FreshTartSteph Recipe: Fire-Roasted Tomato Burgers wth Aioli Sauce

This juicy, beefy burger has a secret.

Knowing that the recipe was conjured by Corner Table Restaurant Chef Scott Pampuch, you might guess the secret is locally-raised, grass-fed beef. You’d be partially right, since any burger is only as good as its beef, and Pampuch is dedicated to serving and promoting high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.

You might also guess pork, since Pampuch serves pork in every form at the restaurant, teaches pig butchering classes at Rustica Bakery, and displays eerily attractive pig skulls in his kitchen. Again, you’d be partially right, given the bits of crispy bacon studding the interior of the burger.

But the real secret—one that’s at once completely accessible for home cooks and raising a few local eyebrows—is a can of Muir Glen Reserve organic tomatoes. Pampuch partnered with General Mills-owned Muir Glen for their 2010 Tomato Vine Dining Tour, which involved touring the California field where the tomatoes are grown, developing recipes for Muir Glen, and hosting a Vine Dining dinner at Corner Table a couple of weeks ago, featuring the limited-edition tomatoes.

I attended the dinner, as well as a pre-dinner demonstration, where Pampuch demonstrated the sofrito he featured in the dinner’s pasta Amatriciana (dinner details, as well as recipes for his sofrito and Amatriciana sauce, will be on my personal blog, Fresh Tart, by the end of the week). The Reserve tomatoes—picked ripe and canned within 8 hours—are only available online. I received a sample at the dinner and used them to prepare the burger pictured, from one of two recipes Pampuch contributed for the tour.

This burger is layered with flavor, impossibly juicy, clever, and easy to prepare. Pampuch explained that he often adds chopped fresh tomatoes to his burgers to counter grassfed beef’s natural leanness. I jump up and down when chefs reveal easy, high-impact tricks like this. Chopped tomatoes in burgers! I can do that. You can do that. And let me say, we should all do that because it makes a serious burger. The first one I cooked wasn’t pretty enough —darn—and before I knew it, I’d wolfed down the whole thing—a beefy dessert to the lunch I’d just eaten. My husband inhaled the one in the photo on our way out for dinner.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Burgers with Aioli Sauce

Recipe by Scott Pampuch for the 2010 Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour
Makes 6 burgers

Sweet & Sour Sauce
1/4 c. juice reserved from canned tomatoes (below)
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

Aioli Sauce
1 pasteurized egg yolk
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic
3/4 c. vegetable oil
Sweet & Sour Sauce (above)
1 Tbsp. reserved tomatoes (below)

1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 can (14.5 oz) Muir Glen Organic or Meridian Ruby Fire Roasted diced tomatoes, drained, 1/4 c. juice reserved, 1 Tbsp. tomatoes reserved
4 oz. bacon, crisply cooked and chopped
1 egg
1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6 rustic burger-sized rolls, sliced

In 1-quart saucepan, mix sweet & sour sauce ingredients. Simmer over medium eat about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce coats back of spoon. Cool to room temperature.

In food processor, place egg yolk, lemon peel, lemon juice, and garlic. Cover; process until blended. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle oil, and then cooled sweet & sour sauce through feeder tube until blended. Pour into small bowl and stir in reserved 1 Tbsp. canned tomatoes; refrigerate.

In large bowl, mix ingredients for burgers; form into 6 patties. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Place patties on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 8-10 minutes on each side or until meat thermometer inserted in center of patties reads 160 degrees F. Place burgers on rolls and top with aioli sauce.