The James Beard Foundation is wrapping up its 5th annual Blended Burger Project today.

Chefs have been creating iconic burgers that are better for their customers and the planet by using at least 25 percent fresh mushrooms in their burger meat.

These are not simple, toss-it-on-the-grill-and-slap-cheddar-cheese-on-them burgers. They’re very complex, with long lists of ingredients and instructions.

My friend, Angela McCrovitz, who owns The Captain’s House in Gary, Ind., decided she was going to compete this year.

“I heard about the contest, and decided to create something that made sense with the restaurant,” she told me. “Therefore, I came up with the King Oyster Burger, combining oyster mushrooms with fried oysters topping the burger. The interesting thing here is, not only is the recipe to die for and the flavor profile great ... but oyster mushrooms filtrate toxins in the environment, making it a sustainability and environmental hero ... It’s really a cool project, and we have had great fun developing and serving it.”

McCrovitz, whose restaurant concept will soon be franchised in Illinois and Michigan, is hoping if she wins, that it will help put Miller Beach, a lakefront community on the east side of Gary, on the map.

One of her house specialties is a variety of lobster rolls, their flavors representing countries around the world – such as I’ve Got Seoul, The Ancient Nordic and The Blarney Stone.

Because she’s still competing in the contest – you can vote for your favorite recipe through today – I don’t have her recipe. So here are some winning recipes from past competitions.

Red Cow Blended Burger

For the patties:

1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced

8 ounces assorted shiitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup dry Marsala wine

3 pounds ground Angus beef (80/20 meat-to-fat ratio)

For the roasted garlic aioli:

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon puréed roasted garlic

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

For the fried shallots with truffle oil:

14 cups canola oil, for frying

4 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 cups flour

Pinch of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon truffle oil

For serving:

6 large hamburger buns

Softened butter

6 slices fontina cheese

For the burger patties, in a braising pan over medium heat, cook mushrooms in oil until juices are released. Continue to simmer until all moisture is evaporated.

Add Marsala and cook down until all liquid is gone.

Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and place in refrigerator to cool. Once cooled, add mushrooms to food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.

In a medium bowl, add mushrooms and ground beef, mix until well combined. Divide into six 8-ounce balls.

For the roasted garlic aioli, in a bowl, add mayonnaise, garlic, sour cream, white vinegar, salt and white pepper. Whisk until smooth.

For the fried shallots with truffle oil, in a heavy-bottom saucepan fitted with a deep-fry thermometer, heat oil to 350 degrees.

Rinse shallots under cold water and place in a large bowl. Add flour to bowl and toss until shallots are coated. Shake off excess and drop shallots into hot oil. While frying, stir constantly until golden and crispy. Remove shallots from oil and transfer to a clean bowl. Toss with salt, pepper and truffle oil.

To cook the burger patties, in a large skillet heated to 400 degrees, place burger balls on pan and press into 1/2-inch patties. Generously season with salt and pepper. Cook until crust has formed, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue to cook, about 5 minutes.

Place 1 slice cheese on each patty, and cook until melted. Remove burgers from heat to rest.

Spread softened butter onto each half of bun, and toast in skillet until golden brown. Remove bun and spread a tablespoon of aioli on the bottom half of each bun, top with burger patty and fried truffle shallots. Top with bun and serve.

Brevard’s Taste of Summer Burger

Makes 4 servings.

For the caper, lemon and walnut relish:

2 lemons 

1 red onion, diced

1/2 cup cherries, pitted and quartered

1/4 cup minced capers

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, diced

3 tablespoons apricot jam

6 basil leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon dill, chopped

Pinch red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

For the cherry-mustard sauce:

2 cups fresh or frozen cherries

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

For the lamb-mushroom patty:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds assorted mushrooms, chopped (like oyster, cremini or portabella)

1 pound ground lamb

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pinch red pepper flakes

For the apricot jam-glazed buns:

2 tablespoons apricot jam

Dash of liquid smoke

4 brioche buns

4 basil leaves

For serving:

4 slices Brie

16 basil leaves

To make the relish: peel the lemons with a peeler, and then finely dice the zest. Cut the lemons in half and juice them.

In a bowl, combine the lemon zest, red onions, cherries, capers, walnuts, jam, basil, dill and red pepper flakes. Mix well, then add the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and liquid smoke. Set aside to come together for at least 30 minutes.

To make the cherry-mustard sauce: combine the cherries, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon in a pot and bring to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.

Let cool, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the mustard and blend until well combined. Reserve until ready to use. (This should keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.)

To make the patties: heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a food processor and blend until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix together the puréed mushrooms with the rest of the ingredients. Form into 4 patties, and set aside until ready to cook.

To grill the burgers: heat a lightly greased large cast-iron skillet over high heat until it’s about to smoke. Cook the burgers on one side for about 4 minutes, or until seared well. Reduce the temperature to medium and flip the burgers to sear on the other side for another 4 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the patties registers 155 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Top each patty with a slice of Brie, and cover until the cheese has melted, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, toast the buns. Combine the apricot jam and liquid smoke in a small bowl. Brush the jam on cut side of the top buns before toasting them in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with a basil leaf.

To serve, place 4 basil leaves on each bottom bun and top with the relish. Place the patty on top and finish with the cherry-mustard sauce and top bun.

Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at or by writing to Focus, The Herald-Palladium, P.O. Box 128, St. Joseph, MI 49085.