It’s been a particularly frigid winter in the Chicago area, with lots of days spent inside drinking tea and dreaming of summer. A frequently recurring daydream around here involves the smell of burgers on the grill with a cold beer in hand, lounging around in the backyard. Unfortunately, burgers on the grill are just not going to happen anytime soon. When we start getting a little forlorn at this prospect, these burgers come to the rescue. They’re easy to put together without the help of a charcoal grill, and are so flippin’ delicious that it blows memories of Labor Day barbecues away.
These burgers are inspired by ones that we often craved at a neighborhood restaurant where we used to live. Since it would involve an hour trip to get to said establishment these days, we’ve had to come up with our own version to sate our cravings. And to be honest, they’re better freshly made at home than anything we’ve had at any restaurant.
Now for the disclaimer: Yes, these burgers are over the top. Yes, they involve bacon, cheese, red meat, and beautifully carb-laden pretzel rolls. They are definitely a “treat” for those days summer seems just so far away that you can’t stand it. They take away some of the pain of missing near-nightly outside dining and charcoal grill smells. And if you’re one of those lucky people who are experiencing summer right now, or who live in warmer climes year-round… well, just make these and I promise, you won’t be worried about how you look in your swimsuit.
Here is why these are the perfect burgers. First off, the pretzel roll. Pretzel rolls are a burger’s match made in heaven. They are firm enough that they can easily tote the heftiest patty to your mouth, and yet they have a tender crumb and plenty of tastiness in their own right. So many buns are just the vehicle for a burger and its toppings, but a pretzel roll ups the ante. Secondly, a hand-formed burger patty, made from the best ground beef you can find, is a must. Please, do yourself a favor and pass up those machine-formed, frozen, beef-filler hybrid burgers at the grocery store. Most of the time, it’s cheaper, healthier, and SO much tastier to have the butcher grind up some fresh ground beef for you and form your own patties. Besides, then you can make your burgers whatever size and thickness you prefer. It’s a win all around.
But really, what makes these burgers special, out-of-this-world amazing, is the trifecta of perfect burger toppings: brie, bacon, and sautéed red onions. See, the brie, being so soft, melts almost as soon as you place it on the hot burger, dripping down into all the crevices between the burger and pretzel roll- no need for ketchup here, friends. The warm, sweet onions meld into the creamy cheese, and the crispy, salty bacon is the perfect balance for all that sweet gooey-ness. Um… yeah… is your mouth watering yet? Needless to say, mine is.
So if you’re feeling deprived of some burger goodness in the midst of a midwest winter, as I am, here is your solution. I know I should suggest that you serve this with a salad, but there is no better accompaniment to these burgers than these oven fries. Just sayin’.
Brie, Bacon, and Red Onion Burgers
makes 4 burgers
As I said above, condiments aren’t really necessary for these burgers, but I do enjoy a small smear of good quality mayo on the bottom bun. If you’re the do-ahead type, you can easily make almost every element of these ahead of time, forming the burger patties, slicing the cheese, frying the bacon, and sautéing the onions and storing them separately. When you’re ready to eat, just cook and assemble the burgers.
1 lb ground beef
1 large red onion
2 TB olive oil
1/4 lb bacon
3-4 oz brie cheese
salt and pepper
4 pretzel rolls, sliced in half
Form ground beef into 4 quarter pound patties. Season very generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cut brie into several thin slices. Set aside.
Slice onions by cutting the onion in half cross-wise, then cutting each half into one-eighth wedges (or however you prefer to slice onions). Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a medium skillet, then add onions. Let onions get a little brown on the edges, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Then turn down the heat and let the onions cook slowly, stirring intermittently, for about 10 minutes.When they are sufficiently cooked down to your liking, remove from the heat and set aside.
In a cast iron pan, or other heavy skillet, cook slices of bacon over medium heat, taking care not to burn it. Cook until crispy, then remove from pan to a plate covered with a towel or paper napkins to drain. Pour off excess bacon grease from the pan and then return the pan to the heat.
Over medium-high heat, cook the burgers in the pan, until browned and seared on each side, approximately 3 minutes on each side for a medium-rare burger. (Timing will depend, obviously on how thick you make your burger patties and how hot your pan is. Use your best judgement.) In the last minute of cooking time, top each burger with several slices of brie, and top with the warm onions.
Remove the burgers, piled with cheese and onions, from the pan and place each burger on the pretzel roll halves. Top with bacon and any condiments you fancy. Top with the other half of the pretzel roll and enjoy.