Recipe: Estia’s Bean Burgers and Chicken Albondigas

Estia's Little Kitchen
Estia's Little Kitchen, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Need some crowd-pleasing recipes this holiday season? Chef Colin Ambrose, owner of Estia’s Little Kitchen, has you covered.

“This is a great burger to make that is very versatile,” says Ambrose. “I found this dish at a place I ate at recently in Fredericksburg, Virginia and modified it a bit. It uses rice and cheese as a binder, so it’s hearty. This particular burger can be used over a nice mixed green salad with no bun. I have a lot of customers ask for gluten free dishes and this one can transition easily.”

“I think the key to the recipe’s success is to run half of the recipe through the food processor in order to create a patty that binds,” he adds. “The recipe is intended for a Monday burger special night at Estia’s American, our other restaurant in Darien, CT. It will serve 10 orders. If you don’t need 10 servings, you may just cut the recipe in half.”

Cheesy Black Bean Burger
Yield: 10 burgers

2 cups black beans (cooked and drained)
2 cups brown rice (cooked)
1 cup quinoa (cooked)
4 tablespoons jalapeno peppers (diced fine)
1/4 cup Spanish onion (diced fine)
1/4 cup shredded Jack cheese
3 tablespoons cream cheese (soft)
2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander

Mix all in a bowl well.

Place half of the mixture in a food processor and pulse 15 times. Combine all and form into patties on wax paper with a burger ring or mayo jar top. Grill to order with vegetable oil on a hot flat surface. Cook 3 minutes per side. Serve.

On a Sunday afternoon in February, Ambrose traveled to the North Fork where he participated in an event with other chefs serving 300 people at the Kontokosta Winery. The meal had to be hot, easy to eat and something unusual. Ambrose came up with this soup dish that can be a starter or a whole meal with a salad.

Little Chicken Albondigas
Serves 14

1 whole 4-lb. chicken
3 cups quinoa, cooked and chilled
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3 cups rough-cut mirepoix
2 cups mirepoix (finely diced celery, carrot and onion)
1 gallon vegetable stock
4 tablespoons sofrito
3 eggs
2 tablespoons salt
cilantro chopped for garnish

Begin by cutting the breast and legs off the chicken and remove all bones.

Start a stock with the bones, add rough-cut mirepoix and vegetable stock. Simmer over medium heat for an hour, skimming the top of fat every 10 minutes.

Remove skin from chicken and dice the breast meat into small pieces, reserve.

Chop the rest of the meat into small pieces. Place this chopped chicken into a food processor with eggs and run on high for 2 minutes. Combine it with the reserved chicken in a bowl and stir with your hands. Now add half of the quinoa, all of the breadcrumbs, half of the finely diced mirepoix and all of the sofrito. Mix completely with your hands and season with salt. Roll into meatballs (sized a little smaller than a golf ball). Place on a plate or cookie sheet. Strain the chicken stock and divide into two
soup pots.

When both pots begin to simmer, add the meatballs to one slowly so you maintain a light boil. Once all of the meatballs are poaching, add the remaining quinoa and mirepoix to a small saucepan and stir over medium heat. Season with salt.

Spoon the quinoa into each soup bowl, followed by several meatballs, then the clear broth and finally a pinch of cilantro. After service, combine the remaining stock and meatballs and hold cold for another day.

Estia’s Little Kitchen, 1615 Sag Harbor Bridgehampton Turnpike, Sag Harbor, 631-725-1045,

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