O’Leary Vache Burgers (Pepper-Crusted Burgers with Grilled Lemon Asiago Asparagus and Horseradish Dill Cream)

Pairs well with:


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

Every time I fire up my grill I look around and am surrounded by the beautiful landscape of our area, the Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan. After researching the history of the dunes, I found out that we have The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 to partially thank for this splendor. While our dunes were formed by glaciers during the last ice age, they were eventually covered by forests. During the 1800s our area was mined, in part, to help rebuild Chicago after the fire. When they deforested our area, they uncovered thousands of acres of these unique and breathtaking sand dunes. They also realized our area has very sandy soil which they were able to turn into farmland, asparagus in particular. We grow over 10,000 acres of asparagus in our county every year, making Oceana County The Asparagus Capital of the World.
Legend has it that Mrs OLearys cow started the fire by kicking over a lantern, although it has never been proven the legend still sticks to this day. I thought I would name my mouth watering burger after this legendary vache (cow) and hope that we can create a positive image instead of the negative press the cow has received. No matter what unseen circumstance started the fire, it inevitably was bound to happen with the sprawling wood built city and the lack of rain that year. After the fire, Chicagos response to this tragedy was an architectural phenomenon. Chicagos new urban skyline would arise with trendsetting skyscrapers and the Lake Michigan shoreline would unveil the worlds largest freshwater dunes. That was my inspiration!


Horseradish Dill Cream

2 tablespoons fresh horseradish, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Colavita Champagne Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped


1/3 cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Colavita Red Wine Vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 pounds ground chuck (at least 20% fat)
1/4 cup fresh black pepper, cracked

12 strips thick-cut hickory smoked bacon

Grilled Lemon Asiago Asparagus

18 pencil thin asparagus spears (cut to 5 inches)
1 medium-sized lemon
2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons Asiago cheese, grated

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 slices Havarti cheese
6 good-quality hamburger buns, split


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

To create the cream, place the horseradish in a food processor. Process until well-ground, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar, water, salt and pepper to the food processor and pulse to combine. Pour mixture into a non-reactive bowl and add the sour cream and green pepper sauce. Gently fold in the tomatoes and dill. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until assembly.

To make the patties, combine the soy, vinegar, garlic and chuck in a large bowl, handling as little as possible to avoid compacting the meat. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, form to shape patties then depress the centers for even cooking. Place the pepper evenly on a plate, and then gently press each patty into the pepper. Make sure to cover both sides of the patties with the pepper. Loosely cover and set aside until ready to grill.

Cook the bacon in a fire-proof skillet on the grill over medium-high heat until brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels to remove the excess grease. Wrap in foil to keep warm.

To prepare the asparagus, grate 1/2 teaspoon of zest from the lemon. Juice the lemon to yield 1 teaspoon of juice. Put the asparagus spears in a medium-sized bowl and toss with the lemon juice, oil, and salt. Remove asparagus from the bowl. When the grill is ready, lay the asparagus cross-wise on the grill rack, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning once. Remove asparagus and sprinkle with zest and cheese. Wrap in foil and set aside. They will continue to cook in the foil.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, about 5 minutes per side for medium. Place the cheese on the patties to melt during the last 3 minutes of grilling. Place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to lightly toast during the last 2 minutes of grilling.

To assemble the burgers, top each bun bottom with a patty. Add equal portions of the cream on top of the patties. Add 2 bacon strips and 3 asparagus spears to each patty, criss-crossing them over the cream. Attach the bun tops and enjoy!