Wild Mushroom and Swiss Venison Burger

A recipe for a classic cheeseburger done right, any time of year

mushroom venison burger
Finished mushroom and Swiss cheese venison burger.Jamie Carlson

Earlier this fall, I was out of town deer hunting. On my way home, my wife called and asked if I wanted to meet her at a bar for a beer and a burger. She was already there, and I told her to go ahead and order for me. When I showed up, I discovered she had ordered me a mushroom and Swiss burger. Now, I have had a love-hate relationship with mushroom and Swiss burgers. Years ago, when Hardee’s was open late, I would always stop there after work to get one. Their take on the burger wasn’t the best, but it was still pretty good, especially after a long night at work.

It's not had rot screw up a mushroom and Swiss burger. I've ordered some that are dry and bland, and others that came topped with canned mushrooms. The problem is this: when these burgers are prepared properly, they taste good enough that you're willing to order them over and over in case you strike gold. As I sat at the bar, eating that less-than-ideal mushroom and Swiss burger my wife had ordered, I thought to myself, Why haven't I made one of these yet?

venison burger and mushrooms
Powdered puffball mushrooms, added to the burger.Jamie Carlson

Because in all my life, I have never made a mushroom and Swiss burger. I recently was given a bunch of venison (18 lbs. of burger) so I knew I would be using deer meat. As I looked through my pantry, I also discovered dried puffball mushrooms and some frozen hen of the woods mushrooms. I like to use as many wild ingredients as I can in my cooking, and this burger was no exception. I pulverized the dried puffball into a powder, mixed that into the ground meat, and then used the frozen hen of the woods to make a quick mushroom stock. I let the mushrooms simmer for a bit, removed them, and drained them completely. Now I just had to assemble my burger.

Venison makes a really great burger, but the meat is very lean. When using venison to make your own burgers, you can add fat by grinding in some pork fat or bacon ends. I usually add two pounds of fat for every eight pounds of venison (1 part fat to 4 parts venison). This will help the burgers bind together and not dry out. (Tip: If you don't have fat to grind in, you can add an egg and some breadcrumbs to help bind the burger.) You will hear a lot of differing opinions on how to cook venison burgers. I believe the standard is to cook them to 160 degree internal temp. Although this is what you should do, that's not what I do. I like my burgers more medium-rare, around 135-140 degrees.

You don’t have to use wild mushrooms for this recipe, either: you can buy dried mushrooms at most grocery stores and then pulse them in a food processor to make the mushroom powder.

venison and mushroom burgers
The hen of the woods mushrooms, on the stove (left); venison patties in the cast iron.Jamie Carlson

Wild Mushroom and Swiss Burger

BURGER

1 lbs. ground venison

2 tablespoons powdered Puffball mushroom

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

Combine ingredients and form patties. Cook your burgers however you like them best.

MUSHROOMS

1 pound hen of the woods mushrooms (or other fresh mushroom)

2 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

1 clove of garlic minced

1 cup mushroom stock (chicken stock will work as well)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons corn starch

Chop the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces, then melt the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5-6 minutes. When the mushrooms are ready add the stock and cook for 3-4 minutes. Combine the soy, Worcestershire, and corn starch to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the mushrooms, and stir to thicken.

venison burger
Assemble and enjoy.Jamie Carlson

Place a cooked venison patty on a toasted bun, place two pieces of Swiss cheese on the hot burger, and top with the mushrooms.