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Waltz Across South Central Texas Longhorn Burgers

Growing up in south central Texas, my whole world consisted of bluebonnets in the spring, watermelon in the summer and a whole lotta great Texas barbeque in between. The barbeque joints that can be found in my neck of the woods are absolutely bare bones. One of them is no more that an old stone building with a fire pit in the floor. From this simple set up comes some of the most delicious and mouthwatering smoked meats in the world. Much like the rules for Build A Better Burger, side dishes and fancy garnishes aren’t allowed at these places. Only sliced white bread, pickles, onions, jalapenos, and, on the rare occasion, a thick slice of longhorn cheese, served on butcher paper with a wad of paper towels, accompany your chosen main dish. Oh, by the way, no cutlery served here, these places are strictly b.y.o.p.k. (bring your own pocket knife). Wash this all down with an ice cold Dr. Pepper, brewed up the road a piece, and you have a little slice of heaven on earth. Mmmmm, I can smell the smoke from here.

These vivid memories are the inspiration for my burger recipe. I have adapted these genuine smokehouse flavors, a spicy beef patty, a little creamy avocado to cool everything down and a perfectly sweet Dr. Pepper based sauce, and have come up with what I believe to be the perfect representation of my little corner of the world. No gratuitous ingredients here, just the real deal. All that’s missing is a nice glass of Sutter Home wine and Lyle Lovett on the stereo. Oh yeah, maybe a wad of paper towels.


1 cup Dr. Pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
1 packed tablespoon light brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
2 large ripe avocados
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
1 tablespoon mild chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
6 slices (deli slicer #2 setting) longhorn cheese
12 slices of precooked bacon
½ medium size sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
24 hamburger dills
½ cup sliced pickled jalapenos
3 tablespoons butter, softened
12 slices Texas Toast garlic bread, thawed


Preheat an outdoor gas grill to medium high to high, depending on your grill. Let’s put it this way, you’ll need a good hot fire. In a small sauce pan, combine the Dr. Pepper, ketchup and brown sugar. Place the sauce pan just off center of the middle of the heat and bring to a slow boil or brisk simmer and cook, whisking frequently. Reduce the liquid’s volume in about half or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 20 minutes. When the mixture is done, remove from the heat and cover; set aside.

While the mixture cooks, place the chopped pecans in a small skillet and place it toward the center of the fire next to the sauce pan. Stirring the nuts frequently, toast to a walnut brown. Remove from the heat and cool; set aside.

Peel, remove the seeds and chop the avocados into large chunks. Place into a medium size bowl, add the lime juice and cumin; mix and mash slightly. Cover and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, Tabasco and cooled pecans. Gently combine being careful not to over work the meat. Divide the meat into six equal size meatballs; flatten to about 1/2" thickness, and shape into patties. Place patties onto the hot grill and cook on each side for approximately 4 – 5 minutes on each side. Approximately 1 – 2 minutes before the end of cooking time, top each of the patties with one slice of the cheese and 2 pieces of bacon; to melt the cheese and heat the bacon. Remove the patties from the heat and transfer to a baking pan; cover with foil and rest.

Spread a small amount of the butter on each side of the pieces of the Texas Toast; set aside. Quickly scrape the grill with a brush to clean. Place the buttered bread on the grill and toast to a golden brown before turning over and toasting on the other side. Remove from the heat and transfer to a flat surface. Spread one side of six of the pieces of the toasted bread with equal amounts of the avocado mixture. Top the remaining six pieces of the bread with the cheese and bacon topped patties. Top the patties with desired amounts of the sliced onions, hamburger dills and jalapeno slices. Drizzle the top of the burgers with a tablespoon or two of the Dr. Pepper sauce and a good sprinkling of the remaining black pepper. Top the burgers with the avocado covered Texas toast and serve immediately.


This is a burger that is sure to make the great state of Texas proud!