Kitchen Activities #6 – Patties Galore

If you prefer, you can skip my long-winded intro by clicking here.

This actually was something I did a couple weeks ago, and while I called it a Kitchen Activity, this was really done on the grill outside. Nevertheless, I felt it was appropriate to share this pair of recipes because their may be people with unusual dietary restrictions (or even just adventurous souls look for something new) that might benefit from the information.

There are, of course, a lot of different dietary restrictions people face these days. Some are relatively simple to deal with (low-fat, nothing fried, etc). Some of them, however, are a lot trickier (diabetes; Celiac; Phenylketonuria or PKU) and of course, some people face several health conditions that can make the seemingly simple task of making a meal into an absolute nightmare.

The nice thing, in some respects, is that there is a lot more in the way of alternatives today for recipes than there have been in years past. And while some of the alternatives developed from diet choice, they still have a benefit to people who are required to live with restrictions. I’ve never had a problem with the idea of people deciding to have a vegetarian diet, or even a vegan one, so long as they can respect my position that I am not a person who will be doing that. If you don’t feel right eating meat because it bothers you, that’s absolutely fine by me. Just don’t expect that I’ll do that, too. I like chicken, beef and pork.

But in the case of a dietary condition like PKU, vegetarian or vegan diet isn’t a choice, it’s a restriction that you HAVE to live with, and it’s not as simple as not eating meat. It’s an outright limitation on proteins. That’s right, natural occuring proteins, whether meat-based or plant-based, are a severely restricted part of the diet of a person with PKU, and given that even things like bread often have too much protein for a person with the disorder, meal planning can become quite the challenge.

A few years ago, my wife brought to my attention a fruit she had been reading about – jackfruit. Jackfruit is a multiple fruit which can be used unripened or in ripe form. When ripe, it is a very sweet fruit easily used in desserts and snacks. But in it’s unripe form, it has properties that make it very meat-like in texture, and a mild flavor which lends itself well to seasoning and various forms of preparation.

My wife and I first found jackfruit available as a product in the specialty refrigerated foods of our local Wegman’s supermarket. Kelly actually found it, and told me about it, and I discovered soon that they had a few different varieties of pre-packaged, pre-marinated flavors. Kelly tried out the various recipes and discovered, to her delight, that the flavor was fantastic, and it made for a very nice, fibrous filler for any number of meals. Most impressively, the texture of the cooked product was akin to shredded pork. With that, a new major option for Kelly was born.

We later found out that there was an option to by young jackfruit (the unripened version) in cans, conveniently located in the Asian cuisine isle at the same store. The canned version had no flavoring initially, so we were free to put on whatever Kelly would want. And the result was, frankly, fantastic. Kelly has since tried home-made taco seasoning, BBQ, and even a variation using the local favorite, Chiavettas (pronounced sort of like this: Sha-ve-tas) Chicken Marinade; a very popular vinegar-based marinade which is a hallmark of the Buffalo area. She could shred the jackfruit after cooking it and use it on sandwich buns, over salads… the possibilities seemed extensive.

Naturally, we needed to see if we could push it even further, for variation’s sake.

And so I set out to find her a new way to use the jackfruit meat. And (to get to the point of this story), I found it, in the form of a jackfruit patty.

This is essentially the same thing as a hamburger patty, but the vegetarian / vegan properties make it something anyone can have if they choose that sort of diet; and for a person who has to count protein to the gram, this is a fantastic choice, because you can literally season your mix like any normal hamburger, and away you go.

So how do you go about doing this?

First, you will need something to grind the jackfruit. A food processor will probably work, though a meat-grinder definitely worked better for us.

Start out with a can of young jackfruit. Open it, drain out any water, and put it aside. You’ll want to dice up some onions (I used red onion, but this is a matter of taste) so that you have, perhaps 1/4 cup when chopped finely.

Next, grind the jackfruit with a course grinding head, and put it into a good-sized mixing bowl. If you use a foot processor, try to use an attachment that won’t puree it. You don’t want it broken down that much. You want beef-like texture for mixing. If you do use a grinder, be prepared for some liquid to squirt from the fruit as it’s grinding.

