Every year I enjoy a full weekend of gustatory delight at the national meeting of the “Eating and Drinking” club to which I belong.  In 2014, the event was held right here in Calgary.  I had three memorable evenings featuring absolutely wonderful locally-sourced food, and perfectly paired wines.  There was even a beer crafted especially for the occasion by Big Rock, our renowned local brewer.  All three days were stellar, including the Young Chef competition at which I was privileged to be a tasting judge.

The Friday evening reception was a protein-fest of epic proportions.  There was striploin of beef, rack of lamb, beautiful sautéed shrimp, ginger beef made from tenderloin trimmings(!), freshly-shucked oysters, candied salmon, a cheese board to die for. Saturday there was a Gala Dinner, with each of eight courses accompanied by carefully selected wines.  By the end of the last event, I was lucky not to have died of goodness. And every year we will do it all again in a different Canadian city, where the hosts go to great lengths to match or exceed previous events.

What does this gustatory story have to do with the topic at hand?  Well, after a weekend of such delightful excess, I sometimes feel the need to explore a vegetarian option, just to balance the scale a little.  Not the weight scale (heaven forbid) — just the meat vs. non-meat scale.  I love a good hamburger as much as the next person, but the option below is just as delicious.  It’s more of a method than a recipe.

Let’s see what was in the fridge on recipe testing day …

Portobello Mushroom “Burger”

Let’s start with a toasted bun.  If I was a perfect person, this would be some kind of wonderful multi-grain masterpiece, but I’m only human (and this was the only bun I had on hand).

If I had been thinking, I would have toasted this bun in the same pan I was planning to use for everything else.  Then it would have been a “one-pan-meal”  Let’s pretend I did it that way.

Guacamole is an excellent substitute for mayonnaise.  If you don’t have any guac on hand, you could add sliced avocado.  It’s a good thing to have a “sticky” layer on the bun — it keeps the lettuce in place.

Add that layer of lettuce.  It’s good for you, and keeps the juicy mushroom from sogging up the bun.

While cucumber would make a great crunchy layer, it’s not my favorite.  Zucchini is mild, adds a pleasant flavor, and I usually have one in the fridge.

The top of the bun needs a little attention.  I’m not planning a “Cheese’burger'” per se, so perhaps I can be forgiven for spreading a little Boursin.

I prefer to scrape the gills out of the portobello mushroom.  If you leave them in, the end result is a little mushy, they tend to soak up an inordinate amount of butter,  and they don’t enhance the flavor in my opinion.  I like to use a melon baller because the edge is somewhat sharp, but a plain teaspoon will work just as well.

Chop up the stems to add to the leeks.  Waste not, want not!

I always have leeks on hand when Carter is in residence, as he prefers them.  The mushroom can stand up to regular onions, but wilted leeks are lovely and less aggressive, so they’re my choice too.

I love leeks “melted” in butter. I start the leeks low and slow, and if they get a little brown, well that’s just more flavor.

The mushroom pieces can jump right in there too.

Push everything to one side.  Add a little more butter, and  the mushroom cap.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides. I like to start gill-side-down. I add the weight of a small pot lid to ensure it cooks through evenly, in a timely manner, without drying out.  The heat is just below medium.  I have positioned the pan so the mushroom itself is in the “hot spot”, and the other ingredients are away from direct heat.

After a weekend of blatant excess, I just don’t think I can face bacon, although on any other occasion I would be first in line.  Here’s an excellent product that I can get in my local Safeway any time – smoked tofu. This company makes one that is peppered as well as smoked, and it’s also excellent.  Thinly sliced and lightly browned, it will stand in for bacon very well.

I have pushed the mushroom cap off the “hot spot” and put the tofu in its place.  Everything stays nice and warm, and I have only dirtied one frying pan.

Stack everything up….

…add a tomato slice or two…

…and in the words of my youngest son, “Nom, nom, nom”.

Try this sometime when you’re craving the burger experience, but perhaps looking for a non-meat-protein package.  Garnish it up any way you want!

Calories in a 3 oz. lean burger patty – 213.

Calories in a 4” portobello mushroom cap – 32.

I’m just sayin’….