Tailgating Fall Camp: Bacon-Blue-Cheese Burgers of the Gods on Perfectly Bronzed Buns with Man-Child Ketchup and Fig Jam

Please try a huge dollop of fig jam on top, too. Trust me.

Finished burger with blue cheese, man-child ketchup, Petit Jean Bacon and a slice of Rainbow heirloom tomato

For articles from the 2012-13 season, go to http://www.razorgumbo.blogspot.com

Razorback fans, we await the dawning of Bielemania. If you are like me, you have salivated over the running skills of Alex Collins and sharpened your indoor Baggo skills as others enjoyed their bowl games. You’ve pondered, in a dream state, if Randy Shannon can work Miami miracles with an undersized corps of linebackers.

Well, it’s fall camp time, both for the players and those crazies, like me, who launch our fan-hood weeks before the season, poring over football publications and planning what we are going to eat for the big game. For your patience and loyalty, Razorback fans, I will now reward you with a tailgate recipe for the ages: Gourmet Burgers of the Gods.

Make no mistake: Razorgumbo is back in a big way. We’re getting our ground game rolling with two pre-season articles designed to get you dreaming about your game day grub well before the season opener against a scary-tough Louisiana-Lafayette.

Razorback Head Coach Bret Bielema

Razorback Head Coach Bret Bielema

After a year of posts read mostly by the author’s Facebook friends and a smattering of international foodies, Razorgumbo is going big this year with a new site, sporty logo and some great support and exposure from local sports journalists.

Let’s Eat

Everyone loves a juicy charcoal-grilled burger. Follow my guidance and you will be adored by fellow tailgaters, whether then are in your living room, on your back deck or together with you braving the heat of the August/September home games. The keys to this burger are the homemade buns, which will remind you of the ones at gourmet restaurants; aromatic Gorgonzola cheese; and, surprise, a little pot of fig jam.

A little pot of wonderfulness

A little pot of wonderfulness

Figs? Work with me. During a waking dream, I had an epiphany about the combination of grilled beef, blue cheese and sweet fig spread. This was one dream that turned out to be real.

I have two fig trees in my back yard but they it is not quite time for harvestt.

I have two fig trees in my back yard but it is not quite time for harvest.

To put things in motion, let me say that a great burger deserves an incredible, sturdy, bronzed bun that can stand up to the rigors of the beef slabs and epic condiments we are going to layer on there.  After much research and experimentation, this is the most amazing recipe I could find.

Perfectly bronzed buns

Try these incredible buns instead of using the flimsy store-bought types.

Perfectly Bronzed Buns

Buzzkill: You are going to need 2-4 hours to let these buns rise, so they come first, before you touch the meat. Go soften your butter now. I suggest making two or three batches of buns one day ahead of the game and freezing the extra. Then your focus on game day can be on preparing and cooking the meat, dip and dessert, and desparing over Erin Andrews’ absence from College Gameday. Store-bought buns just don’t cut it with huge, juicy hunks of meat.

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons (or one small package) active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour (a special flour with more gluten)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used sea salt)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Sesame seeds  (your choice)

Is your butter soft? Okay now…

“Proof” the yeast by combining in a glass measuring cup one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Just let this sit until it gets a little foamy, or for about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the two types of flour with the salt. Add the butter and rub into the flour between your fingers, making crumbs that are evenly distributed. Using a dough scraper, (see picture below for a small one or get a big rubber or wooden spatula) stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape the dough onto a clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The slapping is important.

Scraping the dough together

Scraping the dough together

Let the dough remain just a little tacky, because if you add too much flour to dry it, the buns will be tougher when they are baked.

slapping the dough

Slapping the dough

Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about one to two hours.

Now line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide the dough into eight equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. (This is important — I didn’t do this the first time and the buns ran together, forming baking ridges.) Cover the buns in the baking dish with a piece of plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Let the buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.

In a cold oven, set a large shallow pan (like another baking dish or the bottom of a broiler pan) on the oven floor, and pour water into it. Now preheat the oven to 400 degrees with set another rack in the center. Then beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. if you like, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake these buns on the center rack, above the pan of water, turning the sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times by way of Comme Ca restaurant in Los Angeles, and also through another nice food blog called parsleysagesweet.com. It makes eight 4-inch to 5-inch burger buns, and I appreciate everyone who aided in its  development.

Man-Child Ketchup

Man-child ketchup

Man-Child ketchup

If you’re going to put this much work into a tailgate burger, why not make your own signature sauce?

  • 1  7-oz. jar of roasted red peppers, strained
  • 1 cup store-bought ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (It must be smoked!!! This is the flavor key!!)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, and you better use Tabasco

Add the red peppers and ketchup to a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the mustard, horseradish, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, and hot sauce and blend until well combined. Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl and serve. FYI, if you take the leftovers of this sauce and combine it with some brown sugar, you have the makings of a fantastic sauce to go over top of a meatloaf. We did it.

I borrowed this recipe directly from http://www.foodrepublic.com, where it is called “grown-up ketchup.”