In the mixing bowl, add your diced onion, and then add 1/4 cup of flour. For people with PKU, I suggest using the baking mix from Cambrooke foods. If you don’t need to worry about that, you can use any type of flour you’d prefer. Some people prefer coconut, other people will just use standard white flour. That’s entirely up to you and based on what you’re needs are.

At this point, you can also add different seasonings, spices and herbs into your mix. I used some parsley, oregano, Italian seasoning, and lemon and garlic peppers. A little of each was all I sprinkled in. After that? You mix the ingredients together, by hand. Now, this is where you have to watch the recipe a bit. Your goal is to get raw-hamburger-textured balls to form into patties. So you may need to add a touch of flower at a time to absorb some of the moisture. Don’t add too much at once though. I literally had another quarter cup sitting aside, and added perhaps a teaspoon at a time, mixing thoroughly by hand, and checking the consistency as I went. I’d judge that I used about 3 teaspoons to get the consistency that felt right to me. Then I put it aside and cleaned up the space a bit.

Now, forming patties isn’t exactly rocket science, but I will say that if you want to make the process as easy on yourself as possible, get a patty press of some sort. There are tons of options on Amazon, and just about any type would do. The one I have is a press with an adjustable press plate. And make sure you have some wax paper or patty sheets nearby. Also, get yourself a small metal tray, something you can put in the freezer. A cookie sheet works great.

Press your patties and lay them out on individual sheets of wax paper. I got 3 patties out of 1 can’s jack fruit. Then we put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes. During this time, I went back and made the same recipe with ground beef, egg and breadcrumbs in place of the jackfruit and flour (you do not need egg for the jackfruit version; the moisure of the fruit seems to be enough of a binder with the flour). Again, I pressed out a bunch of patties here. I used more ground beef, but I wanted to make enough regular patties so I’d have 2 for each of the rest of us; that’s approximately a pound-and-a-half of ground beef. I used 1 large egg, and about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Again, you’ll want to see how the consistency is for you, but these are decent guidelines, I think.

After that, we heated up the grill and waited for it to get to at least 400 degrees. Then we get the jackfruit patties out of the freezer, and take those and the beef patties outside.

Now you should get why I suggested the freezer for the jackfruit patties; they’ll have hardened enough that you can get them onto the grill and off of the wax paper without them falling apart. Don’t just slap them down like you would with the beef patties. You’ll need to be a bit more gently, but it shouldn’t be too hard to get these transferred on. After that, you can close up your grill and lower the temperature a bit. As long as you’re at 325 or higher, you’ll be fine.

Now the beef patties could be flipped over after about 5 minutes, the first time, but the jackfruit patties should stay un-flipped for at least 10 minutes. After that, though, you can use a spatula to carefully pick up and turn them over. Once you’ve cooked them like that on each side, you can proceed to flip them a bit more to cook them through. I know a lot of people like to flip their burgers repeatedly, frequently, to get them to cook just right. You can do that with these patties too, but give 10 minutes on each side before you do – this ensures that they fully bind together.

And at this point, you might actually start having a hard time really knowing which patties are which. Well, maybe. Obviously, you won’t see any of the red juices from the ground beef on the jackfruit patties, but from this shot, they look pretty convincing.

Finally, if you like, you can add cheese on. Again, there are a lot of options out there for different tastes and restrictions, so you just choose what works for you.

If you look closer, you can see that they are lighter in color, and the texture will be slightly different; more like ground pork or chicken than beef, but given that people have made other types of meat patties, this isn’t a big deal. And it gives you options. Next time we get a chance, we may grill these and then put them into a slow cooker with some BBQ sauce; but whatever we do, I’m sure it’ll come out as another versatile recipe to help with restrictions in diet.

The Short Version

  • 1 can of young jackfruit, drained of water
  • 1/4 cup of flour (or baking mix for PKU) – have a bit extra for the kneading
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped (diced) onion – pick your favorite; we used red
  • additional seasonings as desired

Grind the jackfruit (do not puree). Mix in flour / baking mix and onions, and add other seasonings as desired. Mix by hand (use a folding / kneading motion for good results). Form into patties (I strongly suggest using a press; makes it easier) and place on wax paper / patty paper. Put the patties (on the paper) onto a cookie sheet and freeze for about 20 minutes. Grill at 325+ degrees (Fahrenheit) for 10 minutes on one side, gently flip to the other and repeat. After that you can flip a few more times in a more frequent fashion, and then add cheese on to melt at the end.

For the ground meat version, the same instructions apply, with these ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs – have a bit extra for kneading
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onions
  • additional seasonings as desired

And my suggestion for a Patty Press is here.

Oh, and for the record, this wasn’t my original idea. I put this one together based on a recipe I found, here.

Kato Turnout Control with Arduino (Preview)

I’ll be writing a more detailed post about this soon, but for now, here’s a quick preview of the Kato Unitrack control I am planning for the layout, driven with Arduino micro-controllers. This took some research, a bit of luck and a lot of finger crossing to accomplish, and some fantastic info provided by the YouTube Channel DIY & Digital Railroad. Fortunately, everything worked out, so more details to follow, soon!

A big thank you to the DIY & Digital Railroad channel on YouTube for the direction and sample to start out with!

Progress Report #10

I haven’t had the chance for much of anything this past week, sadly. For one thing, I haven’t had the energy to do a whole hell of a lot. Work has suddenly picked up drastically, and the 5 (or maybe 6) projects I am assigned to full-time have suddenly all sprung to life on the same day (last week Wednesday, for the record). As a result, I end up coming home most days and my brain is turned to silly putty before I can even contemplate doing anything else.

Work on my consulting projects has been pretty stead, too. Needless to say, I’m at my limit for current side-work. That’s not a complaint, but an observation. Two clients with on-going projects is about the max I can handle with everything else going on.

I spent a bit of time on trying to clean up the basement room this week and get ready to re-arrange things for the purposes of bringing in the other 3 train tables. So for the moment, everything is packed away while I try to get the space cleared up. I’m going to try to finish organizing that stuff tomorrow evening.

And of course, a large baby… namely the male Husky (Dexter) has been panicked by a few nights of thunder storms, causing him to jump in my bed and wake me out of a sound sleep, causing my to get only 3 or 4 hours at best over the past few nights.

So needless to say, this has sidetracked a lot of my stuff for the past 10 days. Well, at least, put me on a passing siding while I wait for things to steady down a bit more. This seems normal for the start of a school year, and the one and only positive thing to think is “at least we don’t have the kids going to 3 different things on 3 different nights this year”. Eli and Caidi are both doing scouts (Caidi is waiting for the girls’ sub-unit to form) and that’s only on Tuesday nights. If everything works out well with that, it’ll be the only non-school activity to worry about this year, at least until the start of softball.

I have 4 furniture projects I need to get going, not including the tables for the trains, our anniversary (and ghost hunt) in Gettysburg coming up, and possibly some other stuff for November. So needless to say, things won’t be getting less hectic anytime, soon. But I’ll take it. At least things won’t be dull, right?

The Track Begins to Arrive

So today, I had a package come in that truly starts the building process. The first load of Kato Unitrack that I am adding to my new layout. I unloaded and placed everything up on my initial table, and minus 1 additional piece I ordered (an uncoupler, since I couldn’t find my previous one), I have all of my straight and curve sections now in.

The next package, due to arrive by the beginning of next week, will contain additional turnouts (I believe 7), the uncoupler and a couple of packages of insulated Unijoiners. I have to say, since I first started using Unitrack, years ago, opening a shipment of this stuff feels like Christmas. I imagine my wife will be thrilled (heavy sarcasm). But then, she’ll never wonder where I am. If I’m not at work, she can just check the basement… if I’m not here, then I’m likely in the garage.

In addition to the shipments from M.B. Klein (http://www.modeltrainstuff.com), I have a package of ACS712 circuits coming in soon for some prototype / testing work. I’m planning on having working signals, but at this stage I’m planning on building my signals system from scratch. For those of you not versed in electronics, the ACS712 is a nifty little current sensing circuit that, when paired with an Arduino, can be used to detect current draw and trigger all sorts of outputs. This will let me track if a train is in a particular area, and illuminate, say, crossing gates.

So I’ve got some tables I need to get built, because if my wife keeps seeing track showing up and nothing happening in the basement, she might think I’m not actually putting this stuff to use. Busy, busy days ahead…