Grass-fed Beef Burgers with Bacon-Onion Marmalade

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Bacon.Onion.Marmalade. You’re welcome.

On Memorial Day, I ran my first ever 10k. Since there wasn’t an actual race on Memorial Day, we made our own faux race on a new section of greenway here in Cary. My farthest previous distance was 5k, or 3.106 miles, so this was surprising, to say the least. To celebrate this victory, we had lovely grilled burgers with ground beef from a local farm, Black Hoof Run Heritage Beef. We hadn’t made hamburgers in a loooong time, and they were so incredibly delicious!

Are you wondering what the big idea is about grass-fed beef? Is it just another trendy foodie fad? Another way to part you and your precious paycheck? Click HERE for a primer on grass fed beef. Not only does grass-fed beef taste better, it is lower in bad fat and higher in omega-3 fats (good fat).

With our delicious grass fed burgers, we treated ourselves to one of our favorite condiments, bacon-onion marmalade. This is basically a caramelized onion reduction with bacon and it is very delicious.

I first had bacon onion marmalade during my locavore’s lunch at Chuck’s. It was incredible. The idea of making it myself intrigued me–how hard could it really be? Turns out, not hard at all, although it is time-consuming. Sadly, it’s not recommended to can this lovely concoction, but you can refrigerate it for a couple of weeks and use it on many different dishes. Or share some with friends. You’ll have to work out for yourself who is “marmalade worthy” :-)

We made this with locally produced onions and locally and humanely produced bacon from Mae Farm. I cannot possibly say enough good things about the pork we have purchased from Mae Farm. It is always incredible. Yes, bacon is not health food, I do realize that. But what you end up using is in such small quantities that any health effects of the bacon fat are pretty negligible.

If you like bacon and caramelized onions, you will love this-it is sweet, onion-y, tangy and rich. Just the way to celebrate a super day!

Looking for a Deviled egg recipe? Click HERE!

Bacon-Onion Marmalade

  • 4 strips thick cut bacon
  • 4 lbs. yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 c. apple cider
  • 1/4 c. white or wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like spicy heat)
  1. In a saute pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve, but keep the bacon drippings.
  2. Add sliced onions to the bacon drippings and cook on medium-high for about 10 minutes, until all onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add all remaining ingredients to the pan. Stir to combine. Simmer until mixture is almost out of fluids and is thick and jammy–about an hour.
  4. Reduce heat to low and cook another 10 minutes until mixture is very brown and sticky. You may need to add a bit of water if the mixture is too dry.
  5. Serve what you need and refrigerate the rest in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.

 

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Braised Beef Shanks and Ragu

Shank in the beef cut chart.

Shank in the beef cut chart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A funny thing happens when you shop for meat from the farmer/rancher. You learn a LOT about how to make a bit of meat stretch a long way and you learn about cuts of meat you have never heard of. Farmers are, by their nature, frugal people. I have also learned that most farmers love to eat. This makes for some great conversations about menu planning. Try having that conversation with the meat guy at your chain grocery store. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Until last year, I had never even considered buying beef shanks, let alone how to cook them. As a rather inexpensive cut of meat, they deliver TONS of flavor, but require a long, slow cooking method, like braising. Mae Farm and Farmhand Foods both offer excellent quality beef and this dish uses them to their maximum potential. One of the lovely aspects of braising is that you can make dinner while you watch a football game. I find that pretty fabulous.

I found a promising recipe on epicurious, reduced the amount of meat, upped the level of vegetables in the ragu and reduced the overall liquids to make a thicker sauce for pasta and polenta. It is AMAZING. Not only did the final product taste delicious and tender, but my entire house smelled like I had Super Chef visiting. Yum, yum and YUM. I could actually eat this out of a bowl by itself. And, I have to admit, I have eaten it by itself. Still. Awesome.

So, if you’re in the mood to try something new and make the most out of a less expensive cut of beef (especially if it is locally produced and hormone/antibiotic free!), give this a try!

Beef Shank and Sausage Ragu (12 servings)

  • 3 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. Mae Farm Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 3 1/2 lbs beef shanks with bone
  • 2 large organic onions, chopped
  • 3 cups of chopped organic carrots
  • 2 cups of organic mushrooms
  • 1 bunch of organic kale or other greens
  • 2 28 oz. cans organic whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small can organic tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle dry, red wine
  • 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp. organic dried Italian spices
  • 1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small skillet, toast fennel seeds over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in an oven proof pot and add sausage. Brown in pot for about 10 minutes, breaking up chunks with the spoon. Using a slotted spoon, remove from pot and put aside in a large bowl.
  4. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to pot. Sprinkle beef shanks with salt and pepper. Add to pot and brown at medium high heat for about 6 minutes on each side. Transfer to bowl with sausage.
  5. Add onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms and greens to the pot and saute until brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Return beef shanks and sausage to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Add tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, fennel seeds, spices to pot. Bring to simmer.
  7. Cover pot and put in oven. Braise 2 1/2 hours until beef is very tender and falling off the bone.
  8. Transfer shanks to a cutting board and remove meat and dice. Return diced meat to the pot and simmer on stove for about 10-15 minutes to thicken and reduce the sauce.
  9. Skim fat off the sauce (I actually cooled the sauce, put it in the fridge and skimmed the fat off the next day.)
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve over pasta, polenta or bread.
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