Black & Gold Burgers with Caramelized Apples & Onions and Pepper/Sage Bacon

Wine Varietal: Merlot

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The Pacific Northwest, and specifically the State of Washington, is renowned for its tender & delicious Black Angus Beef. WSU at Pullman (my alma mater) is famous for its Cougar Gold sharp white cheddar.Walla Walla is famous for its sweet onions; and Wenatchee for its apples. I put them all together, adding sage as a nod to the acres of rolling sagebrush across much of Eastern Washington, and came up with these Black & Gold Burgers.

Ingredients:

BURGERS:
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 T. horseradish
1/4 cup Sutter Home Merlot
1/2 t. dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 t. crushed fennel seed
2 t. Dijon mustard
1 T. minced fresh sage leaves
2 t. sea salt
1 t. fresh cracked pepper
2 pounds 24% fat ground chuck
SAGE/BLACK PEPPER BACON
12 strips lean smoky bacon
1 T. chopped fresh sage
2 t. fresh cracked pepper
CARAMELIZED APPLES & ONIONS
3 T. butter
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
3 Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
3 T. dark brown sugar
3 T. Sutter Home Merlot
1/4 t. fresh cracked pepper
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. dried crushed red pepper flakes
TO FINISH
6 T. extra virgin olive oil
6 split focaccia rolls
6 thick slices sharp white cheddar

Instructions:

Mix well the garlic, horseradish, wine, pepper flakes, fennel, mustard, sage, salt & pepper. Lightly toss meat with seasoning ingredients until well incorporated. Roll into 6 balls, then flatten to 3/4″ (make squares if your buns are square) a bit thinner in the middle. Don’t warm meat or overhandle. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium hot grill. Lay in the bacon and sprinkle on the the sage and pepper; cook until crispy. Drain on paper towels; set aside.
Add the butter and olive oil to the hot skillet, let butter melt. Toss the onions and apples with the brown sugar, pepper, salt and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring until golden and beginning to soften and meld, approximately 10 minutes. Add the Merlot, cover and cook until very golden and wine is absorbed, for another 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the grill.
Brush the olive oil on the split rolls and lightly toast over indirect heat, oiled side down. Remove from heat.
Place the burgers directly on the grill, cook 3 minutes, flip; cook 3 minutes, flip; cook 3 minutes, flip. Watch carefully that the flame does not flare up. Add the
cheese, move the burgers to indirect heat, cover and cook till burger is to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. and cheese is melted.
To assemble, place burger with cheese on bun bottom, add 2 strips each crispy bacon, top with 1/2 cup each onion/apple mixture, add bun top and serve.