Sunday, November 2, 2014

Duckfat Burgers With Cranberry Relish

I'm still stuck in New England, but at least it's one of my favorite times of the year when there is some really great stuff to cook with. Seasonal variations on some of my favorite simple dishes are among my favorite things to make, here is an autumn version of the summer burger, that has hints of sweetness and the tartness of the cranberries with nice gooey brie cheese melted over bacon.

Rendered Duck Fat
Brie Cheese
Cranberry Relish*
German Pretzel Roll

Making the Cranberry Relish

First thing is first, we need to make cranberry relish. My measurements on this are going to be a bit sloppy approximations, because I simply don't bother measuring as I know how I like it, but it should get you near where you want to be and flavors can be adjusted to your own liking rather easily. 

1 Cup+ Fresh Cranberries
1/2 cup Crushed Walnuts
1 Large Orange (Will be juiced & zested)
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Apple Diced
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Cloves
1+ tsp Worcestershire Sauce 
1+ tsp Jack Daniels (or other Bourbon Whiskey)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black Pepper

Juice the orange, removing any large seeds or solid pith that might mix, then mix in cloves, brown sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce by about a third. Bring heat down to a simmer and remove the cloves and add cranberries, apple and about two tsp of orange zest, nutmeg and black pepper. We don't want to make cranberry sauce, so just cook the berries until tender, not until they are slush. Mix in the walnuts, Worcestershire sauce, and whiskey as you remove from heat. Set aside and let this cool.

Making the Burger

First let's cook the bacon, to some Brit that might be reading this I am of course referring to streaky bacon, not slab or what we would call Canadian bacon. Two or three good sized pieces per burger, cooked until crispy and if you can manage it looks better if they are not flat. Make sure to retain the fat.

Now let's get to the patty. Normally I like higher fat beef, like 25/75% mixes. The fat is where the flavor is, and contrary to popular opinion fat isn't what makes you fat. Sitting at a desk all day and eating like you just ran a marathon is what gets you fat, but I digress. For this burger we will use a leaner beef or you could use bison meet, both would be great. For about a half pound burger I mix in some of the bacon fat, maybe a bit less than a table spoon and then mix in just over a table spoon of duck fat. This gives the burger a really nice flavor in my opinion. If you don't have ducks rendering in your kitchen you can occasionally buy it at the grocery store, and it may be worth hitting up some upscale restaurants and asking if you could buy some from their kitchen, as any restaurant with duck on the menu has rendered duck fat in its kitchen. Generously season the outside of the burgers with salt and pepper.

While the burger is grilling heat up some of the duck fat and place about four or five thin slices of apple in it. Fry it until it starts to brown, but before it's crisp or burnt. I also am of the opinion that rolls should be buttered and grilled, and a nice hearty roll like a German pretzel roll is perfect for a burger like this. Bacon and brie can be placed on the burger as soon as it's been flipped once. Brie can get really gooey (one of the reasons I love it on this burger, so start it off on top of the bacon in the center of the burger. As soon as it starts to melt it will cover the whole thing. If you place it close to the edge at the start a bunch of it will just fall into flames. Once off the grill top with the cooled cranberry relish and the fried apple slices  on top. This is best served with fries cooked in duck fat as well and possibly spiced cider or mulled wine.

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