Burgers of the Gods

Alt Burger shot

  • 2 pounds freshly ground chuck
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Start with freshly ground, nicely red, coarse-ground chuck like the type they have in bulk at the butcher counter. Don’t get the beef that is hidden by plastic.

Keep the meat cold, and feel free to wet your hands with cold water. In a large bowl, mix the beef, salt, pepper and onion powder until barely combined. Try to massage the meat as little as possible during the process or you will end up with hard, dry burgers.

Split the meat into six portions and make patties of uniform thickness without pressing very hard. Smooth out any cracks in the burger.  Make your patties and refrigerate them, covered with plastic, until right before you cook them.

There are many ways to make burgers, but in general, don’t put a lot of wacky stuff in the meat itself. Instead, simply put the decorations on top. Cheeses and chunky stuff within the burger can just make it harder to stay together. The only things you need to put into the meat itself are the dry spices.

Pre-heat the grill to a very hot temperature. I recommend a charcoal chimney to get your charcoal perfectly and evenly lit. You can get these metal cylinders with a wooden handle on the side at your local sporting goods stores, or at retailers like Wal-Mart. Right before cooking, use a basting brush to lightly coat the side of the meat that will be next to the flame with melted butter, olive oil, or a blend of the two. That will actually help keep it from sticking to the grill and improve the flavor profile.

When the burgers hit the grill, cover them with the grill lid.

Resist the urge to press the burger at all during cooking. Pressing is for amateurs. All you are doing is releasing those delicious juices onto the flames and making the burger harder.

Cook the burgers on one side for about two minutes. They are ready to flip when it is easy to get the metal spatula under them, because the crust under the burger has separated from the grill. Until that moment, they will try to stick. when they are cooked just right on the first side they will scoop right up.

Gorgonzola: Slice it cold, please, and place it on the burger right after it is flipped.

Gorgonzola: Slice it cold, please, and place it on the burger right after it is flipped.

When you flip the burgers, give them a quarter turn if you want that beautiful grill pattern.  If you are using cheese, add it on top now. I recommend Gorgonzola blue cheese, as its strong, sharp flavor is a perfect match for beef. The burgers will need another 2-3 minutes on the second side, but you can be sure about it by making sure the meat registers 160 degrees with a meat thermometer in the center of the burger. There is no shame in checking.

Rest the burger for several minutes when it is done. Meanwhile, brush the inside of the homemade buns with butter and grill them over the flame, being careful not to let them burn. The grilled texture on the bun is vital, both for flavor and for preventing the bread from becoming soggy.

Now put that big, fat burger on the already grilled bun and add the man-child ketchup, lettuce, some nicely smoked bacon like Petit Jean Or Wright’s, a slice of an amazing tomato if you have one, and, finally, a big dollop of fig jam or spread. You can get the fig spread at the deli of your grocery store.

Pump up the jam. The fig jam.

Pump up the jam. The fig jam.

I paired these Burgers of the Gods with a six-pack of Rolling Rock beer. (Remember when they used to advertise that they used Arkansas rice?) For my money, I would think about complementing these burgers with the the beer-battered onion rings we wrote about last season. These onion rings will stay crispy in the fridge for two or three days, and you can put them in a bag to transport to the game.

Shut-The-Front-Door Onion Rings


  • A couple of purple onions
  • 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups cold beer
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil or shortening (We used Crisco and it was unbelievable)

Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, Greek seasoning, salt, and black pepper; stir well. Add 2 cups cold beer and egg, stirring until thoroughly blended and smooth. Pour oil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 375°. Or, use a professional fryer like the one my wife gave me for Christmas. It’s even better!

Slice onions a half-inch to an inch thick, dip into batter and shake off excess. Fry the onions in batches until golden. You will know when the time comes. Drain on paper towels. You have never had an onion ring this crunchy and perfect in your life.

If you really want to get ridiculous with it, put one of the onion rings on the burger and put those wonderful condiments and bacon on top, smush that burger down and get ready to enter Hog Heaven. See you next week.

About Razorgumbo Gameday Grub

John Haman is a Certified Renaissance Man (he made that up) and author of the Razorgumbo Gameday Grub blog, which he launched in August 2012 for the enjoyment of his friends. In 2013 his Razorgumbo posts will be featured on Arkansas Sporting Life and Arkansas Expats. A resident of Little Rock, John left journalism long ago, but his blog now allows him to combine the sacred passions of Razorback football and food. Each week during the season (and sporadically during other sports, he hopes) Razorgumbo offers a detailed menu for the upcoming game with cooking how-tos on everything from moon Pie bread pudding to Rum, Forest, Rum Punch. Between blogs, John is a black belt in Judo, Arkansas Master Naturalist, husband, father of three, veteran financial advisor and frequent director of plays In the Little Rock area. He is always taking ideas for great gameday recipes.
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One Response to Tailgating Fall Camp: Bacon-Blue-Cheese Burgers of the Gods on Perfectly Bronzed Buns with Man-Child Ketchup and Fig Jam

  1. mamasplace says:

    Excellent choices on the flavor combinations. And I never thought of baking my own burger buns. Can’t wait for game day and to try this. WPS!!

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