Cooking with whiskeys and bourbons seems to be all the rage these days. Most of it, though, even in Burgerland, seems to be sauce-based flavorings – make a regular burger and put a Jack Daniels BBQ sauce on it, for example.
What, though, if we were to put the Jack into the burger itself? I was pondering this as I was menu planning yesterday. We had some friends over for a work party (I've been meaning to create a new space for my grill for some time) and figured it was the perfect time to find out.
And thus, the Jackburger was born.
The basic premise is a Jack Daniels infused burger, topped with Pepper Jack cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato, all housed in a grill-toasted bun (Mayo I recommend, brown mustard is the only other condiment I've tried – good, but not necessary).
Simple, right? There's a bit more to it – the two Jacks bring a lot to the table, but they need to be rounded out some for a full-bodied flavor that doesn't need anything else. It's not that bad though, so read on for the story 😉
I'll start by saying this recipe makes 8-10 burgers – I like making big, fat, juicy 1/2 pounders for occasions like this. I don't know about you, but when I've been pouring concrete, when I bite into a burger, I want to know that it's a burger.
Before we get started, there comes the question of bacon. I like thick-cut applewood-smoked, and we prepare ours in the oven, but however you do it, you'll want to work that in somewhere along the way.
So, to begin: four pounds of 90% lean ground beef, and a half-cup of breadcrumbs (they act as a binder, and are the difference between juicy, and watery). Knead them together until the bread crumbs are completely incorporated.
(As a side note, when I'm making burgers, I add ingredients in stages so I can keep an eye on texture and moisture content, as well as making sure that everything is mixed in evenly. The extra kneading may make for a better texture overall, but I have no proof of this)
Next, 3tsp of Worcestershire sauce, 1/2tsp of salt, and 2tsp pepper. Knead some more until that's all worked in.
(If you haven't noticed yet, this is a very kneady recipe)
Then, add 1-1/2 jigger of Jack Daniels (2oz) and set aside equal parts for the chef. Work that in, and add 2tsp soy sauce and 1/2tsp chili powder. Continue kneading until the mix is the texture of dough, and the chef's Jack is consumed.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes – this lets the flavors incorporate, makes the mix easier to shape, and gives the chef a chance to grab the bottle and socialize for a bit.
Once the half-hour is up, start up the grill. Plan on a mdeium fire- if you're you using charcoal like I do, figure on a packed songle layer (one chute's worth) across the grate. As that's heating up, take the meat mix and form 8-10 meatballs roughly 1/2 pound each (8 is preferable, but it could be extended, particularly if there are several light eaters). Then, flatten them so they're roughly the same diameter of your buns. I'll take a second and make an unsolicited rave about Orowheat's "Crostini" buns – good texture, good flavor, and HFCS-free.
I cooked these a bit longer, but slower heat, than I often do. I didn't want a lot of char, and I wanted the burgers a chance to cook through (and evaporate any alcohol). To that end I also worked hard to avoid any flare-ups.
Once the meat is done, top with a slice of pepper Jack, and allow that to melt a bit. Remove, and toast the buns lightly.
To serve, coat the buns with mayo (optional), a bit of lettuce and tomato, and top with a strip of bacon, folded.
For a side, The Best Macaroni Salad Evar goes well.
And, the infamous Shopping List:
- 4lbs ground beef (~90% lean if you can)
- bread crumbs
- Worcestershire sauce (one of these days I may even learn to spell it)
- Jack Daniels – get a fifth or at least two airline bottles
- soy sauce
- chili powder
- Pepper Jack cheese
- thick-cut bacon
- burger buns