Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bacon Mac and Cheese Burger
 

I was inspired to make this burger because I had a craving for my "Growed Up Mac and Cheese" and a hamburger, simultaneously.  I had guests coming for dinner Friday, however, and the kids would be having the mac and cheese.  With that in mind, I could not make it "growed up", incorporating beer into the boiling water of the macaroni and also the roux, so I settled for an Italian inspired mac and cheese, adding Tuscan Seasoning (found in most grocery stores) along with my own fresh oregano, and, bacon. The burger is my regular burger, but it all comes together decadently with the mac and cheese square, and I served my meal with marinated red onion and tomato slivers, inspired by my son's grandmother.  Here's how it all goes:

Starting line-up for the burgers themselves:
 1 package of 4 - 8 dutch crunch buns, or your favorite burger buns
1 pound lean sirloin or ground beef
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 yellow or red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tuscan Seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano, finely chopped
 
Mix all of the ingredients together, form six large hamburger patties, indenting in the center for even cooking on the grill, and set aside or in the refrigerator to rest.  Remove the burgers twenty minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.  
 
Before serving altogether with the mac and cheese, toast the buns under the broiler, if you wish.  I wish. 
 
I made an aioli to go along with the burgers.  I simply mixed half a cup of mayonnaise with a teaspoon of sriracha, a teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped oregano and grated garlic.  The aioli I put on the top and bottom of the buns.  And yes, I used mustard, too!  I cannot have a burger without mustard!
 
Bacon Bed for the bottom of the Mac and Cheese Bake:  Chop up on package of thin sliced bacon and render in a large skillet.  Toward the end, I like to place the skillet in the oven at 400 degrees to crisp up the bacon even more.  You have to preheat the oven, so if you have an oven-safe skillet, you can multi-task!  Once fully cooked and crisp, remove the bacon and set it on a plate with a paper towel.  Set aside. 
 
The Mac and Cheese, semi-Italiano style:
 1 package of elbow macaroni
2-3 teaspoons flour
2 cups of grated Jack, Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese
1 cup of grated Italian Cheeses:  Mozzarella, Asiago, Parmesan and also Provolone (one cup altogether)
1/4 stick of butter
1 cup of milk or buttermilk (I like to use buttermilk for the tangy bite)
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of Tuscan Seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh or dried oregano
1/4 cup of chopped, cooked bacon, pancetta or prosciutto

In a large pot, bring four quarts of water to a boil. Liberally salt the water when it boils.  Add the elbow macaroni and stir for a minute to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Allow to cook until al dente, according to the directions on the package, about eight minutes.  Strain and set aside for a moment.  

Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan over medium heat, you will begin making the roux.  Add the butter to the large sauce pan (high-sided is best!) and allow it to melt.  Add the flour to the roux and stir until the flour cooks out.  Add the milk or buttermilk and the seasoning ingredients.  To that, once incorporated well, add the cheeses, a little at a time.  It will all melt into a wonderful, gooey mess that will smell pretty heavenly.  

Yes, I said "heavenly".  Sorry, it's the best word I could use.
 
Add the pasta to the mix and fold in repeatedly, to get all of the pasta bathed in the cheese sauce.  It should be flexible and "gooey", as I mentioned above, not runny. Set aside for a moment. 

Now, I used an 8" by 8" pan, sprayed it with olive oil cooking spray, and spread the fully cooked bacon on the bottom.  I added a heaping pile of the macaroni and cheese to it, but only to make a two or three inch layer.  I packed the mac and cheese down and topped it with grated parmesan cheese.  I baked it in the 400 degree oven until the top had crisped up and was golden brown.  Perfect!  The cheese melds around the bacon and solidifies as it cools, so when you cut it in about fifteen minutes, it will not slide around, as the bacon is a solid base. 

While the mac and cheese baked in the oven, grill or fry the hamburgers to your liking, about six or seven minutes per side.  I sprinkled each side with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder.  That was because I did not add any salt and pepper to the meat in the beginning.  I like the seasoned carmelized crust that forms on the burger when you add that.  Yum!

So here is how you put it together:  cut the mac and cheese into fourths.  Easy.  Arrange your buns on your plate, add the aioli, or whatever condiments you like, to the buns,  and place a burger on the bottom bun.  Now, carefully remove a mac and cheese square with a spatula and place  atop the burger.  Top the mac and cheese with the top bun, and you now have a Mac and Cheese Bacon Burger!





 As I mentioned above, the kids were to have Mac and Cheese, so I made theirs in ramekins. Here they are:



 In addition, I served the burgers with marinated red onion and tomato slivers.  The longer you can marinate the veggies, the better the taste.  You can also add thinly sliced cucumbers, too, which is what Grandma U does.  One of the best sides I have ever had the pleasure of eating!  Simply add 1/3 cup of vegetable or extra virgin olive oil to a container, along with a a third of a cup of red wine vinegar, one grated clove garlic, fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Yum!  I even added a teaspoon of Tamari sauce instead of salt.  Just a wonderful, cold side dish to a rich, pretty heavy meal. 
 
Thank you for viewing this meal.  I have just a little kitchen now, so organization and staying on task while socializing was a challenge, but a fun one!
 
Enjoy!