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Bourbon-Roasted Pecan Burgers

When I first heard about your contest, I began by focusing on creative ways to enhance beef flavor without relying heavily on favorite standbys such as raw garlic, raw onion or black pepper. I tried to think of other flavor combinations that work together, without beef in the equation, with the intention of testing those that would seem to go with beef. I love the combination of the flavors of pecans, American whiskey/bourbon and brown sugar, and it is one of the first "ingredient cores" that struck me. This evolved from that.


1-1/2 lbs. ground beef, no more than 85% lean
2 cups shelled pecan halves
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp. Frank's Red Hot Sauce
4 Tbsp. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
6 PMR or Portuguese rolls (Any roll with a crusty French-bread outer texture works well)
1 cup ketchup
4 drops pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. chipotle pepper powder
6 leaves of Boston Lettuce
6 slices of Fontina cheese
6-12 slices of Rosso Bruno tomatoes (depending on fruit size)
6 slices of smoked bacon


To prepare the Chipotle-Vanilla Ketchup, whisk ketchup, chipotle, vanilla and 2 Tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey together.

To prepare the burgers: First heat your grill to medium-low and melt the butter in a saucepan or small aluminum foil pan. Once melted, dissolve in the brown sugar then stir in the garlic powder, Red Hot Sauce and 2 Tbsp. of Jack Daniel’s. Remove mixture from heat and stir in pecans, tossing to coat. Pour coated pecans into a foil pouch or foil tray and roast for approx. 10 minutes.

While pecans are roasting, cook bacon to medium crispness on a griddle designed for grill use. Once cooked, set bacon on paper towels to drain excess grease.

Let pecans stand 10 minutes to cool, then grind pecans in a small food processor or blender. Dump ground roasted pecans into ground beef and mix thoroughly. Burger mix may stand for up to an hour to allow flavors to mix. Form six patties to roll size/shape.

Heat grill to a medium-high heat and grill burgers 3-1/2 to 5 minutes per side, depending on doneness preference. (About 4 min. for medium). Slice rolls open and remove some of the white bread with your fingers. Discard. Grill rolls upside-down, open-faced for 30 seconds to one minute, depending on preference. Melt one slice of Fontina cheese on each burger during last 30 seconds of cooking.

Remove burgers and rolls and assemble. Top each burger with Chipotle-Vanilla Ketchup, one slice of bacon, Rosso Bruno tomato slices and a Boston Lettuce leaf. Serve immediately.