Finally we've come to the main event from our Strawberry Summer dinner - these cheeseburger sliders with cheddar, bacon, and strawberry barbecue sauce! If you like burgers at all, you will LOVE these ones - it hits all the right notes of sweet, savory, salty, and a fresh locally-made bun brought it all together.

I got the inspiration for this recipe from a post on Today Food, where the featured item was strawberries. Since we were already planning to have a strawberry-themed dinner ourselves, it seemed completely serendipitous. I doubled everything to fit the size of our crowd, and it worked out great. We opted for sliders instead of burgers, just to change things up a bit, but for convenience sake the recipes listed below are for 6 regular sized burgers.

The strawberry barbecue sauce is completely unique - it has all the normal tastes of a traditional barbecue sauce, with a definite tang from the strawberries. I didn't have a food processor handy when I made the barbecue sauce, so instead of pureeing everything, I simply mashed the strawberries, which gave the finished sauce a lot more texture.

All in all, these pretty little burgers packed a serious flavor punch, and made for a beautiful table setting. Each of the separate components of the dish - from the bacon (we used some leftover candied bacon to spruce them up even more) to the strawberry barbecue sauce to the creamy cheddar and chewy dinner rolls - it was just so good together! When the warm weather comes back next year, I'll be making these again.

Strawberry Barbecue Sauce Ingredients 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper Pinch of red pepper flakes 1 tablespoon dark molasses 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions Place the strawberries in a blender. Add the tomato paste, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to the blender and pulse until mostly smooth and uniform, about 1 minute. Pour the strawberry mixture into a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Add the molasses and brown sugar, and bring to a slow boil, stirring often. Once the sauce is nice and thick, and has been slow boiling for a few minutes, remove the pan from the heat, cover with foil and keep warm until ready to use. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for about a week.

 

Burgers with Cheddar, Bacon and Strawberry Barbecue Sauce Ingredients 2 1/4 pounds ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat) 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon ground black pepper 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley 12 strips thick-cut smoked bacon 6 thick slices cheddar cheese 6 hamburger buns, split (brioche buns would be best)

Directions To make the patties, combine the ground chuck, soy sauce, pepper and parsley in a large bowl and mix together just until all ingredients are incorporated. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form gently into patties, pressing your thumb lightly into the center of each patties to leave a small indentation. This will allow the burger to cook with a more equal thickness. Set finished patties aside until ready to grill.

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until browned and crispy (or to your preference). Drain on paper towels to remove excess grease. Set aside.

Heat the grill to medium-high. When the grill is ready, lightly oil the grill rack with a paper or cloth towel to prevent sticking. Place the patties on the rack and cook until done to preference, 3-5 minutes for the first side. When the top of the patty looks like it has just started to cook, and spots of grease are bubbling on top, flip once and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Take care not to press down on the patties, as this will release their juices and result in a dry burger. When nearly finished, top each patty a slice of cheese, cover the grill, and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove the patties from the grill and place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, top each bun bottom with a patty, a generous scoop of barbecue sauce, and two strips of the bacon. Spread a little more BBQ sauce on the toasted sides of the bun tops, if desired, and serve!.