Montalcino BLT-no Burgers

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

I was inspired to Italianize a classic BLT cheese burger.Crisp bacon is replaced by grilled porchetta, a slow-roasted pork loin bound in belly fat and flavored with fresh herbs. Crisp lettuce is now crunchy fennel and radicchio, enlivened with lemon and nutty oil. The tomatoes are tender and juicy from being grill-roasted. I chose fontinella cheese because of its creamy sharpness. Finally, mayonnaise is replaced by roasted garlic caper sauce. This burger arrives via Montalcino, Italy! Mangia!


Grill-Roasted Garlic & Tomatoes:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 large heads fresh garlic, 1/4-inch cut off the top to expose the cloves
9 fresh roma plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

Roasted Garlic-Caper Sauce:
1/3 cup quality mayonnaise
1/4 cup quality ketchup
1/4 cup nonpareil capers
2 tablespoons grated fresh sweet onion (after juices have been squeezed off)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Fennel-Radicchio Slaw:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil (if unavailable, use walnut oil)
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup minced fresh shallots
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 cups thinly sliced fresh fennel (about 1 medium bulb, trimmed and cored)
1 cup thinly sliced fresh radicchio

1/4 cup diced roasted piquillo peppers
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon naturally smoked kosher salt
2 1/2 pounds freshly ground beef chuck

Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack
6 1/4-inch thick slices porchetta (Italian herb-roasted pork)
6 – 1 ounce slices fontinella cheese
6 bakery Vienna burger rolls, split (egg-wash-glazed, with a slightly crisped crust and a soft, tender interior)
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves


Prepare a low-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to low direct heat.

To make the garlic and tomatoes, in a small bowl, mix together oil, thyme and rosemary. Place garlic on individual pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on a fire-proof baking sheet. Drizzle garlic and tomatoes evenly with oil mixture. Seal garlic in the foil. Place garlic and tomatoes on grill rack, close lid and cook until garlic cloves are soft and tomatoes are shriveled, softened and slightly charred, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from grill and cool to room temperature on baking sheet.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Meanwhile, to make the slaw, in a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, honey, shallots and pepper. Stir in fennel and radicchio. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until assembling burgers.

To make the roasted garlic-caper sauce, squeeze the cooled roasted garlic bulbs from their skins to a small bowl and, using a fork, mash them together until smooth. The yield should be a slightly heaped 1/3 cup. Mix in mayonnaise, ketchup, capers, onion, vinegar, parsley and Worcestershire until evenly blended. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

To make the patties, in a small bowl, mix together roasted red peppers, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and salt. Spread the ground chuck out in a large shallow pan and, handling the meat as little as possible, evenly mix peppers mixture into meat. Shape into 6 equal patties sized to fit the rolls. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.

To cook the porchetta, place slices on grill rack and cook 4 to 5 minutes per side, turning once, until meat is lightly char-marked and edges are crispy. Remove from grill, wrap with foil and keep warm. Burn off the grill and scrape the grill rack as necessary.

To cook the patties, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning once, until nicely charred and done to preference, about 4 to 6 minutes on each side for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, top each patty evenly with cheese and place the rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, place equal portions of the slaw on each roll bottom. Add a cheese-topped patty, then a porchetta slice and then 3 tomato halves. Sprinkle tomatoes evenly with basil and then drizzle evenly with sauce. Add the roll tops and serve with napkins and a smile! Makes 6 burgers.