RhuBarBQ Belly Burgers with Warm Brussels Slaw

Pairs well with:


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

My “RhuBarBQ Belly Burgers with Warm Brussels Slaw” 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 to create a burger, and the components of it, that was reminiscent of the rustic flavors of my garden. And one that was deliciously unique, not overly complicated, or expensive. 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, 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 hardwood-smoked peppered bacon (preferably free-range), trimmed if necessary and 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 aluminum foil
1 pound freshly ground beef chuck (preferably organic, grass fed beef 80% lean), chilled
1 pound freshly ground beef sirloin (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
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 hardwood-smoked peppered bacon (preferably free-range), trimmed if necessary and cut into 1/4-inch crosswise slices
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Grilling and Assembling

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
3-ounces thinly sliced sharp provolone cheese
non-stick aluminum foil
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 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 should 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 patties, 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 and shape the mixture into 6 equal round patties, each about 4 1/2-inches in diameter, a generous 6-ounces each.   Place patties on prepared baking sheet and press a shallow indentation to within 1/2-inch of the edge of each patty. Lightly score a cross into the meat with a sharp knife. (Note: Lightly scoring the meat will allow the juices to reabsorb back into the patty as it cooks). 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.  With grill remaining on medium, place the sprouts on a perforated stainless steel grill pan and roast, turning, stirring, and shaken the pan occasionally, until bright green and lightly charred, about 4-6 minutes.  Remove from heat and, when cool enough to handle, process the Brussels sprouts in a food processor fitted with the 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.

Increase grill temperature to medium-high.

When grill is ready, brush grill rack with vegetable oil.  (Note:  Use paper toweling and tongs to evenly coat grill grates with oil).  Place a large platter and 6 serving plates near grill to warm.  Place the patties on the grill rack, close lid, and sear until bottoms are nicely browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip once, and continue grilling until desired doneness, about 4-6 minutes longer for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, evenly divide cheese among patties (about 1/2-ounce each). When done, remove from grill and place on warmed platter; loosely cover with aluminum foil allowing juices to redistribute.  

Clean the grill grate if necessary.  Slice the bread in half crosswise to create 12 equal portions, lightly brush one side of the 12 flatbread portions 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 other sides with remaining olive oil and evenly sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Flip and grill for an additional 1-2 minutes.  While second side is grilling, spread 2 tablespoons of the sauce with a small offset spatula to within 1/4-inch of the edge of all 12 flatbread pieces.  When done, remove bread slices to warmed plates, placing 2 slices on each plate.  (Note: Grilling the bread can occur during the last few minutes of cook time of the patties if grill space can accommodate). Place burgers, cheese side up, on bread bottoms and top each with a generous 2 tablespoons of the slaw.  Divide the reserved bacon, crumbling evenly over slaw.  Crown with other bread piece, sauce side down; serve hot. An adult bib might just be required!