Burger with Bacon Jam and Borscht Sauce
After a lengthy break, we are back and on our way to Lithuania. Lithuania is an Eastern European country bordering Belarus, Latvia, Russia and Poland.
Once upon a time Lithuania was the largest state in Europe, encompassing most of modern day Belarus and Ukraine. Of course, that was in the 14th century, things kind of went downhill after that. At one point Lithuania was completely swallowed up by the surrounding countries and ceased to exist as an independent state. Then there was the Soviet problem. Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in 1940.
During all this, Lithuanians managed to maintain a strong national identity. United by Catholicism and the Lithuanian language (a Baltic language closely related to Latvian), the people of Lithuania were the first Soviet state to declare independence on March 11, 1990. Moscow agreed by September of the following year and was even nice enough to remove troops by 1993.
Modern day Lithuania is part of the EU and the Eurozone. It continues to be largely Roman Catholic, and the Lithuanian language is alive and well. Like several of its neighbors, Lithuania is becoming more and more of a draw for tourists. Between gorgeous coastlines and a lively capital city, Lonely Planet describes Lithuania as “one of Europe’s gems.”
Since I’m a bit of a data geek, I always like to look at the country stats and see if anything jumps out. In this case, not much does. The only number, in fact, that jumps out as being unusual is the death rate. Oddly, Lithuania has the 3rd highest death rate in the world (according to CIA World Factbook). WTF? So, I, of course, had to know more. Luckily, the internet is designed to help those of us who are terminally curious. According to the World Health Organization Lithuania is 4th in the world in suicide deaths and 2nd in the world for death from alcohol. This, despite being over 75% Roman Catholic. Poisoning and suicide rates in Lithuania are twice as high as the regional average (which is higher than EU average). Alcohol deaths are almost 5 times that in the region. I couldn’t figure out if these were all independent numbers – for instance, does suicide by poisoning show up in both the suicide numbers and the poisoning numbers? Any way you slice it, these numbers are sad and perhaps an indication that life in Lithuania is not always so easy as the travel blogs would like us to believe.
I hear you saying, “enough Linda, what about the food?”. Lithuanians love food. Their cuisine is typical to the region with lots of dark bread, mushrooms, potatoes, pork, beef, borscht and pickles. Perfect food for a cold January in Boston – so let’s get started.
I personally don’t care for bacon on burger – this has as much to do with the texture as anything. Strips of meat on a patty are just annoying to eat and the flavor can overpower the burger. My mother recently introduced me to bacon jam. Bacon jam is an amazing invention, it gives you bacon flavors without the annoying strips of meat. And when you mix bacon with onions and mushrooms and a little sweetness of reduced vinegar, you have a little bit of perfection.
So I started there and added a sauce based on borscht – I love roasted beets, so this sauce was a big hit for me. The tanginess of the sour cream and dill compliment the earthiness of the beets and balance out the complex flavors of the bacon jam. Add some hard boiled eggs and a few dill pickles and put the whole thing on dark rye. The result is a super messy burger that is rich and dark and meaty. This is a heavy dish, so keep your sides light, a nice salad with roasted beets and goat cheese would be perfect.
Lithuanian Burger (click for printable version)
1 pound ground beef
8 slices dark rye or pumpernickel bread
Mushroom-Bacon Jam (recipe below)
Dill pickle slices
2 hard boiled eggs
Borscht Sauce (recipe below)
You’ll want to make the Bacon Jam and the Borscht Sauce first, then come back and make the burger.
Start by trimming 2 large beets, wrap them in foil and roast in a 350℉ oven for 1 hour or until they are easily pierced with a knife. While the beets are cooking soak 1 ounce of dried chanterelle mushrooms (covered) in boiling water. Set beets aside to cool. Leave the mushrooms soaking until you’re ready to use them
Form four patties from the ground beef and generously salt both sides. Using the pan that you used to make your Bacon Jam and the reserved grease, cook the patties over medium high heat until they reach desired temperature. Now grill your bread.
Depending on the size of your bread, you may want to cut each slice in half to fit the burger. Trim your bread and necessary so that you have 8 burger sized pieces. Grill them (on one side only) in the same pan until lightly browned.
Place grilled side of bread up and portion bacon jam on four pieces of bread. Add dill pickle slices (I slice my own from whole dill pickles because I like very thin slices on my burger), enough to make one layer across jam. Now add your patties and two slices of hard boiled egg. Top with a generous scoop of Borscht Sauce and the last 4 pieces of grilled bread. Keep the grilled side facing the burger – it will help keep the bread from disintegrating.
8 ounces bacon chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 onion sliced
½ ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
Brown the bacon pieces over medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon and place on paper towels to drain excess fat. Cook the onions in the bacon grease over low heat for about 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms from the hot water and chop. Add the mushrooms to the onions. Continue to cook until the onions are very soft. Drain and reserve bacon grease. Add bacon back into pan then add the vinegar. Turn the heat up and cook until vinegar reduces into syrup (this happens quickly, so stay close and stir constantly). This can be made ahead and just heated up before serving.
2 roasted beets
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup spring onions chopped (green parts only)
1¾ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Pulse the beets in a food processor then combine with all other ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
©2017 Copyright Linda Monach