Monday, June 17, 2013

Pork and Portobello Burgers from Mark Bittman in the New York Times

Mark Bittman
Mark Bittman is one of the most thoughtful of food writers.  He calls himself a Flexitarian, which he defines as a “moderate, conscious eater” whose goals are “a diet that is higher in plants and lower in both animal products and hyper processed foods, the stuff that makes up something like three-quarters of what’s sold in supermarkets.”  The term “Flexitarian” goes back to 2004 when it referred to vegetarians who, while eating mostly vegetables, began incorporating meat or fish.  And it also included people who were moving in the other direction, away from meat-heavy diets into a more vegetarian focused one. Bittman expands that to included whole grains and grains.  I think “Flexitarian” describes exactly what I try to do in our home kitchen. And I think it incorporates ideals that most of our readers try to achieve.  I’ve already taken some further steps in this direction.  I haven’t cut pasta out of our diet but I have changed the amount of it I cook in a single meal.  We are down to the equivalent of ¾ cup of dried pasta per serving.  Do we miss it?  Not for a minute. You get more sauce this way.   We also eat meatless meals with some frequency.  Now Bittman makes the point that when you do eat meat, you owe it to yourself, and your conscience to find meat that represents the best of the best in every way: From the way the animals are raised, to what they are fed and how they are brought to market. It's vital to know where your food comes from.  In this case, national brands like Neiman Ranch may be twice as expensive as supermarket pork, but by cutting back portion size, you may find them equal in cost and un-equalled in value.  So today’s post, while hardly meatless, cuts way down on the amount of meat per serving.  And what takes its place?
As in many vegetarian dishes, the meat substitute is the mushroom. In this case, the giant Portobello comes into play.  Truthfully, all by itself, the Portobello makes a great ‘meaty’ burger.   We almost always include them in any Burger Party we have.  They’re a huge hit just simply grilled alongside the hamburger patties.  But here they’ve been elevated, that is if you are a meat lover.  4 ounces of ground pork, seasoned with garlic and your choice of rosemary, fennel seed or parsley are tucked into a mushroom that’s been ‘de-gilled’.  You grill them exactly the same way as you’d do any burger.  They can go onto a grill pan or a barbecue grate or even into a skillet.  You can them serve them on regular hamburger buns or, as I did, on whole grain Kaiser rolls.  The toppings are left up to your imagination but all the old favorites can pressed into use—tomatoes, onions, mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickles—whatever you’d put out with regular hamburgers.  It’s a wonderful way to cut back on meat without giving it up altogether.  Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Pork and Portobello Burgers from Mark Bittmann in the New York Times  
Timing: 30 Minutes. Serves 4.  Can easily be halved.   
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, fennel seed or parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
4 large portobello mushroom caps, stems removed
Olive oil
4 burger buns or Kaiser Rolls
Any burger fixings you like

Prepare a grill; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the heat.

Combine the ground pork, garlic, rosemary and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Use a spoon to lightly scrape away the gills of the mushrooms and hollow them slightly. Drizzle the mushrooms (inside and out) with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press 1/4 of the mixture into each of the hollow sides of the mushrooms; you want the meat to spread all the way across the width of the mushrooms. They should look like burgers. 
Grill the burgers, meat side down, until the pork is well browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook until the top side of the mushrooms are browned and the mushrooms are tender, another 6 to 8 minutes. If you like, use an instant-read thermometer to check the interior temperature of the pork, which should be a minimum of 145 degrees.
Serve the burgers on buns (toasted, if you like) with any fixings you like.


  1. Monte,
    As someone who is trying to get away from eating as much bread as I used to, this is a great way to substitute.

    You can't go wrong with Mr. Bittman. He's a real gem in the foodie world - as are you.

    Great post, as usual.

    Hope all is well!

  2. Dear Katie, How good to hear from you! Thank you so much for the complements. I do appreciate your taking the time to respond. If you are trying to avoid bread, I think this recipe would be just as good without the bun altogether. It finally looks like summer here after the most incredibly rainy Spring, which featured deluges every time it rained. Hope your summer is full of fun and great food. Monte

    1. You are a doll, my friend! We're experiencing exceptionally hot weather in south Mississippi very early this year. I can't wait for Fall!!

      Keep tempting me with these wonderful posts. I'm inspired by and envious of your talented writing. You are a gem.

      Best of the best.

    2. No, Katie, you are the gem for taking the time to write and share your very kind words with others. All best, Monte