As you can surmise, my initial enthusiasm was less than palpable.
It was a long PDF too, delving somewhat into the history of the patty:
“Irish chef Patrick ‘Patty’ Seedhouse is said to have come up with the original concept and term as we know it today with his first production of burgers utilizing steamed meat pattys – the pattys were ‘packed and patted down,’ and called pattys for short, in order to shape a flattened disc that would enflame with juices once steamed.”
And offering a somewhat of a basic definition:
“Technically patties are flattened discs of ingredients held together by (added) binders (usually eggs, flour or breadcrumbs) usually coated in breadcrumbs (or flour) then fried (and sometime baked).”
I would hesitate to say that anyone “invented” the patty. Flattened discs of pan-fried food seem to be commonly found everywhere, and I imagine that the technique goes as far back to when humans started smushing things together to eat. Maybe it didn’t get codified until much later, but I’m not sure that really matters much as this is the case for a lot of foods.
What kept my attention was that the hosts of this month’s challenge, Lisa and Audax, went into great detail about the technical aspects of patties, providing a kind of matrix for making them:
Main ingredient(s): some kind of ground protein (meat, poultry, seafood, beans or nuts) and/or vegetables.
Binders: eggs, flour, breadcrumbs (fresh or packaged), bran, tofu, mashed potatoes or any kind of mashed vegetable or legume.
Moisteners: water, milk, sour cream, mayonnaise, sauces, mustard, chopped spinach, shredded carrots or zucchini, shredded apples, anything that would add extra moisture if needed.
Technique: shallow pan-frying or baking.
Frying fat: butter, rice bran oil, canola, olive oil, ghee, or any other kind of oil with a relatively high smoking point.
Can you believe that I am such a food nerd that it was actually the 3.5 single-spaced pages of technical patty construction talk that sold me on the idea?
And as tempting (and easy) it would have been to have come up with a recipe on my own — ideas that I had? shrimp, chili pepper, and cilantro patties with some kind of scotch bonnet relish, or something Cantonese-ish like shrimp, corn, and egg whites — the fact is that I have been so overwhelmed with work and school lately that I haven’t had much time to devote to fun things like cooking challenges.
So, dear Readers, please do forgive my inability to milk any extra creative juice out of my brain right now!
These wonderful little quinoa patties are from Heidi Swanson‘s Super Natural Everyday cookbook. They are great for lunch or a light supper. I only made half of the recipe because I just had a cup and a half of leftover quinoa, but you should certainly make the full recipe by doubling the amounts that I list below. The patties keep exceptionally well, and reheat easily in the oven.
One thing I learned from the challenge? My strong suspicion that my stove sits on uneven flooring is once and for all confirmed: all the oil slid to one side of the cast-iron pan while cooking, resulting in patties that were darker on one side than the other.
As soon as I get the time, I’m going to get in there and stick some little wooden wedges under the stove to even it out.
Thank you again Lis and Audax for the technical exercise and great challenge.
And isn’t Audax just the best name ever?
Mandatory blog-checking lines:
The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax & Lis and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!
Ingredients for Heidi Swanson’s Little Quinoa Patties:
1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa (you might also use leftover cooked bulgur wheat, millet, rice, or lentils)
2 tablespoons of chives, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan
1 fat garlic clove, very finely chopped
About 1/2 cup of Panko breadcrumbs, plus more if needed
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or clarified butter
A cast-iron skillet
How to prepare:
1. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa and the eggs together with a good pinch of salt. Add the chives, the onion, the Parmesan, and the garlic. Stir in the Panko, and let the mixture sit for a few minutes so that the breadcrumbs can absorb some of the moisture.
2. After a few minutes, you should be able to easily shape the mixture. If it seems a little wet, you can add more Panko to firm up the mixture. Conversely, if you find the mixture too dry, you can add a little water to loosen it up.
Swanson recommends erring on the moist side so that the patties won’t be overly dry — which is what I would recommend as well. As I left the quinoa mixture on the moist side, I found that it was easier to use a ring mold to make the patties instead of using my hands to shape them.
Set a ring mold on a plate and fill it with about three heaping spoonfuls of the quinoa mixture. Spread the mixture out evenly in the mold. Lightly compress each one by pressing on the top of the patty with the bottom of a spoon. Carefully remove the mold. Continue until you have used up all of the quinoa mixture. You should have about 6-7 patties total (or about 12 if you make the full recipe).
3. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat until it begins to shimmer slightly. Using a thin, flexible spatula, carefully transfer the patties to the skillet. You should be able to fit in all six with a little room in-between each one. Cover the skillet and let the patties cook for about 7-10 minutes. The bottoms should be deeply browned, but not burnt. Carefully flip the patties and cook them on the other side for about 7 more minutes. When both side are evenly colored, transfer the patties to a paper towel-lined plate.
Serve warm with a nice green salad.