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Contest Entry: The Jelly Biafra

Contest Entry: The Jelly Biafra

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The Jelly Biafra- my entry for the Riot Fest Burger contest- features a homemade sweet and spicy red pepper jam, bacon, melted havarti, and red onions sitting decadently atop two butter-toasted onion rolls!

The only thing I love more than food is music, which is why the Riot Fest “Sun’s Out Buns Out” burger contest practically felt like my calling in this life. Every year I say the exact same phrase: Riot Fest is my favorite time of year. And by the time they had to stop holding it here in Denver, it had become such a fixture of my life that off I skipped to Chicago without a second thought.

And so with that, I present my entry to the contest: The Jelly Biafra (aka the Too Drunk to Chuck). A burger that is truly an ode to my love of punk, Chicago, Riot Fest and late-in-life-partying.

I’ll confess that at least half of the joy of entering this contest was time spent making up punk rock jokes. If you’re not a fan of puns or music, this next paragraph – and indeed, a sizable portion of this write-up – is not gonna be for you.

I toyed with a fair number of ideas. A piece of me wanted to embrace my inner Chicago with a six patty megaburger called the Fatwagon or maybe the Fat Mike. Less than Steak? Andrew W Filet?   The Wu-Tang Flan? Or maybe a venison burger, No Use for a Game. I could throw a curveball and make a vegan burger called The Propaghandi. Or perhaps the Suburban Bean-age Wasteland Blues?

Alright alright.

As with all of my ground beef recipes, I chose to use 100% Grass-fed Beef in this recipe. I love 100% Grass-fed Beef for being a healthier choice; but more importantly, I find its deeper meat flavor to be significantly more delicious! You can find more about this ground beef, how to find it, its health benefits and more here. But don’t you worry if you don’t have it- this burger will still be delicious with any kind of ground beef.

As I played around with the ingredients, I experimented with three different kinds of cheese: mozzarella, havarti and muenster. I started with mozzarella- as it reminds me of Chicago deep-dish- but ultimately the cheese I liked best was havarti. It blends perfectly with the sweet and spicy flavor of the red pepper jelly, the signature ingredient of this dish. Muenster was an extremely close second, and would be a damn fine choice if you decide to go that route instead.

My other pro tip on this recipe is related to the bacon. I am no fan of crispy bacon, but in this one specific instance, I would cook the bacon a little crispier than you normally would. Adding bacon is always a good choice. But if you crisp it up just a little, it adds a crunchy element with the red onions that is genuinely superb.



This burger is a Smash burger. (It’s an Offspring joke. I meant to find a way to artfully weave pointing that out into this paragraph- but failed. So there it is.) The goal of a smash burger is to impart an even, crispy char to the outside while leaving the inside cooked to the perfect Minor Threat to your body: medium rare.

Everything I have learned about how to perfect the smash burger I learned from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt over at The Food Lab. Here is a summary of his rules for success; follow them and you will be richly rewarded.

  • Smash burgers down immediately, within the first 30 seconds of cooking. If you do it this soon, you won’t lose all the delicious juices. Usually smashing down burgers is a big no-no….unless you do it this early.
  • Use a heavy bottomed pot or other heavy surface to smash your burgers. Smash evenly and firmly.
  • Use a cast iron or other heavy bottomed pan to cook in, and heat it until exceedingly hot and slightly smoking.
  • Once you have smashed your burger, don’t disturb it until you are ready to flip. You’ll know it’s ready to flip when it lifts easily from the pan. This helps develop that delicious carmely browning.

I’m not going to lie, this burger falls into the DAMN DELICIOUS category. I’m pretty proud of it. It hits that perfect trifecta of flavor excellence with it’s spicy-sweet-salty vibe. I made it a bunch of times on a quest to perfect it, and eating it that many times brought me genuine joy.

Shoutout to Bill, Joey and Eva for playing “Punk Rock Burger Puns” with me.

The Jelly Biafra

The Jelly Biafra- my entry for the Riot Fest Burger contest- features a homemade sweet and spicy red pepper jam, bacon, melted havarti, and red onions sitting decadently atop two butter-toasted onion rolls!

Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 people


For The Red Pepper Jelly:

  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 red fresno chile
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup white sugar

For the Burgers:

  • 1/2 lb 100% Grass-fed Ground Beef
  • 1 tsp worcester sauce
  • 2 onion rolls
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 2 slices havarti cheese
  • 1 recipe red pepper jelly (see above)
  • sliced red onion


To Make the Red Pepper Jelly:

  1. Begin by making the red pepper jelly. Roughly chop the bell pepper and fresno. Add to a blender or food processor, along with the apple cider vinegar.

  2. Blend / process until smooth.

  3. Pour the blended mixture into a small pot. Add sugar and salt, and heat until boiling, stirring occasionally.

  4. Boil for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced by more than half and is starting to take on a jelly-like consistancy. It will seem a little runny now, but it will set in the fridge.

  5. Pour into a ceramic bowl or other glass container. Place in the fridge to solidify while you prepare the burgers.

To Prepare the Burgers:

  1. Making sure to manipulate the meat as little as possible (keeping that grind intact!), place ground beef in a bowl and coat evenly with worcester. Let the meat sit at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.

  2. In a medium pan, cook bacon to your desired level of doneness. I would recommend going a little crispier than you normally would.

  3. In a separate, large cast iron or other heavy-bottomed pan, melt butter over medium heat. Break your onion rolls in half and place them, face down, in the melted butter. Let them toast for a minute or two, until golden brown.

  4. Remove onion rolls from the butter and set them aside. Turn your heat up to high and let your pan get blazing hot. Be patient. You want to see it slightly smoking.

  5. Roll your ground beef into two evenly-sized balls, and place into your ripping hot pan. IMMEDIATELY use another pot or another even surface to firmly press your patties down until they are flat. Salt and pepper the top to taste.

  6. Cook, undisturbed, for about 1.5 minutes. Flip. If it sticks to the pan, it's not ready to flip yet.

  7. Salt and pepper this side as well. Add a slice of havarti cheese, and cook for another minute or so, until cheese has melted and a thermometer reads 140-145 for the Minor Threat- medium rare.

  8. Assemble your burger: spread jam evenly between the two tops on the onion rolls. Place burger patty on the bottom bun, followed by red onions, followed by bacon. Place top buns on and get ready for that heady, heady jam.

Currently Listening: A Wilhelm Scream – Career Suicide

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