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Hoppin’ John Burgers

Small for parties or writ large for lunch—buns optional.
difficulty:
yield:

30 tiny burgers or 6 large ones

time:

About 1 hour, plus 2 hours to soak the beans

introduction

Veggie burgers are not really burgers—they just adopt the fun-to-eat status that burgers confer. They’re not really veggie, either—it’s their quick way of announcing “no meat.” Most veggie burgers are some variant of the “grain and legume patties.” (Now there’s a fetching moniker.)

Don’t ask us why, but we’ve been yearning for a great veggie burger for years. Most of them are too squishy (all beans) or fall apart (the vegetables’ fault). Rarely possessing the satisfying heft of a burger, some veggie burgers compensate with seasoning overkill, like acrid levels of garlic or cumin (voted most likely to ruin any dish).

We chose drier ingredients—ingredients that possess crisping and sticking potential, as well as deep, rich flavor—and kept the aromatics elegant. Here is what we came up with: burgers made with Carolina Gold Rice and Sea Island Red Peas, crunchy-rich with almonds and sunflower seeds, and as nubby as fine English tweed. We call them Hoppin’ John Burgers to celebrate the Carolina heritage version of hoppin’ John (to read more about traditional hoppin’ John, click here). Why bother with this concept? Because it is rippin’ good food. And easy, too.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a box grater, a medium bowl, a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, a small sauté pan, a food processor, and a large nonstick skillet.

    • Fine sea salt
    • Olive oil
    • 3
      small shallots, minced (3 tablespoons)
    • 1
      medium garlic clove, minced (1 teaspoon)
    • ½
      teaspoon curry powder
    • ¼
      teaspoon powdered ginger
    • ¼
      teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • Pinch of cayenne pepper
    • ¼
      cup (1.25 ounces) whole raw almonds
    • 2
      tablespoons (0.5 ounce) raw shelled sunflower seeds
    • 2
      tablespoons (0.06 ounce) Anson Mills New Crop Heirloom Bennecake Flour or 2 tablespoons sesame tahini
    • 2
      teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • 1
      small carrot, peeled and coarsely grated (½ cup)
  1.  

    Turn the peas into a medium bowl and cover them with 2 inches of cool water. Let soak at room temperature for 2 hours. Drain the peas. Bring 1½ cups water to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the peas, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer very gently until the peas are plump and softened, about 25 minutes. Stir in the rice and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook very gently until the water has been absorbed and the rice and peas are tender, about 20 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.

  2.  

    Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan over low heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil if using bennecake flour or 1 tablespoon olive oil if using tahini. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring constantly, until fragrant and slightly softened, about 45 seconds. Stir in the garlic, curry, ginger, black pepper, cayenne, and a pinch of salt and sauté until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 10 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

  3.  

    Turn the almonds into a food processor bowl and pulse until coarsely chopped, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse a few times more. Turn the rice and peas and the aromatics into the food processor. Add the bennecake flour or tahini, the mustard, and grated carrot. Pulse until the mixture comes together but is still fairly coarse, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Shape into 30 small patties (0.5 ounce each) or 6 larger patties (2.6 ounces each).

  4.  

    To fry, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. Fry the burgers in a single layer, turning them as they brown, until crisped on the surface and hot throughout, about 3 minutes total for small burgers, or 5 to 6 minutes for large ones. Serve the burgers hot, on buns or off, with mustard or mayonnaise (we like homemade mayo mixed with a bit of apricot jam for these) and whatever condiments (such as pickled jalapeños) that suit your fancy.