensation of a restaurant, Superiority Burger, I thought: What’s the big deal? It tasted really good, but it certainly didn’t remind me of a beef burger, not in the way that the lab-concocted Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger do. And it was so small it was more like a slider than a burger.
Then I got an advance copy of Headley’s upcoming cookbook, called “Superiority Burger Cookbook” (Why mess with a good thing?), and read the headnote to the first recipe: “This is not fake meat, nor is it vying to be,” Headley writes, and then he follows that with one of my favorite lines in a cookbook in recent memory: “The un-likeness to the real thing is canny.”
All of a sudden, the appeal of his burger started to make so much more sense, and I couldn’t wait to try the recipe.
Headley doesn’t sweat some of the details — such as the oil needed for sauteing an onion or the amounts of salt and pepper. But his recipe includes brilliant flavor-building strokes, including long roasting of diced carrot, a heavy hand with toasted fennel seed, a little vinegar for de-glazing crispy bits from the pan, and more. The burgers keep a nice chunky texture from crushed walnuts, hand-mashed chickpeas and more quinoa than I would have expected. And they hold together, thanks to his use of a slurry made from potato starch and water, folded in as a binder.
Will I swing by Superiority Burger on future trips to New York? Probably. But thanks to Headley’s recipe, I don’t have to. Besides, the burgers I made from his book beat the ones he sells at his restaurant in one very satisfying way: They’re a lot bigger.
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Serve with your favorite toppings.
Adapted from Headley’s “Superiority Burger Cookbook: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious,” (W.W. Norton, June 2018).
1 cup dried red quinoa
1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1¼ teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more as needed
2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut into ¼ -inch dice (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed for frying
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and ground (see NOTES)
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked or no-salt-added canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
½ cup coarse dried bread crumbs, such as panko
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and crushed (see NOTES)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon Sriracha or other hot chile sauce
2 tablespoons potato starch
8 soft buns, toasted, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the quinoa, 1½ cups of the water and ¼ teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until fluffy, 35 to 45 minutes. Uncover, transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
While the quinoa is cooking, spread the diced carrots on a quarter baking sheet; roast (middle rack) until dark around the edges and soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is translucent and lightly browned at the edges, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the fennel seed, chili powder, ¼ teaspoon of the pepper and ½ teaspoon of the salt; cook until the spices are very fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring frequently, until they are very tender. Pour in the vinegar; use a spatula to dislodge any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Use a potato masher or large fork, to coarsely mash the onion-chickpea mixture.
Scrape the onion-chickpea mixture into the bowl with the quinoa. Add the roasted carrots, bread crumbs, walnuts, lemon juice, parsley, Sriracha or other hot chile sauce, the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper, and mix well. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Whisk together the potato starch and the remaining 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl to form a thick, smooth slurry. Fold that into the burger mixture.
Use a ½ -cup measure to scoop 8 equal portions. Shape each one into a ¾ -inch-thick disk.
Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into a large saute pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add as many patties as will fit without overcrowding. Working in batches, pan-fry the patties until browned, about 3 minutes on each side.
To serve, place each patty on a toasted bun.
NOTES: Toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using. (Same goes for the walnuts, which you will toast separately.)
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