Bacon Jalapeno Cheddar Cheeseburgers

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There are quite a few jobs that I have as a Father, and while they’re all important, a handful take precedence over the others: teach my son how to defend himself, how to throw and catch a ball, shoot and clean a gun, fish, enter a room, tie a tie, present a handshake, or how to order a proper drink (I’ve got a little while for that one), but the one that I’ll be writing about today is my favorite by far.

Cooking is a skill that every man should possess, because whether it be for date night, guys night out or just a quick meal on the fly, knowing how to wield a skillet and properly cut/cook vegetables can earn you some serious brownie points with the special lady or cool points with the guys.

We’ll cover some great date night easy to make meals in later editions, but today we’ll be focusing on the manliest of man food, one that has a very special place in my heart, the bacon-jalapeno-cheddar-cheeseburger.

When I was stationed in Germany for a few years, it was very easy to become homesick. Not only were we deployed constantly, but our time “home” in the rear was still in a foreign land, and for guys who bleed red, white & blue and a little Jack Daniels, that can get to you after awhile.

So to deal with our homesickness, some of the other bachelors of 1/10th Special Forces Group and I would get together for ‘Merica day at our ultra-modern German condo that was in a complex full of techno loving, Audi-driving German neighbors. ‘Merica day consisted of red meat, American beer (not as easy to come by in Germany), bacon, country music, and more red meat.

We would grill from sun up to sun down on the Webber grill in my back yard, and by the time the day was done we had each eaten enough beef to feed several men of a lesser nature, but we were always very pleased with ourselves.

Because of those experiences, I can’t take a cheeseburger lightly, as I feel doing it halfway would disgrace those great memories of my Brothers and I honoring our homeland under the Stars and Stripes, and I’d like to pass on the ability for anyone reading this who may be stationed abroad, or anyone who considers themselves a meat eating, flag waving American to use at their will and discretion.

Today is my son’s birthday, and I’m making ‘Merica burgers for kids and adults, and since we’re in SoCal I had to make some kids, some manly ‘Merica burgers, and some not-so-manly for any guests who can’t take the heat. I’ll include all three recipes here so that you can pick and choose which is your favorite, but I highly suggest the ‘Merica burgers, because anything less means the terrorists win.

Kids Sliders

(makes 12 thick sliders)

  • 2 lbs beef
  • 12 pack of Sarah Lee slider buns
  • 1 egg
  • a few dashes of worchstechire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Parsely
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp Lawrys all purpose seasoning salt
  • Cheddar Cheese

Not So Manly Burgers

(makes roughly 8 medium patties)

  • 2 lbs beef
  • 1/2 slab thick cut smoked bacon
  • 1 egg
  • a few dashes of worchstechire sauce
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Parsely
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp Lawrys all purpose seasoning salt
  • 2 pinches hickory smoked sea salt
  • Cheddar Cheese

‘Merica Burgers

(makes 6 man sized burgers)

  • 2 lbs beef
  • 1/2 slab thick cut smoked bacon
  • 1 egg
  • a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Jalapenos, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican Carne seasoning (mine has no name)
  • 1 Tbsp Ghost Pepper sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Parsely
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp Lawrys all purpose seasoning salt
  • 2 pinches hickory smoked sea salt
  • Pepper Jack and Cheddar Cheese

For each of these recipes, we start with the meat. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl, and remember that meat should always be at room temperature when you start cooking, so if you’re going to be grilling immediately after making, allow to sit out to reach the optimal temp. Ingredients

I start by adding the seasonings and Worcestershire sauce, salt, sugar, soy sauce, Panko breadcrumbs, cracking the egg and putting it right on top. I leave it be while I chop the onions, jalapenos, garlic and green onions, and pour each of them in as they’re ready (I like to do the garlic first to give it the most time in the mix. My final addition is squeezing the half lemon over the top, careful to retrieve any seeds that fall in.

There are a few important things to note here; I personally love the spice and crunch of jalapenos, but find that it’s next to impossible to properly cut and place them as toppings on a burger where you get even heat with every bite, which is why I opt to chop them up and mix into the patties, to save them slipping off the burger or co-habitating in one place to give you a few non-spicy bites and then one full of hellfire.

If you’re a bit of a sado-masochist like me, keep the seeds and mix those into the patties along with the jalapeno pieces; if you’d rather give you and your guests mouths a bit of a break, discard the seeds and wash the peppers pretty well to remove a bit of the bite. And check your balls at the door Sally.

