I was inspired by several things in the creation of this particular recipe. It came just days after my unbelievable experience at “Un Jour Un Chef” that you can read all about here. Ludovic, the chef, taught us how to make a super tasty barbecue sauce from scratch, with the only “artificial” ingredient being tomato paste. Of course, on that day it was a bourbon BBQ sauce. I had other plans. We just happened to be right in the middle of an intense cherry season that lasted about 10 days. They went from barely ripe to black before we knew what to do with them. After freezing several bags for when my family visits next month, I decided a full-on recipe was in order.
As it turns out, Jé isn’t a big fan of cherries. I realized this last year, but somehow forgot until the giant bowl of ultra ripe cherries had sat on the counter for far too long, and didn’t seem to be diminishing at a very fast rate. I knew that if I didn’t want to end up throwing them out, I’d have to cook them. I thought of what I could possibly make that would be tasty and that would make Jé forget that there were cherries in it. Suggestions included duck thighs with cherry salsa, pork loin with cherry glaze… They all sounded good, but unfortunately Jé doesn’t like duck much either, and pork loin is more of a winter meal for us. Then, the idea came to me, as if it was always waiting there at the tip of my brain: spicy, sweet, tangy cherry BBQ sauce. Slathered on freshly grilled bacon cheeseburgers. Yes!
I set to work immediately on the sauce, keeping what I recently learned during my day in a professional kitchen in mind. Start with a good base, slowly build flavors, don’t be afraid of spice. I didn’t have any smoky oil or molasses, which was unfortunate, but I think the sauce turned out wonderfully despite its lack of gourmet ingredients. I made do with what I had, mostly handfuls and handfuls of cherries!
I also can’t believe that this is the first time I’ve made BBQ sauce. I guess my beer-braised pork could fall into this category, and I think that from now on I will make extra sauce along with it. Because really, is there anything better than meat absolutely covered in a sweet and spicy, thick and gooey BBQ sauce? The answer, in case you were wondering, is no. I love the delicate sweetness that the cherries brought to it. They were ultra ripe, so ultra sweet, but cooking them toned down their flavor. I also particularly enjoyed the marriage of the sauce with the crisp, salty bacon, and the seasoned beef. A little aged French cheese, pickle and onion, and that was all she wrote. We have company this weekend, and Jé suggested making these burgers again. That’s how impressive they were!
Cherry barbecue sauce and bacon cheeseburgers
Ingredients (makes 4 burgers and way too much sauce!):
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 T olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
3/4 C white wine
2 T tomato paste
1 t cumin
6-8 dried chiles
1 T chile garlic sauce
2 T mustard
1/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C honey
1/3 C ketchup
2 T soy sauce
Cherries (about 2 C, pitted and halved)
1/2 lb ground beef
1 egg yolk
1 T horseradish
1 T soy sauce
Salt and pepper
Begin by making your sauce. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sautée the onions, garlic and about 1 T brown sugar for about five minutes, stirring often, until translucent. Add the white wine and simmer until it is nearly all evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the spices, remaining brown sugar and tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes longer. Add the chile garlic sauce, soy sauce, mustard, honey and ketchup, along with about a cup of water if the sauce is too thick. Let simmer for about ten minutes longer. Now, add your cherries. Stir well, and leave sauce to simmer until thickened (I left mine for about 40 minutes). Purée the sauce, taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. You can always add a bit of cornstarch mixed with water if the sauce is too thin. Reserve.
Mix the ground beef, egg yolk, salt, pepper, soy sauce and horseradish until well combined. Form into patties and cook on the grill until cooked to your liking. Add the bacon directly to the grill, turning often. Place the cheese of your choice on top of the burgers about five minutes before the end of their cooking time. Toast the bread/bun of your choice, and drizzle some lukewarm BBQ sauce on the bottom bun. Place the hamburger on top, then add the onion, lettuce and pickles. Drizzle with more sauce and place bacon on top.