Ree Drummond's Black Bean Burgers & Carrot Fries
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Pawhuska, OK with my mom and her good friend, Laura. Pawhuska is a small town (population 3,377) in Osage County in northeast Oklahoma. This part of the state is truly beautiful, with gorgeous, rolling hills and endless skies. The area is best known for a couple of things: (1) the murders of many Osage Indians in the 1920s (you must read “Killers of the Flower Moon”) and (2) it’s home to legendary home cook, Food Network star and perhaps the first famous food blogger, Ree Drummond—aka, The Pioneer Woman.
As a foodie from Oklahoma, it’s basically law to love Ree Drummond. Though she’s part of a cattle ranching family and many of her dishes are quite meat-heavy, I just think she’s super charming and always fun to watch on TV. She’s one of those people you just can’t help but be enamored with, and she makes you want to be part of her Pawhuska world. (Side bar: Ree visited my college, the University of Oklahoma, in 2010, and I drudged up the article I wrote about her visit. It’s crazy how much things have changed for her in nine years!).
While in Pawhuska, we visited the Pioneer Woman Mercantile—the red and yellow dishes in the photos with the burgers are from there—and had lunch at Ree’s pizza place, P-Town Pizza (you can see Insta posts here and here). Ree also announced on Instagram that she’d be opening Drummond Lodge, the place where her Food Network show is filmed, to the public for a couple dozen dates during the spring and summer, and our visit luckily coincided with one of those dates.
While the Pioneer Woman Mercantile is interesting (albeit packed with people), visiting the Lodge was easily the best part of the day. When you walk in, you literally get to roam the entire property—you can open kitchen cabinets, browse through bedrooms, go in the back where all the props are kept—it was seriously crazy! Standing right where she cooks for a national audience was certainly a surreal experience.
And naturally, after experiencing a day filled with all things Pioneer Woman, I wanted to come home and cook one of her recipes. I browsed her blog for all things vegetarian and came across a recipe for Black Bean Burgers. We made chickpea burgers at home once before and they didn’t turn out so well (too dry), but these black bean burgers seemed moist, easy and worth an attempt. I had Ree’s show on TV while planning recipes for next week and saw that she was making carrot fries, so I added those to the menu as well.
The black bean burgers ended up being absolutely delicious, hearty and flavorful, but I will admit there are a couple of things I would do differently. Ree says to fry the burgers in a pan with equal parts olive oil and butter, but we were out of butter (my bad) and had to use margarine instead. Butter would’ve made all the difference in ensuring the patties were more crispy and burger-like (they were still great, just a bit mushy).
Secondly, the whole thing could’ve used some stronger flavors, either in the form of a sauce or a sharper cheese. We simply topped the burgers with melted Swiss cheese, mayo, lettuce and red onions, similar to what Ree did. However, I think it would’ve been a fantastic idea to mix some shredded sharp cheddar or even bleu cheese into the “meat,” then still melt the mild Swiss cheese on top as well. Next time, folks, as these burgers are definitely destined to become a summertime staple.
And as for the carrot fries, we followed Ree’s technique but used a local brand of Tuscan herb-infused olive oil + fresh rosemary instead of thyme—and they were swifty devoured.
2 - 14.5 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 c. finely diced yellow onion
1/2 t. chili powder
A few hefty dashes of Frank’s RedHot Sauce
Olive oil & butter, for frying
Hamburger buns of your choice (we used Hawaiian rolls)
Mayo, shredded lettuce, Swiss cheese & sliced red onion, to top
1 bag of large carrots, peeled
2 T. Tuscan herb-infused olive oil
1/2 t. garlic powder x2 (1/2 a teaspoon goes in both the burgers and on the fries)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the carrots by peeling them and slicing them into fry-like pieces. You don’t want them to be too thick. Add them to a bowl with the Tuscan herb-infused olive oil, 1/2 t. garlic powder and a bit of fresh rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add to the oven and cook for 25 minutes.
2) While the carrots are cooking, prepare your burger “meat.” Drain and rinse the black beans and pour them into a bowl. Use a fork to mash the beans into a near-paste, still retaining a few chunks. Add the breadcrumbs, egg, chili powder, hot sauce, diced yellow onion and remaining 1/2 t. garlic powder to the mixture and use your hands to combine. Allow to sit for at least five minutes.
3) After the carrots have cooked for 25 minutes, remove them, toss with a spatula, and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until they’re crispy but not burned.
4) Form the burger patties. You want them to be about an inch thick and the size of your hamburger buns (they won’t reduce in size). Heat a large pan over medium-low heat and add about two tablespoons each of olive oil and butter. Place the patties in the pan and cook for five minutes. Flip them, add the Swiss cheese, then cook for another five minutes.
5) Butter your buns (can’t not giggle at that) and place them butter-side down on a griddle until golden. Spread both buns with a bit of mayo, then assemble the burger with the lettuce and sliced red onion. Serve with the carrot fries and devour! Ree served her fries with a ketchupy ranch (we were out of both ketchup and ranch…I obviously screwed up the shopping list) so we used BBQ sauce instead (my favorite is Heinz Memphis-style BBQ sauce).