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Piedmont Burger with Crispy Speck & Pine Nut Aioli


Pine Nut Aioli:
2 Meyer lemons, halved (can substitute regular lemon)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1 cup mayonnaise

Crispy Speck
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces speck (smoked prosciutto), thinly sliced and cut into thin strips

Grilled Fennel:
1 bulb fennel, core removed, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 2/3 pounds ground chuck
1/3 pound fresh Sweet Italian Sausage, removed from casing
1/8 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves, finely chopped (can substitute fresh oregano)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
8 ounces robiola cheese, shredded (can substitute fontina)
6 bun-sized pieces soft Italian bread, sliced lengthwise


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

To make Pine Nut Aioli, brush cut sides of Meyer lemons with olive oil. Place on grill for 6 minutes. Juice the lemons. In the bowl of a food processor combine pine nuts, garlic, 3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice from the grilled lemons (reserve remaining juice for Grilled Fennel), and mayonnaise; pulse until well combined; puree.

To make Crispy Speck, heat oil in 12-inch fireproof non-stick skillet on the grill. Add speck and cook over medium-high heat until crispy, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

To make Grilled Fennel, brush fennel with olive oil. Place fennel on the grill rack; grill for 20 minutes, turning occassionally. Julienne fennel. Place fennel in a bowl. Pour reserved Meyer lemon juice over fennel.

To make the patties, combine the beef, sausage, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the bread.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, just until done, about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. During the last few minutes of cooking, top each burger with equal amounts of cheese and place the bun pieces, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, spread a generous amount of Pine Nut Aioli on the cut side of the buns. On each bread bottom, place equal amounts of Crispy Speck, a patty topped with cheese, and equal amounts of grilled fennel. Add bread tops and serve.

Makes 6 burgers.


In America, when I think of Italian food, I generally think "red sauce" kind of food. In this burger, I wanted to approach Italian food from a different angle by featuring a lot of ingredients that are used frequently in Northern Italian cooking, which I experienced during my travels there. Many of the flavors in this burger come from my fascination with the Piedmont area of Italy (which is near France).