In most instances of, say, a backyard barbecue or another casual grilling occasion, I will tell you that I am a burger purist. What I mean by that is I typically don’t like any accouterment on my burger. There are three elements, and generally speaking, I prefer to enjoy them in harmony with one another and feel that bringing condiments and such to the party ruins that. When I eat a burger I want to taste meat, cheese, and bun. Not ketchup.
My true favorite burger is made using ultra fatty, freshly ground filet mignon trimmings packed into a *thin* patty, seasoned simply with salt and pepper – on the outside only – and topped with gobs of horrible, not-even-really-cheese American cheese. The white kind, always. The bun must be soft and squishy, maybe even a little bit sweet. Potato rolls are always a winner. The burger must go on the bun immediately after coming off of the grill so it gets soaked with all the fatty, salty, meaty, cheesy goodness. And that’s it. Very simple. Very awesome. No condiments necessary. When I worked as a caterer, I seemed to have an endless supply of fillet mignon trimmings, but since hanging that hat I’ve yet to encounter such a luxury. The grass is always greener…
This burger gets a little fancier, but it’s basic principals are still the same. It’s not really a beach burger, this is an at-home burger. The kind you want a plate for, with a table to put it on, maybe a side of fries, a few pickles, and definitely a big stack of napkins. Oh, and you’ll need an appetite, and/or someone to share with because these big boys are no joke.
What makes these burgers more special than your average bacon cheddar burger is without a doubt the tomato onion jam. Once upon a time I made this jam for the judges on Food Network Star in what was easily the most embarrassing moment of my career. I won’t rehash the whole episode where I had to pretend I was a cowgirl in the old west to sell my
soul product, but it was bad. Real bad. Don’t google it. You’re better off.
Although I was up for elimination in that episode, after an absolutely horrendous performance, I was saved by this jam. The judges absolutely loved it for it’s sweet, tangy, tomatoey flavor. Does it have the multiple uses I touted on the show? I mean, sure. I was really trying to sell the whole seafood thing, but really, this stuff tastes best on a burger. It’s like ketchup’s cooler, more mature, older sister. Similar vibes, but more refined. It’s a little like caramelized onions, kind of ketchupy, with a hint of mustard and a bit of spice all rolled up into one perfect condiment. It cuts through the richness of the burger and plays so well against the flavor of sharp cheddar – a cheese I adore, but rarely enjoy on a burger.
I particularly enjoy this tomato onion jam because it makes good use of some of the slightly overripe / less sandwich worthy tomatoes sitting on my counter. You can cut off the bruised, funky parts, and use some of the smaller, more oddly shaped fruits. Since you’re cooking everything down, it really doesn’t matter. When you grow your own tomatoes, it’s important to find uses for even the less than perfect ones. These are the ones we can’t give out to family and friends – it’s an insult! – and the ones that don’t show up in Instagram posts. These tomatoes, despite their outward appearance, still have worth and value, and it’s up to us to respect their existence and put them to the best use possible. This is it. (See also, salsa!)
With Labor Day Weekend on the horizon, I thought it was appropriate to give you a burger that celebrates the season. I’m talking, of course, about tomato season, but this burger will also transition beautifully into fall. A season when bikinis no longer matter, when the tomatoes are still on the vine, and the burgers can be bigger, cheesier, baconier(?), and a little bit fancier.
It was never my plan to post three bacon-centric recipes in a row, but it just sort of happened. So for all my veggie folks in the crowd, my deepest apologies. Here is a completely vegan/gluten free/fun free (just kidding!) recipe for lentil beet burgers. They’re actually really delicious, just, well, absolutely nothing like a real burger. My next recipe will be bacon free, promise. But for my bacon loving carnivorous readers, enjoy these. You are so welcome.
One Year Ago: Authentic Mexican Tomato Salsa
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla), very thinly sliced
- 4 small-medium tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from about 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- pinch of red chili flakes, optional
- 8 slices thick-sliced bacon
- 2 lbs freshly ground chuck OR 80/20 ground beef
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 thick slices sharp white cheddar
- 4 large, soft hamburger buns, with or without seeds
- tomato onion jam
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat and add the onions. Cook slowly until they start to lightly caramelize, about 15 minutes. Slice the tomatoes in half, squeeze out the seeds, then roughly chop. Add tomatoes to the pan along with both sugars, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, mustard powder and chili flakes. Cook until the mixture has cooked down and thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. transfer to a jar or container. Jam will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bacon on a foil lined sheet pan, then bake until crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then set aside.
- Divide the meat into 4 even pieces, then gently work each one into a wide patty that's thinner in the center than around the edge. Try not to overwork the meat, as it will make for a tough burger. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Cook the burgers until nicely charred on one side, then flip and top each patty with a slice of cheese. Close the grill and allow it to melt. Remove the burgers when they've reached your desired level of doneness (thats nice and pink inside for us), then transfer them to the buns. Top each burger with two slices of bacon and generous smear of tomato onion jam. Serve immediately.
- Leftover tomato onion jam can be stored in a jar, refrigerated, for a out 3 weeks.