Open-Faced RhuBarBQ Shish-Ka-Burgers with Warm Brussels Slaw and Cool Apple-Herb Gremolata

Pairs well with:


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

My “RhuBarBQ Shish-Ka-Burgers are the result of an abundant crop of rhubarb and the desire to fire up the grill after a long Pennsylvania winter. Gardening is my passion and I look no further than my own backyard victory garden for inspiration. I’m always trying to create new and interesting ways to feature the treasures from my garden.

The mouth-popping tang of rhubarb seemed like the perfect companion for the sweet and savory elements needed to create a sauce. The wine gave it a balanced, earthy quality that I was looking for and the right combination of these elements came together to become RhuBarBQ sauce!

Once I had created the sauce, I wanted a new take on the burger itself. A deliciously unique burger doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive. Or round! What’s more fun than food on a stick? And thus, the Shish-Ka-Burger was born! I found that skewering burgers brings a design element to a simple burger: This burger, hugging the skewer, then removed and nestled in a beautiful piece of grilled naan bread, is architectural. Of course, a great burger always begins with great meat. I used grass fed beef from a local Amish farmer; it’s important to me that my meat come from cattle that received no hormones or antibiotics in their feed and were humanely raised. Grass fed beef is also healthier for us (higher in “good” unsaturated fats and lower in “bad” saturated fats), and it just tastes better! To top it all off, I added some grilled Brussels sprouts for color, crunch, and Vitamin C, tart apple and fresh horseradish for an extra pop of wow!, and best of all: Vitamin B: Bacon! Everything just tastes better with bacon!

This recipe is the epitome of my cooking philosophy: The best quality ingredients that I can grow, beef produced with a care for the earth and what’s best for humans, and new flavor combinations, shapes, and textures. I had fun creating it (and eating it!) and I hope you will enjoy it, too!


RhuBarBQ Sauce

1 slice thick-sliced peppered bacon, finely chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup thinly sliced shallots

2 cups 1/4-inch sliced red rhubarb, fresh or fresh frozen (if frozen, thawed and drained)

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic cloves

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup Sutter Home Zinfandel

3/4 cup best quality ketchup

1 tablespoon best quality whole grain Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon chipotle pepper sauce

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper


non-stick foil

2 pounds freshly ground beef chuck (preferably organic, grass fed beef 80% lean), chilled

4-ounces rindless pork belly (preferably free range), ground or minced by hand, chilled

2 tablespoons finely minced shallot

2 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic cloves

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 tablespoon chipotle pepper sauce

2 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 thin metal skewers, 12-inches in length, chilled

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Warm Brussels Slaw

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, sliced in half through the core

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2 slices thick-sliced peppered bacon, cut into 1/4-inch crosswise slices

1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Cool Apple-Herb Gremolata

2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled tart apple (preferably Granny Smith)

2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/8 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel (lemon zest)

1/8 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh horseradish

pinch (1/16 teaspoon) fleur de sel sea salt

Grilling and Assembling

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

6 original tandoori-style flatbreads (naan) measuring approximately 9-inches x 6-inches

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse salt


Preheat gas grill to medium-high by turning on all burners and closing lid.

To make the RhuBarBQ Sauce, cook bacon in a 12-inch or larger fireproof skillet on the grill until browned and crisply done, about 4-6 minutes. Add butter to bacon and rendered bacon fat in pan and stir to melt. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rhubarb and garlic and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture breaks down, about 5 minutes. (Note: Use a flat-edged wooden spatula or tines of a fork to break up ingredients as they cook). Add brown sugar, stir to incorporate, and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium; stir in wine, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle pepper sauce, salt, and pepper and simmer until reduced to make about 1 1/2 cups, about 15-20 minutes. Spoon mixture into a 1 quart-sized fireproof sauce pan with a lid, cover, and set aside. (Note: Mixture will be very thick but spreadable and will stick to the back of a spoon).

Line a 12-inch x 15-inch or larger rimmed baking sheet with foil. To make the Shish Ka-Burgers, place the beef, pork belly, shallot, garlic, parsley, chipotle pepper sauce, salt, and pepper into a large, chilled bowl. Using a large wooden spoon or cool hands, gently, but thoroughly, mix the ingredients together until incorporated; do not over mix. Divide mixture into 6 equal portions (about 6-ounces each). Shape mixture around skewers making a 8-9-inch long “shish” or sausage shape, about 1-inch thick. (Note: Alternately, shape mixture between wax paper and insert skewer after meat is shaped. Also, it may be necessary to adjust the length of the meat depending on bread size). Place skewers on prepared baking sheet and brush meat with olive oil. Cover with foil and refrigerate or keep chilled until ready to grill.

To make the slaw, in a medium bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again. Place the sprouts on a perforated stainless steel grill pan and roast, turning and stirring occasionally, until bright green and lightly charred all over, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and, when cool enough to handle, process the Brussels sprouts in a KitchenAid food processor fitted with a shredder attachment until shredded or coarsely chop by hand; set aside. In a 12-inch or larger fireproof skillet, cook bacon on grill until browned and crisply done, about 6-8 minutes. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and place on paper toweling to drain; set aside and reserve for burger assembly. Add shallot to bacon fat and cook until softened and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add shredded Brussels spouts and sauté until all ingredients are incorporated and sprouts have wilted a bit but remain crisp-tender, about 1-3 minutes. Stir in vinegar; remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

To make the gremolata mix the apple, parsley, lemon zest, horseradish, and salt in a small bowl until combined; set aside.

Increase grill to medium-high. Place a large platter and 6 serving plates near grill to warm. When grill is ready, oil the grates with vegetable oil. (Note: Use paper toweling and tongs to evenly coat grill grates with oil). Place the Shish-Ka-Burgers on the grill perpendicular to the hot grill grates, close lid and cook for 2 minutes. Open lid, carefully roll them a quarter turn, close lid and cook for 2 additional minutes; repeat with quarter turns until all sides are nicely charred and meat is cooked to desired level of doneness, about 8-10 minutes total for medium. (Note: The metal skewers conduct heat helping the meat to cook quickly so monitor accordingly). When done, remove from grill, place on a warm platter, and loosely cover with foil to allow the juices to redistribute.

If necessary, clean the grill rack. Place covered saucepan with RhuBarBQ Sauce on grill to warm. Lightly brush one side of the 6 flatbreads with half the olive oil and evenly sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place bread on grill, oiled side down for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed and lightly charred. While first flatbread side is grilling, lightly brush the top sides with remaining olive oil and evenly sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Flip and grill for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove the flatbreads from grill and wrap in foil to keep warm while assembling the burgers.

To assemble the 6 Shish-Ka-Burgers, spread 1/4 cup of the RhuBarBQ Sauce with a small offset spatula to within 1-inch of the edge of flatbreads and top with a generous 2 tablespoons of the Warm Brussels Slaw. Next, place 1 Shish-Ka-Burger in the middle carefully removing skewer. Divide the reserved bacon, crumbling evenly over slaw. Sprinkle meat with 1/4 teaspoon of the Cool Apple-Herb Gremolata. Repeat with remaining burgers. Serve open-faced or gently fold and secure with an unadorned wooden skewer.