Shiitake and Avocado Bison Burgers

When Lee and I do eat red meat, it is almost always bison.  This is for both nutritional and ecological reasons.

The nutritional comparison between beef and bison is actually quite startling. According to an article by James Clausen titled “Bison Meat vs. Beef—Burger and Steaks,” the nutritional facts break down like this:

“Bison, ground, grass-fed, cooked 3 oz.
•    Calories 152, Total Fat 7 grams (3 grams saturated fat)
•    Excellent protein with 40 grams, which is 84% of the daily value (DV) in a 2,000-calorie diet.
•    The biggest negative is that bison is high in cholesterol with 82 milligrams or 27% of the daily value.
•    Ground bison is high in vitamin B6 (17% DV), B12 (35% DV) and niacin (25% DV)

Beef, ground, cooked 3 oz. 85% lean, 15% fat
•    Calories 210, Total Fat 12 grams (6 grams saturated fat)
•    Good protein with 21 grams, which is 43% of the daily value (DV) in a 2,000-calorie diet.
•    The two biggest negatives are that beef is high in cholesterol with 75 milligrams or 24% of the daily value. Beef is also high in saturated fats with 6 grams, which is double the amount found in grass fed bison.
•    Ground beef is high in vitamin B6 (15% DV), B12 (36% DV) and niacin (24% DV).”

Even more important than that, though, is that bison is not raised in a factory farm setting. Ever. They are too wild: put them in a barn, no matter how roomy, and they’ll probably just bust down the door. Furthermore, the standards for raising bison are higher than they are for raising chickens or cattle. Every time you purchase bison, you can be sure that you are purchasing a free-range product. As if that isn’t enough, the National Bison Association prohibits the use of growth hormones and animal by-products on bison. Yaaaaay!

(Interesting fact: the largest bison farm in the world belongs to Ted Turner, and is the home of over 50,000 bison. Even this herd, which could be expected to be the most factory-farmy given its size, has approximately 2 million acres on which to roam, and are almost exclusively grass fed.)

So when, earlier tonight, Lee said that she was craving protein, I took a quick trip to the Wegmans to get the ingredients for a comfort-food meal of bison burgers and homemade french fries (recipe to follow in a later post). 

One thing that you will probably learn about me: I tend to believe that there are very few savory dishes that aren’t improved with the addition of either mushrooms and/or avocado. Think about it: it’s pretty much true. I also believe that almost all sandwiches require mayonnaise, homegrown tomatoes, and homegrown lettuce to be as good as they can be. So, yeah, I just piled some of all of that onto these delicious, meaty sammiches.

Now, here’s the thing: so many people mess up their burgers by adding stuff that they mistakenly believe will improve their flavor. When you have good, fresh bison meat, all you’re going to do by adding things to the burgers is detract from their hearty, earthy flavor while risking compromises to their texture. Trust me. All you need is a big hunk of meat. That’s all.

Shiitake and Avocado Bison Burgers

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 6 oz. sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 homegrown (or locally grown) tomato, sliced
  • 4 leaves freshly grown lettuce, washed and dried
  • 4 sourdough hard rolls
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 1 T butter
  • 4 slices muenster cheese
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • mayonnaise
  1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Stirring frequently, saute them until their juices release and then fully evaporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.
  2. Slice the rolls in half if they aren’t already cut. Wrap them individually in pieces of aluminum foil. If you are environmentally-minded, use heavy duty foil, being careful not to rip it: you can rinse it off and save it for the next time you need to warm up rolls. Place the wrapped rolls in a 200 degree F oven and allow them to get warm while you cook the burgers.
  3. Shape the burgers into four evenly-sized patties in the shape of the buns, but a little bit larger: they will shrink some while they cook.
  4. Heat a pan over medium heat; add the butter, stir to coat, and gently place the burgers in the pan. Cook without turning until the juices start to seep out over the top surface of the patties. Flip them over and top then each with a slice of cheese. Cook about 3-5 minutes more, depending on how done you like the burger.
  5. Remove the buns from the oven: spread on the desired amount of mayonnaise, sprinkle the mayo with any additional salt or pepper that you desire, and top with one of the burgers before adding as much of the available toppings as you want.

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