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Smoked Apple Burgers

Photo: Knouse Foodservice
Yield: 24 servings

7½ lb. lean ground beef or turkey
2 cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
3 ½ cups smoked apple barbecue sauce (recipe follows), divided
2 cups minced scallions
1 cup minced parsley
2 Tbsp. smoky barbecue spice blend
1 cup caramelized onions (recipe follows)
24 whole grain buns, split, grilled
1½ lb. Gouda, cheddar or Provolone cheese

Smoked Apple Barbecue Sauce (yields 1 qt.):
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups minced sweet onion
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. chili powder
½ cup tomato paste
1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups natural applesauce, prepared
¼ cup molasses
2 tsp. liquid smoke seasoning, hickory
3+ cups water

Caramelized Onions (yields 1 cup):
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 cups finely chopped sweet onions

For burgers: In a bowl, gently mix meat, crumbs, 2 cups smoked apple barbecue sauce, scallions, parsley and barbecue spice blend. Form 24 6-oz. burger patties. Place on a sheet pan, cover and refrigerate until ready to cook and serve.

In another bowl, combine remaining smoked apple barbecue sauce with mashed caramelized onions. Hold.

To serve: Grill each burger to desired degree of doneness. Place the hot burger on a grilled bun spread with 2 Tbsp. barbecue-onion mixture. Top burger with a slice of cheese and serve while hot.

For smoked apple barbecue sauce: In a saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onion and sauté 4 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and chili powder and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.

Mix in vinegar, applesauce, molasses and liquid smoke, along with 3 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened. Add water if necessary to make sure it doesn’t burn or get too thick. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before using as directed.

For caramelized onions: Toss oil and chopped onion together in a bowl and spread into an even layer on a sheet pan. Roast in 350°F convection oven, stirring occasionally, until very tender and caramelized, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before storing in a covered container in refrigerator until ready to use.

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