Bacon Burgers with Bacon-Onion-Balsamic Jam from Fine Cooking Magazine, August/September 2011

In 1971 I can remember moving to the Chicago area from New York. With four hungry little kids in the station wagon, my parents knew we had to go eat somewhere. Not far away from our new hom were those golden arches. Underneath them, a sign that boldly stated that 8 billion people had been served. For us, eating there was a rare and amazing treat.

Today, they say that over 99 billion of us have been served since McD’s opened their doors. Even though that number has changed during these forty years, the excitement that youngsters feel when they are told that they’re headed to the golden arches for a burger hasn’t. Dudette is testament to that fact.

Now that I’m older, I wonder why. When I have to eat there, the only burger I can handle is the Big Mac. The reasoning is that all that secret sauce covers up the flavor (or lack thereof) of the meat. How bad is that?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m a burger snob (ask Hubby about Whoppers with cheese), but other than the occasional fast food craving, I prefer to eat my burgers at home. After all, when was the last time you ordered a burger medium-rare, towards rare and actually saw any pink in there?

So, these bunned treats are usually reserved for home grilling, where I can control the process. Since I do enjoy a good burger, when I saw a bacon burger in Fine Cooking, it seemed to be a match made in heaven.

The Process
Bacon within and bacon without. What’s not to love? It all starts with the jam; a bacon-onion-balsamic jam. So, chop, then cook bacon. Remove the meat candy to paper towels so a bit of the grease can be absorbed, drain a bit of the fat from the skillet and add the onions.

Once the onions are in the skillet, it becomes a bit of add water, cover, stir, add water, cover. until the onions are soft and starting to turn golden. Once they reach that color, add the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and more water. Stir and bring it all to a simmer, letting it cook down until most of the liquid has been evaporated or absorbed. This doesn’t take very long, so keep an eye on it.

The best time to start the burgers is while the onions are softening and turning golden. Constructing them is easy. Bacon gets minced and added to a bowl with ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

At this point, the directions said, “Using a fork, gently toss until well mixed but not overworked.” I didn’t know how to do that. I’ve gently tossed pasta, greens and a lot of other things, but I’ve never gently tossed meat, especially ground, stuck-together meat, before. I used my hands and tried to gently mush things around instead.

Grill the burgers, top with the onion jam and serve. At this point I have a confession. I did grill my burgers, kind of. The title of the appliance is George Foreman Grill, which makes it a grill, kind of. It had been a very long day and both Hubby and I were tired and had absolutely no desire to go out and mess with charcoal, chimneys, grates, etc. So I short-cutted.

The Verdict
Not only did I short-cut, I got distracted. Dudette was playing something and I was involved with it and the next thing I knew, I had let my burgers cook too much. They didn’t burn, but they did dry out. So, when we sat down to dinner, that’s the main thing we noticed.

The burgers are not bad, but they weren’t as sensational as I hoped they would be. The jam was definitely tasty, but the reduced balsamic vinegar made things too sweet for my liking. There was only a half teaspoon of Dijon in the mixture, which wasn’t enough to counter the sweetness.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
I would definitely add more Dijon to the jam. Once the onions are cooked down, they turn sweet, as does the balsamic vinegar. Something needs to counteract that.  Of course, I’d monitor the grill more closely and would actually use my grill, but that’s my issue, not the recipe’s. I think this is probably a very good burger if cooked correctly. It’s not very unique, but it is good.

Bacon Burgers with Bacon-Onion-Balsamic Jam - print this recipe
from Fine Cooking Magazine, August/September 2011

For the jam 
4 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the burgers
2 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon
1-1/2 lb. ground beef (85% lean)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, split

Make the Jam
In a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until lightly browned but not yet crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 to 3 Tbs. of bacon fat from the skillet.

Add the onion to the skillet, season with a little salt and pepper, cover the pan, and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover, add a splash of water, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cover, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and beginning to color, about 10 minutes.

Add the vinegar, mustard, and 1/3 cup water. Return the bacon to the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has thickened and most of it has been absorbed, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for up to 2 hours, or refrigerate for up to 2 days and gently reheat before serving.

Make the burgers
With a sharp knife or food processor, mince the bacon. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and add the ground beef, Worcestershire, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Using a fork, gently toss until well mixed but not overworked. Form into 4 equal patties, each 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Press your thumb in the center of each patty to create a deep depression.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (400°F to 450°F). Grill the burgers over direct heat until grill marks form, 4 to 5 minutes (move them to indirect heat if any flare-ups occur). Flip the burgers and cook for 4 to 5 minutes more for medium (a faintly pink center). For more well done, cook an additional minute.

Transfer the burgers to a plate and tent them with aluminum foil. Toast the cut sides of the buns on the grill until golden grill marks form,about 1 minute. Serve the burgers on the buns, topped with a rounded 1/4 cup of the jam.

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