*Super Bowl Week* Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders

Burgers are one of the best “having people over for a casual get-together” foods, but let’s face it, on Game Day, people want a little of everything, and a big burger is just too much with everything else you have to eat!

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That’s where sliders come in – little miniature burgers, PACKED with flavor, but not too heavy to eat! These sliders really deliver on flavor and they pack a little heat, too, so they are sure to be a crowd pleaser!

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Start off by cooking 6 pieces of bacon (crispy) in a large skillet. (Cook more if you can’t resist the temptation to eat some!) A few minutes per side on a medium low heat should be enough. Set these aside on a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.

In a mixing bowl, put 1 pound of ground beef and add to it 1 tsp each of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano, and a 1/2 tsp of cayenne. Use your hands to combine this all together and then form the meat into 12 patties, about 3 inches wide.

Raw burgers

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Don’t over-knead the meat! Get it just combined so all the spices are evenly distributed, and then STOP! Over-working the beef causes it to be tough, and nobody likes a tough burger! Use your palms to lightly squeeze each ball of meat so it becomes a flat patty – no extra pressure is needed!

Heat up the same pan you used for the bacon (don’t wipe out the grease!) over a medium heat and add the burger patties to it. It’s important that you don’t overcrowd the pan, so if they don’t all fit with an inch of space between them, do it in two batches. Cook on one side for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. (This much time should mean they are medium well to well-done.)

Cooking burgers

Just before they have finished cooking, add a slice of pepper jack cheese to each one. (If you buy the single-serving sliced kind, one of those slices should divide nicely into 4 squares that fit perfectly on these burgers.)

If you want raw onion on your sliders (I personally can’t imagine a burger without onion!) then while the burgers are cooking you can cut up about half a large onion. (Cut the half into quarters and then slice up each quarter.) You can also prep the buns by taking 3 large kaiser rolls and cutting them into quarters. Open up each mini-bun and add the onion (if desired) to each one and top with a drizzle of your favorite barbecue sauce. Put a burger on top of each, and then break each slice of bacon into quarters and put two pieces on each burger.

Bacon

Put the caps on each burger, put them on a serving dish, and you’re done!

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You might find yourself making these a lot more than just when you’re entertaining!

Full Recipe:

Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders

Yield: 12 sliders

Ingredients:

6 pieces bacon
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 slices pre-packaged pepper jack cheese
3 large Kaiser rolls, cut into quarters
1/2 large onion, cut into quarters and sliced
Barbecue sauce, for topping

Process:

1) In a large skillet over medium low heat, cook bacon for 2-3 minutes per side or until crispy. Set aside on a paper towel.

2) Combine beef, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, and cayenne together in a mixing bowl. Form the beef into 12 (three inch) patties.

3) In the same pan that you cooked the bacon, over medium heat, cook the 12 patties for 3-4 minutes on the first side and 2-3 minutes on the second side. If they don’t all fit comfortably in the pan, do 2 batches.

4) Add 1/4 of a slice of pepper jack cheese to each burger just before they are finished cooking, and then remove from heat.

5) Open each mini bun and top with onion, barbecue sauce, and then each burger.

6) Break each slice of bacon into quarters and then place 2 pieces onto each burger.

7) Cap the burgers and serve immediately.

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Slow Cooker Apple Pulled Pork

Here it is. Finally. The fabulous, knock your socks off entree you’ve been promised for a couple of days now.

Pulled pork is probably one of my favorite “barbeque” dishes. Contrary to popular belief, “barbecue” and “grilling” are not interchangeable terms. Grilling involves putting your food directly on the heat source and allowing the heat source to cook it quickly. Barbecue, on the other hand, is allowing a heat source to heat the air around your food, and the heat in the air cooks your food slowly. This is the essential process behind how ovens work, and on a much smaller scale, how slow cookers (or “crock-pots”) work. Because of this, they make the perfect barbecue cooking vessels – especially in the dead of winter!

