Rustic RhuBarBQ Belly Burgers with Warm Brussels Slaw and Baked-on-the-Grill Buns

Pairs well with:


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

My “Rustic RhuBarBQ Belly Burgers with Warm Brussels Slaw and Baked-on-the-Grill Buns” 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 perfected 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! Next, I wanted special buns worthy of this burger so I decided to bake them right on the grill using fresh pizza dough! 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 and textures. I had fun creating it (and eating it!) and I hope you will enjoy it, too!


Baked-on-the-Grill Buns

Parchment paper
All-purpose flour for dusting
1 pound fresh pizza dough, room temperature

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 organic 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
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt


Line a 12-inch x 15-inch or larger rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour; set aside. To make the buns, lightly flour a flat work surface. Place dough on prepared work surface and, with floured fingers or rolling pin, press or roll dough into a 10-inch circle. To make 6 equal portions of dough, cut dough circle in half and then cut each half into wedge-shaped thirds. Shape dough into rustic (not perfect) 4 1/2-inch to 5-inch rounds and place on prepared baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle dough with additional flour and cover with a clean, finely-woven, non-textured cotton cloth or parchment. Set aside to rest and rise for at least an hour. (Note: Pizza dough does not rise as much other breads but will puff into a beautiful bun once it hits the heat of the grill).

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

To make the RhuBarBQ Sauce, when grill is ready, 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 or “X” 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 and the indentation helps with shrinkage and maintaining patty shape and size as it cooks). Brush patties 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 rendered bacon fat in pan 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). To make the buns, place dough rounds on the rack and close lid for 1 minute. Open lid and brush the puffed dough rounds with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook until medium-brown grill marks appear on bun bottoms, about 1-3 minutes longer. Using tongs or spatula, carefully turn the buns over and brush grill-marked sides with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Close lid for 1 minute. Open lid and turn buns as necessary to achieve even browning and nice grill marks; about 5-8 minutes total cooking time. Remove buns from grill and place on wire rack to cool.

Place a large platter and 6 serving plates near grill to warm. If necessary, clean the grill rack; brush with additional vegetable oil.  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.  

Meanwhile, clean the grill if necessary. Slice the buns in half horizontally through the middle as you would a bagel. Brush the cut sides with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and toast cut sides on grill until light brown, about 1-2 minutes.  When done, remove bread slices to warmed plates, placing 2 slices on each plate. 

To assemble the burgers, spread 2 tablespoons of the sauce on cut sides of buns and place burgers, cheese side up, on bread bottoms. Top each burger 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 may be required!