Apple Smoked Gruyere Sirloin Burgers with Bacon and Watercress
1-1/4 pounds ground sirloin
1 pound ground chuck (20% fat)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional (to taste) for seasoning patties before grilling
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional (to taste) for seasoning patties and apple slices before grilling
1 generous cup shredded apple smoked Gruyere cheese
12 slices applewood smoked bacon, if desired, halved crosswise
12 approximately 1/2-inch-thick slices peeled, cored tart large apple, such as Granny Smith
Vegetable oil for brushing the apple slices and the grill rack
6-12 approximately 1/4-inch-thick slices apple smoked Gruyere cheese (to personal preference)
6 sourdough oblong French rolls, split
3 cups watercress, tough stems discarded
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
To make the patties: Spread the ground beef out in a large shallow pan. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, pepper and shredded cheese. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it; mix together well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, and form the portions into patties to fit the rolls; cover and set aside, or chill until needed.
When the grill is ready, place the bacon in a large fire-proof skillet and cook, in two batches or in 2 skillets, on the grill rack until crisp tender, turning with tongs to brown as necessary.
Transfer to paper-towel lined large plate to drain; discard fat. When cool enough to handle, carefully wrap in a large piece of aluminum foil and set aside.
Brush the apple slices and grill rack with vegetable oil; sprinkle both sides of apple slices with freshly ground black pepper. Using a large metal spatula, place apple slices on the rack; cover, and cook, turning once, about 2 minutes per side, until crisp tender. Remove from rack, transfer to large sheet of aluminum foil; carefully wrap and set aside.
Again, brush grill rack with vegetable oil; season patties with salt and pepper to taste on both sides just before cooking. Place patties on rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 5-7 minutes on each side for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the foil packages of apple slices and bacon on outer edges of the grill to warm, then place 1 to 2 cheese slices over cooked and turned side of burgers. Place rolls, cut side down, on outer edges of the rack to toast lightly. Cover; grill until patties are done to preference.
To assemble the burgers, arrange about 1/2 cup watercress on each roll bottom. Place a burger and equal portion of the apples and bacon on top; add roll tops, cut sides down, and serve.