Finished Dish 1

Aside from its general deliciousness, pulled pork is also great because it’s so versatile. You can eat it by itself, on a sandwich, even in tacos. (I’m definitely trying that out with my leftovers – pulled pork tacos just sounds awesome!)

So, buckle up and hang on, because this one takes a bit of work and time, but I assure you, it is very, VERY worth it! (And it’s not difficult!) Don’t be afraid, just try it! You’ll be surprised at how easy it is!

Finished Dish 2

Start by making your spice rub. I used 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp garlic, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp celery salt (or celery seed), 2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Mix this all together in a bowl until it’s combined.

Dry Rub

Set this aside and prepare your meat. You’ll need to use bone-in pork shoulder for this (also called a “butt” in stores, but it comes from the shoulder of the pig). I used a four and a half pound cut, which fit pretty nicely into my slow cooker. If you’re flexible on when you can make this, just keep an eye on your meat department sales. Try to buy it when it’s gone on sale and resolve to make it within a day or two. I only paid $6.44 for my 4.32 pound shoulder because I tend to buy meat when they’ve put it on a severe sale because the “use or freeze by” date is in a couple of days. (And trust me, when you see how much this makes, you’ll realize that $6.44 is unbelievable considering the amount of people it will feed. Hint, it comes out to less than a dollar per person.) It should look like this.

Skin Side Down

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Once you’ve got it out of the packaging, put it on a platter, skin side up, and use a very sharp knife to cut a crosshatch pattern through the skin and the fat cap. You want to leave this fat on the pork because it cooks down into the meat which is what makes it tender and juicy.

Crosshatch

Now comes the fun part! Using your hands, take the spice rub you made a few minutes ago and rub it over every last available surface of the pork, starting with the fat cap and rotating all the way around. You want to get the spices into all the crevices and use ALL of that spice rub! When you’re done, chances are your hands will look like this:

Hands

And the pork should look like this:

Spiced Pork

Set this aside and let all those spices sink in for a bit. WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY, and then dice up 1 granny smith apple and 1/2 a large red onion. (Hint, use the other half of the red onion from the other day’s coleslaw recipe!)

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Put this in the bottom of your slow cooker, and then carefully set the pork shoulder on top, skin side up.

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If any of the spice rub is left on your platter, scrape it right off onto the top of the shoulder.

Now comes the secret weapon. A lot of barbecue cooking is done with alcohol, especially beer. This recipe is no different, but this is an apple pulled pork, so I decided to kick things up a bit and used an apple ale.

Apple Ale

I prefer Angry Orchard, because that’s just always on hand in my house, but any apple ale would work! Pour this right overtop of your onion and apple bed, around the pork.

Ready to Cook

That’s it! Put the lid on, turn it on low, and WALK AWAY. I actually did mine for 3 hours on high and then 3 hours on low, but that’s because I work from home and knew I would be around to make that switch. If you’re going to be out of the house all day, doing it on low for 8 hours should do the trick.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: No matter how good it looks, no matter how divine it smells, no matter how badly you want to “check on it,” DO NOT take that lid off until the cooking time is up! Any time you take the lid off, you have to add an extra HALF HOUR of cooking time. Not kidding. Don’t do it!

If you’re like me and you’re home all day, you can spend some of your waiting time by making the coleslaw and barbecue sauce to go with it. If you’re going to be out of the house all day, you can actually make the coleslaw, barbecue sauce, and spice rub the night before. (You could even dice the onion and apple beforehand, too!) If you rub the spices into the pork the night before, just cover it and stick it in the fridge overnight. This will give the spices a chance to really soak into the meat even more!

When it’s time to take the pork out, do so carefully and put it on a large plate. If you’ve done your job right and left it in there all day without messing with it, the meat should literally fall apart. This means that gigantic bone right in the middle should easily separate from the meat, so get that out of there and throw it away. You should also easily be able to scrape off the excess fat from the fat cap and throw that away, as well. When you’re done all that, you should have a large hunk of meat falling apart on your plate:

Ready to Pull

Using two forks, shred the meat until it’s all pulled apart.

