BBQ bacon burger recipe: a new twist

Memorial Day feels like the start of the grilling season for most of the country. I use my grill year round -- sun, rain and snow! We had some family over, and I like to add a little something special to whatever I'm cooking. This is the burger recipe I produced for our Memorial Day BBQ.

BBQ bacon burger

  • 1# 90/10 ground beef - grass fed or free range, if you can get it
  • 4 oz good quality bacon - I used peppered
  • 2 tablespoons favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 teaspoon BBQ spice mix
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Take your bacon and dice it roughly. Put it through the grinder attachment of your mixer, grinding it twice. If you don't have the equipment, chop the bacon coarsely, place in fridge for 10 minutes. Repeat this process until it's very finely ground.

When bacon is finely ground, add it to the ground beef. Add bbq sauce and spices. Mix until bacon, sauce, spices and beef are completely incorporated. Weigh mixture to desired weight and form into balls and return to fridge. 

Heat grill until it is very hot. Take burgers from fridge and flatten them into 1/2 inch patties. Place on grill and allow them to cook until a little bit of blood appears on the surface. Turn them over without flattening them with the spatula. Cook until they are done to your liking. I would not go past medium but this is a personal choice.

Garnish as you see fit. I like my buns toasted (pun intended!), pepperjack cheese, smoked cheddar, avocado, shredded lettuce and a herbed goat cheese spread. Enjoy.




Recently, during a family gathering, my brother-in-law and I were catching up and he was asking how business was going. He wanted to know how it was juggling a 2-year-old, working with clients and writing menus. I simply explained that juggling the boy and work were really the easy part because it's physical. Coming up with the menus was the part of the equation that sometimes caused me problems.

He continued with the line of questions. He's a police officer so it's kind of par for the course. How do I come up with new and exciting menus all the time? I literally got three phone calls and four emails about work during the few hours we were together.

For me, inspiration can come from anywhere. A beautiful fresh fish, some pristine mushrooms, an unusual plate or bowl. When I cook for dinner parties the client sets me on the path, either with cuisine style or dietary restrictions. That is almost always enough to get a great menu started.

I love to be able to play off client requests or ideas that other cooks may have. Those little nuggets of an idea can spiral into a beautiful dish or meal.

Creativity and inspiration can and should come from any and all objects, ingredients or directions!



Tuna noodle casserole

I'm sure most of us remember our parents making tuna noodle casserole, maybe even from a box mix, canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup and in my case, my mom would put crumbled potato chips on top.

I decided to upgrade this a bit and make it fancy. Now this could be a seafood course for a fancy dinner or a main course for a dinner when you want something nostalgic but fancy.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

(makes dinner for 4)

2# albacore tuna loin, trimmed

1# pasta of choice

1/2# of mushrooms (I used morels)

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons mushroom powder (finely ground dehydrated mushrooms) 

1 cup mushroom-flavored soy (available at Asian markets)

1 teaspoon of minced garlic

1/2 cup crispy shallots (available at Asian markets)

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley as garnish 

2 hours before you're ready to start cooking dinner, mix together mushroom soy and mushroom powder. Coat tuna loin with soy/mushroom powder mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 2 hours. Don't let marinade sit on tuna for more than 2 hours, the soy is very salty and will start to make "jerky" out of the tuna.

Cook pasta al dente per package instructions and then cool completely. 

In large saute pan, add butter over medium high heat. When butter is melted and slightly frothy, add mushrooms and saute until slightly caramelized and all the liquid has been evaporated. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add heavy cream and reduce by 1/2.

In large heavy bottom saute pan, add olive oil over medium high heat. When oil is almost smoking add tuna and sear on all sides. Continue to cook until desired temp, rare to medium rare is best. Remove from pan and allow to rest.

Add pasta to cream sauce and toss to coat, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Place pasta on plate, top with tuna sliced, garnish with crispy shallots and parsley.



Advice from some hard lessons learned


I've been working in food service for just over 30 years, from my first dish pit job to Executive sous chef at a super high end hotel, to the owner of my own business. Over the years I have encountered just about every different personality type, work ethic and style.

I have worked for perfectionists and slobs. I've employed both perfectionists and slobs. Both approaches have their good points and drawbacks. The perfectionist is often inflexible and can't change things on the fly. The slob is fast and great during the rush, but messy in everything they do.

One truth holds steady no matter what side of the equation your on, if you don't have your prep done or your mise en place set, you are going to get buried. It is just the reality of what is going to happen, it never fails!

With my current job, going to clients' homes with a box of groceries, there's no walk in, no fridge to grab a quick something from. You have to be prepared! My wife has pointed out to me that, for me, mise en place has touched just about every part of my life. From grocery shopping to doing the yard work, to giving our son a bath. Everything has its place and everything is in its place!

When you're ready to get started, it's always best to read through the recipe, get all your ingredients out and in order before you even start. Otherwise, you will eventually be in a situation where you don't have something you need and there's no good substitute, and then what? If you're at a critical point in the cooking process, you're screwed!

Recently I've been reading a lot of cookbooks, and there seems to be a trend from the new crop of celebrity chefs to add a statement that all sort sound the same. "Get out what you need for the recipe, and put away everything you don't. A cluttered station reveals a cluttered mind." Advice to live by!



Pork Green Chili Recipe

I first learned about pork green chili during my 10-year stay in Denver. A chef I worked for made it for family meal on a pretty regular basis, and from the first spoonful, I was hooked! The tender pork, the sweet but spicy roasted green chilies, the earthy aroma of toasted cumin and the richness of tomatoes. Really just a perfect dish!

A grilled tortilla, a squeeze of lime if you like and life is golden. This is not a complicated recipe, nor is it a quick dish you can whip up in an hour, but to be honest the smell of it cooking for a couple of hours will make that first bite bliss.

PGC - Pork green chili recipe

1 1/2 # boneless pork shoulder cut into 1 inch cubes

1 red onion, diced

2 cans fire roasted tomatoes, crushed or diced

1 cup Hatch's roasted green chilies, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 quart good chicken stock or pork stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional garnish:

Lime wedge

Hot sauce-Mexican

Grilled tortillas

Chopped cilantro

In a large heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat, add olive oil and allow to get hot. When oil is just about smoking, add pork and begin to brown on all sides. When pork is starting to brown, add cumin and continue to cook until pork is completly browned and cumin is fragrant. Add diced onions and garlic, and sauté until translucent.

Stir frequently until onions and garlic are tender and fragrant. Add tomatoes, chilies and 3/4 of stock. Reduce heat till broth is just at a simmer. If chili becomes too thick, add stock in small increments until it is as thick or as thin as you prefer. Simmer for roughly 2 hours or until the pork is very tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve by itself or with your choice of garnishes.