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Long Island Wine Country Sliders

As a native Long Islander and lover of good food and wine, one of my favorite pastimes is seeking out and cooking with fresh, local ingredients and pairing them with the exciting wines from our flourishing North Fork region. I also am influenced by the creativity and often flawless execution of the many New York City restaurants so close by, and the slider, or mini-burger, has been elevated to an elite, almost cult-like status in the Big Apple. My offering here is inspired by both areas: my home and the greatest city in America.

Ingredients 

1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, Walla Walla, etc...(I use a local L.I. yellow onion, of course) halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard, plus more for spreading on buns
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (domestic is fine)
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
6 slices center cut, thick sliced bacon
1 pound ground beef brisket or chuck (80 - 85% lean is ideal)
2 cups clover or alfalfa sprouts
6 split, 3-inch diameter brioche buns
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 wooden skewers for presentation

Instructions 

First, make red wine and onion relish:

In a saute pan over medium-low heat, pan fry onions and thyme until nicely browned and caramelized, 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Next, add wine, increase heat to medium-high, and deglaze pan, stirring, for 30 seconds. Whisk in mustard and honey, and cook until consistency is thick and jam-like. Check for seasoning and remove from heat and keep warm.
Next, make blue cheese sauce:
In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream and buttermilk; mix with fork until smooth. Fold in blue cheese and gently mix with fork. Add juice of 1/2 lemon and two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in chives and refrigerate, covered, until needed.

Next, in a saute pan over medium-low heat, pan fry bacon, turning occasionally, until crisp, 7 - 10 minutes, or to taste. Meanwhile, prepare beef: Take 1/6 of ground beef and form into patty approximately 3 inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch thick. Repeat with remaining beef until there are six patties. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper and grill or pan-fry over medium-high heat for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes per side for medium rare, or to desired doneness.

Meanwhile, lightly toast buns and dress alfalfa sprouts with juice from remaining 1/2 lemon and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Season sprouts with salt and pepper to taste.

Now, assemble sliders:
Spread a light film of dijon mustard on both halves of bun. Mound 1/6 of dressed sprouts on bottom half of bun. Top with 1 of the slider patties. Add 1 tablespoon of the red wine-onion relish to the top of the patty. Place 1 slice of the bacon, cut into half if necessary to fit, on top of relish. Top bacon slice with a heaping tablespoon of blue cheese sauce, and finish with top of bun. Place 1 of the wooden skewers through top of slider to hold in place. Repeat process with remaining ingredients to yield 6 sliders.

Comments 

Serve immediately, making sure of course to remove skewer before eating. For wine, I chose the 2007 First Crush from Bedell , one of Long Island's finest wineries for reds. The First Crush is a Merlot/Cab Franc blend that sees no oak and drinks very much like Cru Beaujolais. Served slightly chilled, say 55 degrees F or so, it makes a delicious slider partner. It was also the wine used in the onion relish.