Pulled

Go ahead, eat a piece or two. You know you want to. 🙂

Once its all pulled, return the meat to the slow cooker to combine it with the juices and apples and onions. Leave it in there until you’re ready to serve it, and then use a slotted spoon to dish it out of the slow cooker. Put a big hunk on a toasted bun, top it with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, and serve with the roasted potato wedges that I posted yesterday.

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If you were planning on serving four people, like me, chances are you’ll have plenty of leftover pork. (I can’t speak for your potato wedges or the coleslaw – those pretty much disappeared off my table before I knew what happened, but there’s enough pork there to feed 10-12 people!) Maybe sometime later this week I’ll give the pulled pork taco idea a try…

Finished Dish 4

Oh, and make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand. This sandwich gets pretty messy!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my little fantasy trip to summer in the dead of winter! Keep coming back for more deliciousness!!

Full Recipe:

Slow Cooker Apple Pulled Pork

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients:

One 4 to 5 pound bone-in pork shoulder
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp garlic
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp celery salt (or celery seed)
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 medium granny smith apple
1/2 large red onion
1 bottle apple ale

Process:

1) Combine brown sugar, garlic, cayenne, celery salt, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

2) Place pork shoulder on a large platter, skin side up, and score a crosshatch pattern through the skin and fat cap.

3) Use your hands to rub the spice rub into the pork, starting with the fat cap and rotating to all the sides of the shoulder. Make sure to get in all the crevices!

4) Set aside the pork and dice up the apple and onion. Put these in the bottom of the slow-cooker to create a bed for the pork, and then put the pork, skin side up, on top of the apples and onions.

5) Pour the apple ale onto the onions and apples, around the pork.

6) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 3 hours and then low for 3 more hours.

7) Once the pork is finished cooking, remove the shoulder from the slow cooker and remove the bone and fat cap.

8) Using two forks, shred the meat and then return it to the slow cooker to combine with the juices, apples, and onions. Leave in the cooker for a half an hour, or until you’re ready to serve.

9) Dish the pork out of the cooker using a slotted spoon and serve as desired. Any leftovers should be covered and put in the refrigerator within an hour of serving.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Oh no, it’s another teaser post before the main course! 🙂

I PROMISE the showstopper is coming later today – but this sauce was so good, it had to have its own recipe post!

Hmmmm, coleslaw, potato wedges, and now BBQ sauce… I wonder what the entree will be!

Barbecue sauce is a tricky thing, and many people are picky about it. My house tends to prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s, and while I’ve definitely got nothing against Mr. Ray, it is… well, sweet! If you’re looking something with a little more of a bite, you’ve got to give this sauce a try. It’s surprisingly easy!

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2.5 cups brown sugar (the less sugar you use, the more of a bite it will have, so you could use even less than this for more tangy sauce), 3/4 cup ketchup, 2 tbsp dijon mustard, 2 tbsp molasses, 1 tsp garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Whisk it all together until everything is combined and the sugar is fully dissolved, and then put it over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Then, turn the heat down to low so it stays at a simmer and let it reduce. A good long while. I did about 40 minutes – you might want to get cozy with a book in a kitchen chair, because you don’t want to leave it unattended (you’ll need to stir it every so often) but standing there staring at a simmering pot of sugary, spiced vinegar can get awfully boring if you’re not otherwise occupied.

Once it’s reduced down, turn the heat off and let it cool for about 15-20 minutes before transferring it to a storage container of your choice. I used a mason jar, but a plastic squeeze bottle would also work well! Bear in mind that as it cools, it will thicken more, so don’t be put off if it still seems to liquid-y to be barbecue sauce when you turn the heat off.

BBQ Sauce

Full Recipe:

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Yield: About a pint, plus a few more ounces.

Ingredients:

2  cups apple cider vinegar
2 & 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp molasses
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Process:

1) In a medium saucepan, whisk together all ingredients until combined and sugar is dissolved.

2) Put on a medium high heat until sauce comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer and reduce, stirring occasionally, about 30-40 minutes.

3) Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool for 15-20 minutes before transferring it to a jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated.