Cheeseburger with Sour Apple Slaw | Forbidden Love

Recently, I took a trip to the Seattle Zoo. It seemed as good an idea as any. Maeve was itching to ride around in her Moby Wrap and we had a 3 year old house guest that needed to burn off a little energy. It was a bitterly cold day, but we managed to bundle up and roam around the grounds without too much trouble. It was quite fun to be there again, seeing it all through a child eyes.

It wasn’t until we wandered into chimp territory that things got a bit strange. We were at the orangutan exhibit when I saw her.  She looked normal at first glance.  A middle-aged woman, well-groomed and clothed appropriately for the occasion and weather, was standing inexplicably close to the glass. Behind the glass, an enormous male orangutan sat looking outward with sad pools of brown eyes. There was a crowd of kids lurking behind the woman. They were fussing and complaining to their respective parents that they could not see past her.

The woman was deaf to their complaints. Well, it was either that or she just didn’t care. She stood there with purpose, enraptured by the beast. And, as I watched, she went through what seemed like a familiar ritual. Slowly, she took several items one by one from her tote bag. Each item seemed significant in its own way and each item was carefully shown to the chimp. First, she revealed a small stuffed orangutan toy and held it up to the window. She jauntily bounced it back and forth before those sad eyes.  After doing that for a short time, she carefully put the toy back into her purse and removed a piece of tin foil from the same bag. The foil was folded into a large square and she unfolded it and exposed it to the orangutan. Then, she refolded it. She did this repeatedly in front of the window causing little bits of sunlight to flash at those big brown eyes. It seemed she was attempting to cast a spell or send some sort of message to the beast.

Frustrated, the little ones slowly dispersed and we joined their ranks and moved on to another area of the park.

As we walked away, I asked my friend A if she noticed the woman at the window of the orangutan exhibit.  She said casually, “Oh, the chimp’s girlfriend? Yes, I saw her.”

And that’s precisely it.  The large male orangutan at the Seattle Zoo has a girlfriend, only she isn’t an orangutan. She’s human.

Now, forgive me, it’s been years since I spent any time at the zoo. However, I do believe inter-species dating is not encouraged. In fact, I’m quite certain it’s a forbidden sort of love.  Maybe this woman is bananas? I don’t know anything for certain except that her actions were covert. She wanted time with this animal and there was no other way to manage it without hurling her entire body into a place I can only guess is a hostile environment for humans.

I want you to know, however, I am not here to cast judgment. On the contrary, I understand forbidden love. For years, I hated the hamburger. My mother fashioned poor quality beef into round mounds and cooked them until they were burned into unrecognizable hockey pucks. I found them revolting and a more than a little uncool. Wasn’t it much more chic to dine on tapas or sushi?

It wasn’t until I was pregnant and low on iron that I rediscovered beef. And, so very slowly, I found the hamburger again. It wasn’t the hamburger of my youth, that sad and uncouth meat round, it was an extraordinarily flavorful vehicle for protein and iron.

Suddenly, I wanted hamburgers all the time. I hid this passion at first. I was embarrassed. After years of complaining to my friends that I wasn’t interested in that pub grub, I realized I missed out on many many good burgers in this town.

Today, I join forces with that sad woman from the zoo. Forbidden love be damned. I will sing the praises of these Portolbello beef cheeseburgers from the mountaintops. This burger is fantastic and I’m proud to say I made it at home. There was no need to travel to this restaurant or that restaurant to satisfy my forbidden craving. I now know it’s possible to create a world class burger at home. In fact, it’s easy.

I highly recommend you try out this recipe if you enjoy a good juicy hamburger.  The portobello mushrooms add a wonderful depth of earthy flavor. The sharp cheddar and sour apple slaw are the perfect accompaniment adding just the right amount of savory flavor and tart tang.

And, if you think burgers are uncool, I encourage you to be brave and join us. You won’t regret it.

Portobello Beef Burgers with Sour Apple Slaw

For burger:

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
10 ounces portobello mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 pound ground lean beef

For slaw:

2 medium celery ribs
1/2 Granny Smith apple, cored (left unpeeled)
1 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Accompaniment: 4 hamburger buns or kaiser rolls, split and toasted, 4 thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese
Pulse onion and mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add mushroom mixture, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and rounded 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown and liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to warm, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut celery and apple into 2-inch-long thin julienne strips.

Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, oil, mustard, sugar, rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add celery and apple, tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes to develop flavors.
Mix beef into cooled mushroom mixture with your hands until well combined. Form into 4 (4-inch) patties.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook burgers, turning once, about 8 minutes total for medium-rare.

Serve burgers, topped with slaw and cheddar cheese (optional), on buns.

Adapted from Gourmet.

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  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    I had a similar experience at the Woodland Park Zoo. I overheard a lady said to her significant other “orangutan is so sexy..”, I only hope she was joking.

    • redmenace
      March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

      That is hilarious. Maybe it was the same woman? That was just the beginning of it all…..



  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    How odd is that? Now I have this need to go to the Seattle zoo and see this for myself…

    That burger looks amazing…absolutely amazing! I love burgers as you know; do you remember the burger at the Tree House on SSI? That is one of my faves! I have a thing about trying burgers at every restaurant just to see what spin they put on it. However I love the addition of the slaw! Can’t wait to try it, maybe even tonight if the weather clears up so I can pull out the BBQ


    • redmenace
      March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

      I totally remember that meal. I didn’t have a burger, however. What was I thinking?!


  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    Oh, yum. I love a good burger and that slaw sounds like the perfect addition. I’m guessing that lady was one of those people that communicates better with animals than humans :)

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    You have been missing out! A good hamburger is a magical thing. We had our birthday dinner at a local restaurant that specializes in burgers – mine came topped with an awesome horseradish sauce with fat steak fries on the side. You should give buffalo a try, it makes a great hamburger. I’m also a big fan of the pan-fried burger – the next time I make them I will definitely be trying out the apple slaw.

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    Yum! So, is your mother not a cook? How did you learn and what motivated you if not your mom passing it on? (It’s unusual to find people who love to cook whose parents did not…)

    • redmenace
      March 11, 2011 - | Permalink

      Hannah, My mom loves to cook but she also loves to OVERCOOK. I did grow up with her in the kitchen, however. She is an inspiration in that she does nearly everything by hand. She’s also a wonderful baker. That’s enough for me. xoxo

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    That burger is splendid! I really like sweet and savory combinations.



  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    Wow, reading this at 11:45 from my desk at work was a BAD idea. Not only does my soup pale in comparison, I have to clean drool off my keyboard ;) Looks delish and I LOVE ME some apple slaw, so I will definitely be making these this weekend.

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    I’ve had a similar relationship with burgers! For years it was love/hate and now we’re at a good neutral ground. :) This recipes looks amazing – apple slaw makes everything better!

  • Siew
    March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    What’s even better about burgers these days for me is this:

    There must be a US equivalent to these but these buns have made my love for hamburgers grow. No longer are you struggling to open wide and get your mouth around that enourmous bun!

    Friends have a recipe for ginger moose burgers that are to die for. That paired with basil and cilantro. Off to lunch now!

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    craving this! apple slaw, love it! excellent idea. and maeve is darling darling! congrats!

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    The story of the chimp’s girlfriend has me at a loss for words, but your burger looks super tasty, and very cool.

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    Oh sweet temptation! These look divine. I gave up red meat for years and when I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was eating steak for breakfast. I’m trying now to cut back on the red meat…but this post may have just opened the door to forbidden love.

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    I am loving this post and the burgers! Looks great!

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    Cheeseburgers and me are totally in love (no need to hide it!). This sounds ideal – I love the idea of an apple slaw!

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    I’ll be curious to know how many people actually comment that they agree hamburgers are uncool. I gave them up for years in college, mainly because I took myself on an unwaveringly nutritious path, but like you I’ve since rectified the wrong. Portobello, beef, apple — now that you mention it, I think they belong together. Preferably on a plate in front of me soon.



  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    Remember that song, Muskrat Love? Hmmm could the lyrics be changed to Orangutan Love?

    And they whirled and they twirled and they tangoed
    Singin’ and jingin’ the jango
    Floatin’ like the heavens above
    It looks like Orangutan love

    And yet I think sour apple slaw would be delicious on a burger!

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    I’ll have to try this recipe! Looks like great pregnancy food- protein & iron!

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    this sounds incredibly delicious! am printing as i write so that i can make it tomorrow night. and i will also say, that woman sounds like she may be a little bit crazy.

  • March 8, 2011 - | Permalink

    Burgers have come a long way in recent years and totally for the better I might add. This recipe sounds amazing! I can’t wait to try it.
    Btw: Thanks for the great orangutan woman story!

  • March 9, 2011 - | Permalink

    How to vegetarian this…it looks absolutely delicious, and the sour apple slaw sounds incredible.

    • redmenace
      March 9, 2011 - | Permalink

      Joyti– maybe use some Gimme Lean along with the portobello mushrooms and a healthy dose of crumbled crusty bread? You can use an egg yolk to gather enough moisture to keep it together. Good luck! xo

  • March 9, 2011 - | Permalink

    Orangutans and hamburgers, who’d have thought there was a connection?! Love the sound of that slaw!

  • March 9, 2011 - | Permalink

    Very creepy about the zoo lady! I guess a part of me feels bad for her… but just to be sure, you should stay away from her next time, just in case orangutan decides to leave the cage and run away with her, so you won’t be in their way:)
    Very nice combination by the way, with the apple slaw… I am not too much into slaw since in the South, it is drenching in mayo heavily…but this looks refreshing!

  • March 9, 2011 - | Permalink

    I’ve never had slaw that didn’t include cabbage. Very interesting. Definitely want to try it.

  • March 10, 2011 - | Permalink

    My God that looks good! My mother always made sorry hamburgers as well but thankfully my husband makes a damn fine burger. I love the addition of the mushrooms and the sour apple slaw. Awesome job!

  • March 16, 2011 - | Permalink

    This looks like an awesome burger. The portobello integrated with the ground beef must yield a wonderful texture and flavor.

  • March 24, 2011 - | Permalink

    So happy that you’ve announced your love for the cheeseburger! (And so happy to be catching up on the last 3 pages of your blog since I took a 5-week break.)

    I’ve never added portobello to mine – it’s on the list to experiment with.


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