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Posted on Aug 10, 2007 | 26 comments

Portobella chicken burgers in collapsible sandwich cases

Portobella chicken burgers in collapsible sandwich cases

Burger & chili lunch

Contents of husband’s lunch: Portobello mushroom chicken “burger” on a focaccia sandwich roll with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and chocolate chipotle-flavored mayonnaise. Side dishes of homemade chili and a shelf-stable mini pudding cup.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using ready-made chicken patties by Aidell’s (review below) and leftover frozen chili.

Packing: I picked out some of the soft bread from the focaccia top layer like this to make room for the sandwich filling, so that tomatoes didn’t squirt out of the sides when eating. The lettuce and cheese acted as moisture barriers to keep the bread from getting soggy. The sandwich is packed in a collapsible sandwich case (first reviewed here), and threw in a lidded Solo condiment cup with leftover chili that I had frozen as a savory variation of the edible ice pack. These are the same condiment cups that I used for the fruit jello cups, and are widely available (you can even save the ones you get from pizza delivery with Parmesan cheese or pepper flakes). Packed in a US$1 sandwich case from Ichiban Kan (online store coming soon). My lunch is in the blue Feel at Ease sandwich case (below right).

Burger lunch

Cooking: We had extra chocolate chipotle wet rub leftover from making the chocolate chipotle babyback ribs last week, so I made a quick flavored mayonnaise by mixing mayo with the wet rub. You can quickly jazz up regular mayonnaise with simple add-ins like pesto, hot sauce, pureed garlic, etc.

Product: I tried Aidell’s portobella mushroom and onion chicken burgers for the first time after spying them at Costco. I’m a big fan of other Aidell’s products (especially their teriyaki & pineapple chicken meatballs), and was hoping that the patties would be a tasty shortcut to a burger lunch. Sadly, we found the texture to be overprocessed and greasy, and the flavor to be one-dimensional (mushroomy, but not much else). Whereas the meatballs have clearly identifiable pieces of chicken and pineapple in them and a nice meaty texture, the portobella/chicken patties were rubbery and spongelike. Thinking that microwaving might have been the culprit, I pan-fried a patty this morning until it developed a nice crust, and tasted it side by side against their teriyaki and pineapple meatballs. No improvement — I can’t recommend this product and am trying to figure out what to do with the other six patties in the freezer. I could always cut them into strips, bread them with flour/egg/panko and fry them (frying it and dipping it in sauce might mask the texture, albeit at the cost of my arteries). Anyone have any ideas? (I really hope that this is a new product that’s still in development, so they can work out the kinks.)

Sandwich lunch for preschooler

Contents of Bug’s lunch: Chicken salad sandwich with cheese, a wrapped Babybel cheese, and a condiment cup of leftover zucchini with tomatoes and onions (recipe from Marcella Hazan’s definitive cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking ).

Child's sandwich case

Equipment: I picked up a child’s Snoopy collapsible sandwich case that’s much smaller than the adult boxes that I have. I’m thinking this’ll come in handy when Bug starts preschool next month — I won’t need to use a regular bento box or pad out an adult sandwich case with food he won’t eat. Extra bonus is that it’s Peanuts and gender-neutral. Bought at Moritaya in San Francisco’s Japantown (see the SF Bay Area shopping guide) for about US$9, which was pricey, but I haven’t seen the child versions anywhere else and preschool starts soon.

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26 Comments

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  1. Could you please explain how that collapseable (sp?) container works? Isn’t that like the little plastic baskets in the produce center? Why doesn’t the contents dry out or leak or drop crumbs everywhere?

  2. Oh this is such a great box! (Charlie Brown means a great deal to me cause i was in “You’re a good man charlie brown” the musical last year) I also loove collapsable sandwich boxes, so convenient, and cute! I’ll definitely go to Moritaya and pick this up. I love that store but everything is way overpriced.

  3. @1 from Beanbean:
    Those were my same concerns — you might want to check out my full review of these kinds of collapsible sandwich cases here.

  4. @2 from Steven:
    Oh man, I hear you on Moritaya’s prices, Steven! I’m lusting over a Cars movie-themed bento box there (Bug’s other favorite animated characters), but I can’t bring myself to fork over the big bucks.

  5. I think you could substitute the portobella patties for tofu in a stirfry of some sorts – just dice it up and toss it in. It wouldn’t need to stand on it’s own then.

    Nice to see the sandwich box in action! I think I’ll be picking one up if I can find a (sturdy) cheap one. :D

  6. What a great idea to pick out some of the bread inside to make room for the filling. I’ll definitely try that if I’m making a sandwich bento.

    And the sandwich boxes are magic. How else can something have HOLES and still not leak crumbs or let the bread dry out – and it doesn’t!

  7. I would think that the burgers could be chopped up and added to other meals. In smaller pieces the texture might not be as much of an issue, and the greasiness should be absorbed into a sauce–for example, you could cut it up pretty small and add it to spaghetti sauce, a creamy type of casserole, etc.

