I am really excited about this grilling out recipe called a Burger Bar, which was created by Tyler Florence at the Food Network if you’re interested in the original recipe.  The concept is to invite all your loved ones over for a barbecue and create an assortment of burger toppings all laid out for your guests to choose from and assemble their own perfect burger.  I thought it sounded awesome, so I had a little dinner party this past Friday to try it out.  Although we ended up eating inside because of the rain, it was a huge success and almost all of the food was devoured.

Chelsea’s Burger Bar

burger bar

As you can see, from the left are sesame seed burger buns, to bacon in the middle, and on the right the first ramekin has caramelized onions, behind that is sautéed mushrooms, and the third ramekin has dill pickles.  There’s a plate with tomato slices and lettuce, and to the right is a little glass ramekin of green onions for the potatoes.  There’s a plate of burger patties and behind it is a plate of BBQ chicken.  The casserole dish has my mom’s famous potatoes al gratin and lastly is a big, fresh bowl of salad.  Note: The important part about making a burger bar is to have enough to choose from for your guests.  For my family, caramelized onions were gone very quickly, so I should have doubled what I made, especially since they reduce a lot while cooking, and I could have made more bacon because it was a popular choice.  Ketchup and mustard were put out in addition to my homemade barbecue sauce, and everything was amazing!

Burger Bar Recipe:

For the burgers

I bought organic lean ground beef and mixed salt, pepper, and a few drops of Andria’s Steak Sauce into it while I molded it into burger patties which were about 1/4 inch thick and 4 inches wide.  A 2 pound package of ground beef made about 6 burgers.  I used my thumb to make an indent in the center of each patty so that they wouldn’t inflate on the grill.  Cook each side for about 3-5 minutes, and add cheese, if desired, in the last minute or two of cooking.  (I forgot all about the cheese, but the burgers were great anyways!) I adapted my burgers from this recipe.

For the chicken

Prepare the raw chicken breasts by patting dry with paper towels and cutting off any extra fat.  Season with salt and pepper and grill for about 6-8 minutes on each side.  After the chicken has been flipped and when it’s almost finished grilling, brush with barbecue sauce.  Flip again and get the other side coated with the delicious sauce, too.

For the bacon

Line a pan with aluminum foil and lay the bacon out on the foil piece by piece.  Once the oven is preheated to 425 degrees, cook the bacon for about 8-10 minutes.  Pull it out and if it needs a little longer, flip the pieces of bacon and return to the oven for an additional minute or two.  When it’s completely finished, put it on a plate covered with paper towels and pat the tops with paper towels as well to absorb the excess grease.

For the caramelized onions

1) Take a big, sweet yellow onion and 2) peel off the exterior layer, 3) cut the top and bottom off, then 4) slice it in half, widthwise so that you have the top half and the bottom half separated.  5) Slice each of those halves in half across the diameter so that you’re cutting the circular onion rings down the middle.  6) Lay the side that you have just cut on the board, and slice the rest of the onion into half rings.

Slicing technique before caramelizing:

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Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan and add all of your chopped onions.  Salt the onions and cook on medium heat, adding water whenever needed to keep the onions cooking for 10-15 minutes.  Once they start to look soft, add about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and stir.  When they are completely soft and browned and simmering, take them off the stove and put them in a serving bowl.

For the sautéed mushrooms

Rinse off baby portabella mushrooms and dry with paper towels and then slice thinly.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and add the mushrooms, cooking on medium heat.  Add salt and pepper and a little lemon juice for extra flavor (my preference) and cook for about 5-8 minutes.  They will look soft, darker, and saturated with oil when finished.  Set aside in serving bowl.

Homemade barbecue sauce

In a saucepan on the stove, stir together and heat 1 cup of ketchup, 1 cup of tomato sauce, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of butter on medium/high heat.  Add salt and pepper, and about 1/2 teaspoon each of chili powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic salt, and paprika, and a dash of cinnamon.  Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce (maybe about 1/2 a tablespoon).  Taste it, and add a little more brown sugar if you want a sweeter BBQ sauce, or a little more cayenne if you want a spicier sauce, adjust spices as necessary.  After about 5 minutes, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15-25 minutes, the longer it simmers, the thicker the sauce will become.  I like a thicker sauce so I simmered mine for closer to 25 minutes.   Brush the sauce on the chicken when it’s almost finished grilling, then flip and brush the other side with more sauce.  Serve the extra sauce as a topping in your burger bar.  Save any leftover sauce in the fridge for up to three weeks – another great use for it is a pizza base to make a barbecue pizza.  Sauce adapted from Big Al’s recipe.

For the tomatoes and lettuce

I bought two large, red beefsteak tomatoes, but I only sliced one for serving, and still had some leftover.  Tomatoes are not a popular choice for my family members, but it’s still a good idea to offer it as a topping.  I bought a bundle of romaine lettuce, washed it off and dried it with paper towels, and broke each long leaf of lettuce in half.

The cheesy potatoes al gratin were an excellent side choice and were raved about by my family members.  I’ll post the recipe soon, so check back in! I think it’s also necessary to have a big salad made as a side as well.  Other sides could include coleslaw, baked potatoes, potato chips, fruit salad, or pasta salad.  Get creative with it and make fun burger bar of your own.

Happy grilling!



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