Burger of the Month: Grilled Cheese Bacon Jamburger
January 12, 2015
During a recent trip to the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, I had the pleasure of experiencing many of the South’s top chefs in action including Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill and author of Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking.
So when I set out to create the latest addition in our ongoing “Burger of the Month” series, I took inspiration from a dish that instantly propelled Chef Gillespie to fame during Season 6 of Bravo’s Top Chef – bacon jam. Introducing the Grilled Cheese Bacon Jamburger and a recipe for wiping up your own batch of Chef Gillespie’s sweet and savory creation!
Grilled Cheese Bacon Jamburger
- 2lbs ground beef (80/20 blend)
- 16 slices sharp cheddar cheese
- 16 slices white bread
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 cups bacon jam (see Chef Gillespie’s original recipe below)
- Spray Canola oil
Preheat grill for high heat cooking. Gently form ground beef into eight 4oz patties. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Grill burgers for 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare. Place one slice of cheese on each bottom slice of bread followed by the burger patties. Top each burger with bacon jam and a second slice of cheese and add the top slice of bread. Spray the tops and bottoms of the burger with Canola oil and grill each side for 4-5 minutes per side until the bread is nicely toasted and the cheese has begun to melt. Serve immediately.
Chef Gillespie on the creation of bacon jam:
This recipe became famous on Top Chef Season 6. They gave us an escargot challenge at Daniel Boulud’s restaurant in Las Vegas. I had never cooked with snails before, but I did know from eating them dozens of times that they don’t have a lot going on. Not much fat, not much flavor.
I needed richness, and bacon was in our cook’s pantry. I didn’t want to cook strips or chunks of bacon because that would steal the show from the snails. I tried something completely off the cuff. I roasted the bacon, then braised it. After a long braising time, it developed the same viscous, intense sweetness as fruit jam. The judges liked it. Boulud thought it was a classic Southern recipe from my grandmother. I suppose there is a timeless quality to it. I created it for seafood, and it does work better on fish than on meat. Adding bacon jam to a grilled rib eye would be sickeningly rich. But on poached shrimp, snails, or a lean fillet of fish, it’s perfect.
The recipe is made like risotto. You add liquid to the bacon in a pot, let it boil down until it’s almost gone, then add more liquid. The deep flavor of the jam depends 100 percent on your allowing the liquid to evaporate each time. After three or four additions of liquid, the bacon should be so tender that a fork will slide in and out of it. Think of the bacon as a piece of fruit. It has to get super soft before it can become jam.
(From Fire in My Belly by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim/Andrews McMeel Publishing)
Makes 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces, cut into 2-inch lengths
¼ cup sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch strips
Dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons packed
Ground black pepper
1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the bacon; cook for 1 minute, stirring a couple of times. Cut the heat down to medium and cook until the fat has cooked out of the bacon (rendered), about 8 minutes. Add the onion and a pinch of salt to the pot. Stir and cook until browned, an additional 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Crank the heat up to high, add 1 cup of the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cut the heat down to medium and cook the mixture at an aggressive simmer until it’s thick and almost all of the liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add another 1 cup stock and repeat the process. When the mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency, add the remaining 1 cup stock and stir in a Kevin pinch of salt, 6 grinds of black pepper, and the Espelette pepper. Add the honey to the mixture and carefully transfer to a blender; it will be hot. Blend the mixture until smooth, then return it to the pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring a few times, until it reduces in volume to about 1 ½ cups and turns brick red, about 10 minutes. Pull the pot from the heat and, using a sturdy wooden spoon, stir in the butter.
PREP AHEAD / The bacon jam can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Just warm it up a bit before serving.
–Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Editor