Taste of Michigan Burgers (a.k.a. Hickory Smoked Bacon Cheeseburgers with Mild Raclette, Triple Cream Sherry Cherry Almond Spread and Caramelized Onions)
Triple Cream Sherry Cherry Spread
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup Sutter Home Triple Cream Sherry
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
A pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (About 3 cloves, minced or pressed)
2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 medium sweet yellow onion (sliced not chopped)
1/2 cup Vernors soda (A Michigan soda; ginger ale soda can be used as a substitute)
12 slices hickory smoked bacon
2 lbs. ground chuck or sirloin
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing on grill rack
3/4 pound Raclette cheese (semi-soft cheese made in Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan or is also a European cheese), sliced thinly (Gruyère can be used as a substitute)
6 Kaiser rolls, good quality and split
1 hour before beginning to cook, place the dried cherries in a spill proof container and pour in the triple cream sherry to marinate unrefrigerated. After 1 hour, scoop 1/2 cup of contents into a food processor or blender and chop finely. Remove and place back into container with remaining 1/4 cup. Set aside.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover for all ingredients, or preheat a gas grill to low to cook onions, and then switch to medium-high for bacon, almonds and burgers
Pour cream and salt into food processor and turn on. Watch until the cream starts to thicken. Add garlic and continue to watch until cream looks solid. It will still be a softer consistency than butter. Place into a container and put in the refrigerator to firm up a bit until needed.
Heat a large, heavy nonstick fire-proof skillet on the grill with olive oil in the bottom. Place sliced onions in for 20 minutes closing the grill, watching carefully so as not to burn them and stirring occasionally. Add half of ginger ale to onions, cook for 15 minutes, then add remaining ale and cook for 10 more minutes (45 minutes in total) Watch carefully as each grill may be different. There will be no liquid in the pan when the onions are ready. Cover in aluminum foil in a separate container for later use.
Turn grill up to medium-high. Use the same pan for the bacon and cook until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Wrap in foil to keep warm.
Gently combine the burger meat, salt, pepper and cumin into a bowl, handling as little as possible. Form 6 patties to fit the buns, leaving the centers with a concave area that will fill in as the burgers cook. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
To make the almonds, drain off the bacon fat from the skillet, wipe out the skillet with paper towels, and set the skillet back on the grill. Add the almonds to the skillet and toast until golden and fragrant; set aside.
Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack and close the grill, turning once after 5-7 minutes for medium done, more for further cooking. Leaving the liquid behind, spread the solid sherry cherry spread equally onto each burger with 5 minutes left for grilling. Sprinkle sliced, toasted almonds on each burger equally. Place cheese slices next, with approximately 3 minutes of grilling. Place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly during the last 2 minutes of grilling.
To assemble each burger, place equal amounts of caramelized onion on each bun bottom, then the cherry, almond and cheese topped burgers and 2 slices of bacon. Slather top bun on the bottom side with garlic butter, add to top and serve.