Do you remember the Oprah’s Favorite Things episodes that used to pop up every few months on Oprah’s talk show? They’ve been spoofed multiple times on Saturday Night Live, but I will happily admit that I was exposed to the real thing multiple times over the years. I caught a couple in college and it seemed like any time I was home sick there was one on TV. Which I of course had to watch. The premise was simple: Oprah unveils items that she loves to her audience and they go completely berserk. Why? Because the whole audience got to take home whatever Oprah unveiled.
Those videos of teenage girls losing their minds when the Beatles played in the 60s? Does not even compare to the insane reactions of these middle aged men and women. Fainting, tears, strangers hugging, and milk curdling screams punctuated unveils like home pedicure treatment kits. People love free sh*t. In 2004 when I was working on GM, they gave away 250 Pontiacs on a Favorite Things episode and I’m sure you can imagine the insanity of the reaction. I probably watched the highlight reel 50 times at work cackling like a madman.
Anyhoo, you don’t get to take home anything, but enjoy following along as Pete cooks his ultimate burger and unveils a few of… his Favorite Things.
Big surprise folks, it starts with…. BACON!!!!!!!!!
I’ve had lots of wacky meat-based burger toppings like foie gras, braised pork belly, and even a beef cheek a few weeks ago, but none of them compare to what bacon adds. At the same time, not a fan of the long bacon strip that sticks out the ends of the bun and pulls out of the burger when you bite down. Which is why I like the idea of bacon lardon as a topping. All the flavor and crisp with none of the drawbacks.
While that cooks, it’s time to bring out the… RED ONION!!!!
Any caramelized onion makes a burger better, but for this one I went with a red onion since it holds up to longer cooking time while still retaining some texture. After skimming off a little excess bacon grease, the onions joined the bacon in the pan. Once the onions were a little translucent, I added in a few large crumbles of brown sugar and a splash of apple cider vinegar.
That’s right folks, we’re making… BACON ONION MARMALADE!!!!!!!
I’ve had this stuff on burgers in a few restaurants and was inspired by a coworker to make it at home. It has everything you dream of on a burger: the sweetness of caramelized onions, with brown sugar and vinegar replacing the key aspects of ketchup and pickles, and of course the salty crunch of bacon. I had to wing the recipe a bit due to a truncated timeline (easiest to slow cook for a few hours), but with this combination I knew it would end up solid.
This cooked over low heat for another 20-30 minutes, but that wasn’t the only topping that needed cooking time. You didn’t think I’d forget the TRUFFLE MUSHROOOOOOOOOOOOMS!?!?!?!?
Mushrooms and truffles have a ton in common from a flavor standpoint, and they obviously work well when combined. I’m cheap and I don’t keep truffles lying around, but dried truffle salt and a couple pats of truffle butter usually gets a good amount of flavor in there. An awesome texture and flavor contrast with the other toppings.
Let’s get on to the main event people, 85/15 GROUND BEEF Y’ALL!!!!!
I love the idea of grass fed beef and want to love the burgers that it makes, but I’ve been hit or miss with it lately. If I see corn fed ground beef from respected New England farm, odds are I will choose it over the grass fed variety. Just more likely to be tender and not have a chewy sausage-like texture on the outside. I mixed the ground beef with a substantial amount of salt and black pepper and then segmented the pound of beef into three equal-sized, patted flat burgers.
I’ve heard that behind every great man is a great woman, but what I think they are really trying to say is that on top of every great burger is a great cheese. Uh oh, you smell that folks? It’s announcing itself from inside the cheese drawer, STANKY BLUE CHEESE!!!!!!
I’ve referred to this multiple times on this blog, but I will only get a burger in a restaurant if it has blue cheese or a similarly stinky cheese topping it. I think cheddar, Swiss, and American are all incredibly boring and barely add any flavor. Stinky cheeses compliment the burger by not just disappearing flavor-wise in each bite. A few crumbles of this Stilton is my idea of heaven on a burger.
The marmalade had cooked to a nice consistency.
I switched the heat off and let as much oil drain off as possible before spooning these into a separate bowl.
I heated the grill to 500 and threw the burgers on for a a few minutes on each side with the buns toasting on the top rack. What kind of buns you ask?!?!?! MAIER’S POTATO ROLLSSSSSS!!!!! And we’re done with that.
From the grill to the bun.
Due to the amount of toppings, I went with the cheese on one side pressed directly into the bun. I spread the marmalade on the other half and then piled the mushrooms up on top before tipping them together into one glorious whole. Served with some vinaigrette-tossed greens on the side, Grace Tavern-style.
Let’s go through the toppings in one sentence instead of all spaced out: A blue cheese, bacon & red onion marmalade, and truffle mushroom topped hamburger on a Maier’s potato roll. Good golly.
Not sure what you’re looking for on the reaction section here, because obviously this was one of my favorite burgers of all time. I’ll try. I despise ketchup and bread & butter pickles on a burger, but I love a little sweet contrast to all the salt of a burger. The marmalade delivered that and then some with the slight tang of vinegar and sweet onion flavor. Then of course there is the strong smokey bacon flavor mixed with all of that and crunchy chunks of it in each bite. The mushrooms provided the umami that matches well with stanky cheese and medium rare beef but also stands on its own well. The burger meat was juicy and full of flavor and was made even better by the cheese oozing through it following each bite. Just an absurd burger.
I traded a 2 pound block of scrapple for a 50+ pound cow’s head this past weekend. Not cooking it anytime soon, but figured that’s the type of post that requires a few months of warning.