Big Momma’s Three-Napkin Juicy Jersey Truck-Stop Burger
My mother helped to put my father through business school at Columbia by teaching High School English in the city. One thing they discovered during their commute back and forth to New Jersey was a Truck-Stop that served a cheeseburger with a fried egg on top–sort of a “meal-for-the-day”–breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all on a bun. Being short on cash, eating out was a luxury, but my mom realized that she could make the sandwich at home with fairly cheap ingredients. Rather than buns, she used sandwich bread, and she added a thick slice of onion, which they both loved. All could be cooked on the stovetop in a jiffy, any time of the day, for a real “stick-to-your-ribs” meal.
My family moved to Massachusetts when I was five, and all I remembered of New Jersey was the sparkling ice on the tree branches after a fresh snow, and the smell of eggs, which as a child, made me nauseous.
Later in life, now married and on a budget myself (and no longer adverse to eggs), I gave my mom’s burger a try–with my own spin. After 6 years of apartment living, my husband and I finally had a grill, and we vowed to never cook indoors again. We’re both fire-eaters, so the onions immediately got doused in Tabasco. New England is home to several small-producing pork farms, and really, what is an egg without bacon? We experimented with local cheddars, heirloom tomatoes, tried eggs from several farmstands. The recipe as it stands is not only a great local burger, using some products unique to our region, but it can be customized with products from any area of the country (that’s when it’s at its best!) and that makes it a great American burger. It’s about family and memories and sacrifice and success. It’s about biting into a big, honkin’ burger at a picnic table, surrounded by loved ones, the skin on your nose hot and tight from the summer sun, and everyone cracking up with laughter as you come up with egg on your face. Literally.
2 sweet onions (such as Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla) stem and root ends trimmed, skinned, and outer papery layers discarded
1/2 cup Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
2 lbs freshly-ground 85 percent lean Chuck meat (if possible, ask the butcher to do this while you wait)
1 small Spanish onion, stem and root ends trimmed, skinned, and outer papery layers discarded
2 tablespoons McCormick Grill Mates Hamburger Seasoning
2 generous teaspoons Liquid Smoke
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly-ground sea salt
1 tablespoon Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 pieces Uncured Pepper Bacon (preferably locally-produced)
1/4 cup Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 pieces Deli-Sliced Yellow American Cheese
12 slices Pepperidge Farm Original White Bread
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons butter, divided
12 small farm-fresh eggs
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium high.
Cut three 1/3-inch-thick horizontal slices through the equator of each of the two sweet onions to make 6 full rounds of onion. Being careful to keep the slices intact, place them in a shallow pan or plate with a rim, and pour the 1/2 cup of Chipotle Tabasco sauce over them to fully coat the slices. Set aside to marinate. Turn the onion slices every fifteen minutes, to ensure that they are fully coated with Tabasco. Take care to keep the slices whole. (This is most easily done using tongs.)
Remove the ground chuck from its packaging, and place it in a large bowl. Quarter and core the small Spanish onion, then coarsely chop it. Place the chopped onion in the bowl of a food processor and process until the onion begins to liquefy. Add the onion and its juice to the ground chuck, and mix the meat and onion together lightly with your hands.
Add the rest of the seasoning to the meat: 2 tablespoons of McCormick Grill Mates Hamburger Seasoning, 2 heaping teaspoons of Liquid Smoke, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce, and the 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley. Finish with the 1/2 teaspoon of freshly-ground pepper and the 1 1/2 teaspoon of freshly-ground sea salt, and again, mix lightly with your hands until the seasonings are evenly distributed.
Shape the meat into 6 patties of equal amounts roughly the size of the bread slices, tossing the patties back and forth between your palms. Do not over-handle or compact the meat, as this will lead to dense, dry burgers. Place the patties on a large plate or platter, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1/2 an hour.
While the patties are chilling, lightly brush a large, rimmed cookie sheet or a large, two-burner griddle with 1 tablespoon Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Place the sheet or griddle on the grill and let it heat until the oil shimmers. Lay the 12 strips of the pepper bacon out flat in a single layer on the pan. When the bacon begins to sizzle and curl up on itself, and the underside appears crusty and brown, flip the slices over, using tongs. Flattening the bacon as much as possible with a spatula, cook until second side is golden brown and crusty, the bacon appears crisp, and all the fat has been rendered. Remove the cookie sheet/griddle from the grill, reserving the fat in it. Remove the bacon with tongs, and set aside on paper towels to drain.
Brush the grill surface with Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Remove the six onion slices from the Chipotle Tabasco Marinade, taking care to keep them intact, and allow any excess Tabasco to drip off. Place the slices directly on the oiled grill and cook for 6 minutes each side. Use tongs to flip the slices in order to keep the slices whole. Remove the onions from the grill to a plate or platter, and tent with foil to keep warm.
Remove the patties from where they have been chilling, and brush them lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Oil the grill again, as well. Grill the patties for 4 minutes with the grill cover closed, flip the burgers, close the top, and grill for 3 more minutes. Place one slice of cheese on each burger, and close the cover of the grill for the last minute of cooking. Remove the burgers from the grill and place on a platter; tent with foil to keep warm.
Grill 12 slices of Pepperidge Farm Original White bread until lightly golden on each side. Remove from the grill and spread one side of each slice of bread with ketchup. Place an onion slice of each of six of the ketchup-spread slices of bread. Place a patty, cheese side up, on each onion slice. Cut each stack in half diagonally. Cut each slice of bacon into 2 pieces, and place two half-strips on each half-burger-stack. Cut the remaining slices of bread diagonally, as well. Tent the burger stacks with foil to keep them warm.
Place the pan used to cook the bacon back on the grill with a second one just like it. Divide the rendered bacon fat between the two pans, and add a tablespoon of butter to each pan. When the butter has melted, crack six small eggs individually into each of the pans, spacing the yolks as far away from each other as possible. As the whites begin to set, lightly baste the yolks with the pan drippings by spooning up the rendered bacon fat and butter, and drizzling it gently over the yolks. Repeat the basting twice, for a total of three times. When the yolks are glazed, but not quite set, remove the pans from the grill, and trim the eggs so that one fried egg fits neatly onto each half of a burger. Lay the egg on top of the bacon, and place the top slices of bread, ketchup side down, on the egg. Don’t press too hard or you’ll break the yolk and lose the “WOW!” factor when your guests bite in!
Serve two halves to each guest, grab a handful of (or at least three per person!) napkins, a bottle of Sutter Home Zinfandel and ENJOY!