DuBOIS — Chef Tara Tyger has a quest to put DuBois on the culinary map and get a chance to cook her blended burger dish at the historic James Beard House in New York City.
But she needs the community’s help — through online votes — to achieve that goal and be one of the top five winning chefs in the national Blended Burger Project competition sponsored by the James Beard Foundation.
“I actually heard about the contest through my food representative, Mike Meals,” said Tyger, noting his name is an apt one for a food representative. Meals works for Reinhart Foodservice and knows that Tyger likes to cook healthier food.
“He brought it to my attention the first year they were doing it. That’s when we entered the contest three years ago for the first time. And then we just tweaked it and kind of perfected it,” said Tyger, who has been a chef for the past 10 years at Doolittle Station located at 1295 Rich Highway in DuBois.
The patty has been the same for the burger, but the toppings have changed from the first year to the second.
“We used pickled ramps, which were really good and are like a strong garlicky onion, but they’re so seasonal that they didn’t last us through even the two months of the season,” said Tyger. “So then we changed over to the chive blossoms, and we just tweaked it a little bit. And it was so popular last year with our customers, so we just kept it on the menu even after the contest, so now it’s a permanent fixture of the menu.”
The burger has been added to the parlor and the fine dining menus for the summer because, she said, people really want to eat burgers in the summer.
“As soon as the weather gets warm, people just get hungry for burgers. It’s something quick to do — barbecue, grill, and then eat quick,” she said.
Tyger explained that the Blended Burger Contest requires chefs “to take your beef and replace at least 25 percent of it with mushrooms.”
Tyger’s burger is based on a vegetarian nut loaf menu item that was made originally for a Downtown Abby dinner at Doolittle Station.
“A friend who is a vegetarian attended so I made it specifically for her. And then it was so good we decided to incorporate it as a special, and now it’s a menu feature,” Tyger said.
The first step was take mushrooms, finely chop them, saute them in butter, and de-glaze with red wine. And then they added rice and other things to make a loaf.
“It’s so good that vegetarians think that we’ve given them a meatloaf because it tastes so much like meat,” she said.
When this contest came, I thought, “I am going to do the same thing with the same base of mushrooms and blend it with the beef. So we do 25 percent and 75 percent, the mushroom to meat ratio.”
“We cook the mushrooms. We chop them finely. We use like a Pennsylvania wild mushroom blend, chop them finely, saute them in butter, de-glaze with red wine, and once they’re cool, we combine them with the beef and make the patty. So that’s the base of the burger,” Tyger said.
Then they create a porcini powdered salt on them to add that savoriness for the seasoning.
The burgers are then grilled to whatever temperature the customer likes and topped with house-made zucchini pickle.
“We knew we could get zucchini locally, and we pickle them here. So it’s like a fun twist on the cucumber pickle,” Tyger said. “And then we do a fontina cheese and then a Parmesan aioli, so that’s like just a mayo, and we do a finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. That actually came from one of the cooks, it’s one of his secrets that he added to it. And then we just do the chive blossoms, to add a little bit of that onion-y flavor.”