Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Big Mouths & Boss Hawg Beans

Every so often my wife and I like to eat at one of the various chain restaraunts like Chili’s, Applebees, TGI Shenanigans, etc. Stephanie usually orders some form of chicken, potato, and salad/vegetable...pretty standard fare for her. Myself, I go for the burgers every time! I look at the ribs, chicken, and steak on the menu and just can't order it knowing at home I can make it much better AND much cheaper. Their hamburgers, on the other hand, are always fantastic and I find myself ordering them every time.

Then I read some terrible, terrible news. One of my favorites of the group, Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeño Ranch Dressing, was voted Worst Burger in America by Eat This, Not That. This mammoth meat creature weighed in at 1,901 calories, 138 g fat (47 g saturated), and 4,201 mg of sodium. I didn't even want to look at what percentage of the daily intake this made up. I was a big fan of Chili's line of Smokehouse Burgers and had tried them all at least once. I knew it was bad...usually food with bacon and triple cheese aren't good for you but I never thought it was this level of bad.

So it was time for a backup plan…I was going to make my own! Over the weekend we had some family visiting so burgers and hot dogs was a fun and easy dinner. I started with some 80/20 ground chuck, that’s 80% meat and 20% fat. For a juicy, flavor packed burger this is the best type of grind to get…the fat is indeed the flavor! You could also use ground beef, ground sirloin and even ground chicken or turkey. We started with about 2.5 lbs and made 6 patties. Each one was seasoned with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and put on the grill over medium-high heat. Most turned out well done except for a few of the thicker burgers which had a little pink in the center. We had some all beef dogs on as well.

The key to making a good burger great is the toppings. Here is what we used to make ours:

2.5 lbs. 80/20 ground chuck
Coarse sea salt
Ground Black Pepper
American Cheese
Mayonnaise (we used Chipotle Mayo)
Yellow Mustard
Sliced Red Onion
Sesame Seed Buns

As a side dish I wanted to try a baked beans recipe I spotted over at Steven Raichlen's message board. The original version called for it to be made in the smoker but with wind and rain in the forecast I decided to use the oven instead. This recipe is from Boss Hawg’s BBQ in Topeka, Kansas and was featured in America’s Best BBQ by Ardie Davis & Chef Paul Kirk. Here is my rendition:

Brian’s Boss Hawg Beans
3 16-ounce cans Pork & Beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup dried bacon pieces or chopped bacon
1 cup diced Granny Smith Apples
1 cup diced onion
1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce
¼ cup golden raisins
2 tsp liquid smoke (omit if using outdoor smoker)
2 cloves minced garlic
½ tsp ground coriander

If cooking in the oven: Preheat to 350 and combine all ingredients in a 2 Qt. casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the beans are bubbly.

If cooking in the smoker: Preheat grill to 275 and combine mixture in a 2 Qt. foil pan and cook uncovered for 3 hours with wood smoke from soaked cherry or apple chips.

This dish got mixed results from our group. The original recipe called for 2 cups brown sugar and that just seemed like a lot to me so I left out a ½ cup. Wow, even without the extra sugar these beans were sweet. The apples, raisins, and BBQ sauce added even more sweetness. The bacon pieces gave it some nice flavor as did the coriander but for me this was almost more of a dessert! I probably wouldn’t make this again unless it was requested but would definitely still like to try it in the smoker. Despite the mixed reviews the leftovers were gone by the next night.

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