There is another variation of this, the cheddar chunk burger, in which you cube cheddar cheese and mix that into the patty as well. This results in a pretty monstrous burger, which is damn good but hard to get a good bite, so after a few attempts I decided to use my cheese the old fashioned way.

Once all of the ingredients are in the bowl, mix the whole thing together with your bare hands, making sure it mixes well and the meat evenly absorbs the egg, bread crumbs, soy sauce, spices, veggies, etc. Once it has a pretty even consistency, it’s time to make the patties…..you should be salivating by this point.

The size of the patties is completely dependent on you and your guests; I like to make the sliders in little squares about 1/3 the size of my palm, and the burgers I make are about the size of my palm and an inch or so thick.

baconTo make a patty, take whatever amount of meat you want per patty in your palm and roll into a ball. After you have it in a nice ball, I like to slap back and forth between my palms, slowly compressing it down to the size of a burger. I know it’s ready when the surface is a very even consistency, size and shape.

Burgers are just like any other meat, in that temperature and patience are half the battle. After the patties are made, let sit for at least 20 minutes undisturbed, at room temperature. This is a good time to wash your hands, light the grill so it will be nice and hot when you start, and get a few beers in your belly.

Once the grill is nice and hot (I like it in the high-300’s), it’s time to rock. Some people like char burgers that look like a charcoal briquette, my wife and I personally are the medium-rare type, so I’ll let you figure out how long you like it cooked.

With burgers a good indication that it’s done is that the juice will run clear. A good burger will raise the blood to the top of the burger when it starts cooking, but as soon as all of those juices are clear I personally add my cheese on top and get the troops lined up to eat.

Another Holy Commandment of grilling is that you don’t want to screw with your meat too much. Just like a good buddy of mine used to always say in the men’s room, “if you shake it more than twice you’re just playing with it.” The same goes for burgers: put it on, rotate it once after about 30 seconds so it doesn’t stick to the grill, flip once, rotate after 30 seconds, add cheese, remove from grill.

I personally like to be a one-stop-stop kind of guy, so I use a thick cast-iron skillet and cook my bacon right on the grill as well; that’s up to you, but any burger without bacon is a disgrace to the burger, and it will feel lonely, sad, depressed, and will make the world a worse place. When in doubt, add more bacon.

Sides

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this (note sarcasm here) but I’m from Texas, and there are only a few acceptable sides for a proper bacon jalapeno cheddar cheeseburger grilling, and they’re pretty simple. And making burgers is not barbequing for what it’s worth; if you want to barbeque, see my somManlier #1; chicken, ribs and sausage will come soon, but burgers are not BBQ, and if you ever refer to them as such I will bitch slap you so help me God.

We go with grilled corn on the cob, potato salad, baked beans, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, grilled asparagus, and maybe even creamed corn. A great desert for this is grilled watermelon with feta. Yes it’s awesome. Grill the watermelon right on the grill until there are grill marks on either side, put in a large serving bowl, sprinkle feta cheese over the top and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Beer

pabstblueribbonI like to give a couple of my favorite beers for certain meals, and again this is just my preference, but I like beer and I’d consider myself a pretty good cook with relatively good taste, so give it a shot. I try to add a pretty nice beer and then an inexpensive option, and sometimes my true preference is the cheaper one (like PBR).

With burgers, I really love Arrogant Bastard Ale if you’re willing to spend a couple of extra bucks. The dark, nutty flavor and sharp bite offer and excellent contrast to the spiciness of the burgers and the salty flavor of the cheese.

If you want to go with an inexpensive (but still very good) option, I prefer Coors Banquet Beer. It’s the Coors that comes in a yellow can, and unlike the dull, metallic taste of Coor’s light, the Banquet Beer has a very full, deep taste that isn’t found in many of the price range. It is my second favorite decently priced beer behind Pabst Blue Ribbon, and it is my top pick to pair with a good spicy burger.

Movie

There aren’t a whole lot of meals in my mind that are much manlier than a bacon jalapeno cheddar cheeseburger, and if you’re making this a night with the guys, or your girl is giving you a man night of your own, you have to come correct with the movie.

Most movies that try to be manly end up doing a cheesy job of it, but there are a few that I really enjoy and bring out the testosterone without losing sight of the story. My number 1 pick would be “The Program,” the early 1990’s movie about a college football program that made many a young Texan dream of football greatness. Just don’t try to run through your living room wall or break the coffee table with your forehead when it gets you pumped up and you want to be Lassiter.