When I was a kid, backyard BBQ’s were a simple affair: frozen hamburgers, Oscar Meyer hot dogs, and pot-luck side dishes were about as elaborate as we’d get – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But now that I’m older and have a backyard of my own, I find myself wanting to put a more grown-up twist on my BBQ’s. I want to prepare food that my friends will remember and that will bring them back next summer. I’m talking about good quality food: gourmet burgers, interesting salads, and easy but fun desserts. So that’s what I’m cooking up for you this week!
But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Today we’ll start at the beginning with the star-attraction: the burgers. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to fancy-up ground meat and turn it into a delicious, flavor-packed hamburger. A couple slices of bacon, a hunk of good cheese, and some spices from your pantry are pretty much all you need to convert your burger from the ordinary to the extraordinary! And once you do, I promise you’ll never go back. Here’s the first of two burger recipes I’ll be posting this week. (P.S. This one’s my favorite.)
Bacon-Blue Cheese Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Garlic Mayo
FOR THE BURGERS
- 2 lbs. ground meat (beef, lamb, bison, pork, chicken, turkey – or a combination of 2 or 3)
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (1 tsp per pound of meat)
- 1 tsp garlic powder (½ tsp per pound)
- 1 tsp horseradish (½ tsp per pound)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt (½ tsp per pound)
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 4 oz. thick cut bacon (2 oz. per pound), diced
- 1 oz. blue cheese, broken into 4 chunks (¼ oz. per patty)
- 4 good quality, large hamburger buns
- 4 crisp lettuce leaves for serving (Butter, Boston, or Iceberg work best)
FOR THE CARAMELIZED ONIONS
- 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ tsp sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2-4 Tbsp water
FOR THE GARLIC MAYO
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- pinch of salt
MAKE THE PATTIES
In a large bowl, combine ground meat(s) with seasonings and diced bacon, mixing until combined, making sure not to overwork the meat (which will make it tough). Divide meat into 8 mounds, rolling each mound into a ball. Place on a large baking sheet lined with wax paper. Push a chunk of blue cheese into the center of 4 of the balls, creating the bottom of the patty.Cover each bottom piece with another mound of meat, pressing down to flatten to about an inch thickness.Using your thumb, press a divot into the center of the patty. This will keep the finished burgers nice and flat instead of round on top.
Generously oil the grate of an outdoor grill and prepare for high-direct heat. Once the internal temperature reaches 450°F, place patties directly over heat source and cook, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes. Flip patties and cook for another 4-5 minutes on the second side for medium (2-3 minutes longer if you want them cooked through). Do not, I repeat, DO NOT press down on the burgers while they are cooking, otherwise you’ll lose all the juices to the fire and the meat will dry out – I can’t stress this point enough! Transfer to a plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
In a medium bowl, mix mayo with garlic and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Mayo can be made up to 3 days in advance.
CARAMELIZE THE ONIONS
Set a skillet over medium heat and add butter. Once the butter melts and starts to bubble, add the onion slices and cook on one side until they become slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Flip onions and brown on the other side, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the pan with a pinch of salt and sugar, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and add 2 Tbsp of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and onions are soft, about 20-30 minutes. You may need to add another 1-2 Tbsp of water if liquid evaporates too quickly and onions aren’t soft yet. Onions can be covered and left on the stovetop for about an hour, or covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days (reheat in a skillet before serving).
ASSEMBLE THE BURGERS
While the hamburgers are resting, turn grill down to low and toast buns until slightly golden. Slather mayo on the inside of the top-half of each toasted bun. To the bottom bun, add lettuce, burger, then caramelized onions, dividing evenly among each guest, then cover with the top-half of the bun. Enjoy with plenty of napkins.