    Good luck-I found your site recently and am really enjoying looking at your lunches-I pack a lunch for Princess during the school year, but don’t do bento. However, your site is giving me some great ideas (especially to try the Ongiri-Princess at 6 LOVES sushi, and there is enough similarity if I use Nori that she’d probably scarf it up!)

  8. Thanks, Biggie. That makes a little more sense but I’m still a bit skeptical.

    I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and I am hooked. Here in Denver it is hard to find bento supplies (though I have a few sources) so I am waiting with baited breath for Ichiban Kan to open their online store. I had the opportunity to visit the Daiso store in British Columbia earlier in the summer and that was just thrilling. :)

  9. @6 from silentsteel:
    Hmm, stirfry, now that’s an idea… I think I can finally stop buying sandwich boxes now that I have a tiny one.

  10. @7 from Trekkiegrrrl:
    I think I originally saw the sandwich bread idea on Good Eats (Alton Brown’s analytic TV cooking show), but it certainly makes sense from a structural standpoint. I do carry the sandwich boxes inside of a kinchaku lunch bag just to be on the safe side with crumbs and such.

  11. @8 from Jenn @ Frugal Upstate:
    You know, I like the pasta sauce or casserole idea a lot — the other flavors would be stronger and there would be other textures to distract from the patties. Chop them small enough and it might even taste good. Good luck with Princess’ lunches! Kids that I’ve met tend to love onigiri, even if they’re not Japanese. Something about clean finger food appeals… If she likes tuna fish you might try an onigiri with a little tuna/mayo filling, wrapped with a little nori. Keep us posted!!!

  12. @9 from Beanbean:
    Ah, skeptical. I respect skeptical! I think we’d get along well. ;-) Thanks for reading, and I’ll definitely update with any more news I hear on Ichiban Kan’s online store. Fingers are crossed, but they definitely know the bento community is interested!

  13. @10 from Rachel:
    Thanks for reading, Rachel! You know, I’ve been hesitant to put the little lidded condiment cups through the dishwasher for fear that the heat would melt the flimsy plastic, or that the water would bounce them to the bottom of the dishwasher where they would melt. (I do hand wash them, being a cheap one myself!) That said, I have to run the dishwasher anyway after breakfast this morning, so I’ll throw one in with the heated drying cycle turned off and see how it does. Stay tuned.

  14. @5 from cookingyourbest:
    Thanks for the kind comment, and good luck with your site!

  15. @10/15 from Rachel:
    Result: The lids of the condiment cups melt in the dishwasher, even when the heated dry cycle is turned off. The bottom cup held up fine (on air dry), though.

  16. Biggie, thanks for the information. I think I could stand to hand wash the lids :)

  17. I noticed in your pasta salad post that you have a little plastic fish to put dressing in. Where did you get that?!?! I have searched google, and your site, and have come up with nothing. Can you tell me where I might find on of these?

    Thanks!

    BTW, I love your site! I have never heard of Bento until today, and I am making the switch! Thanks!

  18. @20 from jacki:
    I got them locally in San Francisco (Ichiban Kan, but Daiso also has them; details in the SF Bay Area shopping guide), but I’d direct you to eBay for now until the Ichiban Kan online store opens up. For eBay seller recommendations and community feedback, click on my Shop link above and scroll down to the LiveJournal Bentolunch community’s Online Shopping Guide.

  19. jacki – You can get them at Jlist.com or sugarcharms.com if you don’t feel like going the ebay route. I’ve ordered from both and they are pretty reliable, but I prefer sugarcharms because they are in the US and it gets here much faster than the stuff from Jlist.

  20. Deb – I just discovered your food blog through your linked-in profile. Unbelievable! I just wanted say hi. I’ll start reading the posts one by one! Take care.
    Cenk

  21. @22 from Cenk:
    OMG, I had no idea you’re Cafe Fernando!!! Such a small world! Look around — one day a while back I made/packed bourek that Melissa taught me how to make after one of our Farmers’ Market expeditions. I’m just starting to decloak this site with people that I know in real life, so I’ve got butterflies! I love your site, BTW — will read more…

  22. I happen to see these burgers at costco the other day and I bought them and I really love the texture and flavor of them. I think they go good with a nice honey mustard and sometime I will use a dark spicy mustard as well. They have been great having in much lunches the past few weeks. I just had to put in my 2 cents to say I have to disagree with you and they are great.

  23. @25 from Merlin: Ah, I’m glad they weren’t a waste of money for you, then! I hate wasting money.

  24. Chocolate chipotle!?! Wow! What a juxtaposition– crazy-sounding, but enticing… like peanut butter or chocolate of a mole sauce.
    Another scrumptious inspiration from you!

    As always, thank you for the best and most useful blog ever.

  25. I found those little condiment cup lids also fit on stainless steel condiment cups that walmart sells 4/$1. I have two sets of the SS cups purchased a few years apart and they are slightly different sizes so your mileage may vary. On mine, a Solo brand “PL2″ lid fits one set. I plan to swing by a restaurant supply place next week and see what else might fit, possibly the Dart brand. They only cost about $2 for a sleeve of 100 lids.I am able to hand wash them many times before they wear out and get recycled. Hope that helps someone else in their bentoing adventure! :)