Juniper-Smoked Red-Eye Fjord Burgers with Wild Mushroom Ragout, Aquavit Aioli, Crispy Bacon and Lingonberries
When the winter holidays roll around, my mind dances with visions of lutefisk, bacalao, lingonberries, dill, sour cream porridge . . . wait, yours does not, too?I admit that not everyone is thrilled at the site of pickled fish or smoked, well, parts, but I am striving to convert Scandinavian food-a-phobes into cravers of all things Nordic. This burger just might be the perfect gateway edible. It combines the smoking traditions of Scandinavia with a great burger featuring some of my favorite flavor combination of caramelized onions and mushrooms, tangy cheese, crispy bacon, tangy lingonberries, a little espresso kick and a creamy, aquavit-inspired aioli. Vel bekomme!
1/4 cup juniper berries
3/4 cup good-quality or homemade mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
2 teaspoons grated horseradish root
1/2 cup finely-minced fresh dill
2 teaspoons caraway seed
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
12 slices thick-cut bacon
1/3 cup Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1 large red onion, peeled, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups assorted cleaned and chopped local wild mushrooms (Shiitake mushrooms can be substituted)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons Sutter Home Pinot Noir
1/2 cup good-quality jarred or homemade beef gravy
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 pounds freshly ground beef chuck
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 pound thinly-sliced Jarlsberg cheese (Swiss cheese can be substituted)
6 round rye or half-rye burger buns, split
18 round dill pickle rounds
2/3 cup lingonberry preserves (whole berry cranberry sauce can be substituted)
Stack 2 sheets of 1-foot long heavy duty aluminum foil on your working surface. Spread the juniper berries onto the foil, fold the foil in half and crimp the edges so that the berries are well-sealed in the aluminum foil. Use a fork and pierce the top of the foil pack 8 times.
Place the juniper berry pack directly onto your grill’s heating element. Preheat your gas grill to medium-high temperature or, alternatively, prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover.
While the grill is preheating, add the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, horseradish and dill to a medium bowl and stir to combine.
When the grill has come to medium-high heat, place a large, heavy-bottomed grill-safe skillet onto the grill rack. Add the caraway, fennel and coriander to the skillet and stir the spices until they are toasted and fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the spices to a coffee grinder or small food processor and grind to a powder. Add the spices to the mayonnaise mixture, stir to combine, cover and chill until ready to assemble the burgers.
Return the skillet to the grill and cook the bacon until crisp. Transfer the crisped bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Drain all but 1 teaspoon of the bacon grease from the skillet and return the skillet to the grill.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, reserving the remaining oil for later use. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion, mushrooms and cardamom and cook until caramelized, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the Sutter Home Pinot Noir and stir to deglaze the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the beef gravy and black pepper, stir to combine, remove from heat and set aside.
To make the patties, combine the allspice, espresso powder and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the ground beef chuck and gently combine the ingredients together. Form the mixture into 6 equal patties and salt both sides of each patty evenly with the Kosher salt.
Generously brush the grill rack with the reserved olive oil and place the patties on the rack. Grill the first side for approximately 4 to 4 1/2 minutes, or until juices begin to emerge from the top. Flip the burgers and top each patty with the mushroom mixture followed by the sliced Jarlsberg cheese, evenly dividing amongst the patties. Close the grill lid and grill until the cheese has melted and until your desired doneness (my preference is for medium, which is approximately 4 more minutes). Transfer the patties to a platter to rest.
Place the burger buns split-side down onto the grill rack and grill until lightly toasted, about 15 to 20 seconds.
To assemble, evenly spread the split sides of each top and bottom bun with the aioli. Place 3 dill pickle rounds on each bottom bun, followed by the burger patties. Evenly divide the lingonberry preserves between the 6 burgers, spreading it directly atop the cheese. Add 2 slices bacon per burger atop the lingonberry layer and add the bun tops to the burgers. Cut the burgers in half with a serrated knife, if desired, and serve. Enjoy!
Makes 6 burgers.