My previous experiences with "meatless" burgers, sausages, dogs and patties have all pretty much ended with a mix of disappointment in the product and a gnawing craving for the real thing. So it was nothing short of a GIANT leap of faith when I purchased the jumbo box of Morningstar Farms Chipotle Black Bean Burgers at Costco a couple weeks back.
Not that I'm going all vegetarian on you or anything like that. But even I'll admit to enjoying nights that feature almost no cooking on my part and I figure it never hurts to push away from the cavalcade of pit beef, sushi, burgers, ribs and pulled pork that has recently been my life.
For me, just making the purchase of a 12-pack of 1/4 lb. anything represented a classic "good side and bad side play tug-of-war". On the one hand I had a coupon, so the money-saving, cost-conscious gene I inherited from my folks was doing a jig. On the other hand, the part of me that vividly remembers tossing out package after package of icicle-caked frozen foods from my parents' basement freezer after they moved out of my childhood home tends to paralyze me with fear every time I set foot in Costco or buy more than four cans of soup at one time.
But after spending the better part of the weekend prepping, cooking, having and cleaning up from our annual cookout and suffering from the soul-crushing boredom of a day on jury duty, I felt like it was time to bite the bullet and give Morningstar Farms the old college try.
Seriously – how bad could they possibly be?
While none of the other meat-free burgers I've tried were truly awful, I must admit that I've never been in any big rush to try any of them again. And sure enough, a quick check of our freezer yielded half a package of ice-encrusted Boca Burgers from some long-ago cookout. (The Freezer-Cleaner in me trembles just typing that sentence.)
After giving the package a final long, hard look and deciding to make a mini-pulled pork sandwich just in case they sucked, I popped the burgers in and followed the very specific timing instructions as close as possible. The package recommends baking in the oven and flipping the patties over halfway through the 23 minute cooking time but even I'm not so anal about following package directions that I would set the timer for 11:30. And I'm pretty anal when it comes to recipes, cooking times and directions on foodstuffs... don't even get me started on expiration dates.
Once the 23 minutes was up I topped each burger with a slice of Sargento Reduced Sodium Pepper Jack Cheese – again, in case they sucked – let the cheese melt and then popped them onto awaiting buns.
Much to my surprise – and relief – I can safely say that these are my favorite meatless burgers of all time. Granted, that's like being voted the prettiest Kennedy girl but you get the drift. While these certainly aren't going to make me forget Tessaro's in Pittsburgh or even the exquisitely cooked burger I recently had at Iron Hill Brewery in Mt. Laurel, NJ they had a nice crisp exterior that led to a soft center, all flavored nicely with corn and chipotle. Plus, at just 7 grams of fat per serving I won't feel bad about firing one up for lunch.
I'm not sure I'm quite ready to go down the vegan Hickory BBQ Riblet road yet, but I'll keep you posted.