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RBR Tailgating: Spicy Maple Bacon Jalapeno Mushroom Swiss Burger with Caramelized Onions

I’m a few “mesquite grilled,” “wasabi aioli,” and “crazy cilantro cream” style descriptors from making it at a Guy Fieri restaurant with the above descriptor, but he’s been wrangling for sainthood. This is not a sarcastic homage.

I need to get this in really quickly before we play the game so as not to be accused of piling on or sour grapes depending. Ohio State does not belong in the playoffs.

I was a vocal opponent of the playoff since its inception, at least as vocal as you can be in the written word. I will presume to speak (at least as much as you can speak in the written word) for my anti-playoff brethren that our greatest fear was that a playoff would cheapen the regular season, the importance of which makes college football more exciting than other sports.

Our fear was that once having likely secured a spot in the final four, a team may let a game go by resting the first string. Basically our fear was that the NFL phrase “Win when it matters,” would enter our jargon. It always mattered before.

Never in our most fevered dreams did it occur to us a team could vie for the championship of a season it barely played and even required a rule change to shoehorn itself into a conference championship it failed to qualify for.

This is not an indictment of the talent, coaching, or competitive spirit of the Buckeyes. They are an excellent team and they just might win, no doubt prompting their faithful to claim that the win is evidence that they belonged.

I don’t think they’ll pull it off. We’re really good. But then, as they say that’s why they we play the game. Winning a two game tournament without subjecting yourself to the rigors and risks of a full season against those that have is not vindication. Any argument claiming that a five win team has a legitimate claim just because they won the playoffs can also be made for a team that played no games at all in the regular season.

Thus endeth the rant. On to the burger.

Guy Fieri gets justifiably teased for his flamboyance. Whether it’s the pinky rings, the frosted spikes on his head, the ubiquitous sunglasses propped up on said frosty spikes, or the beloved cherry red Camero, he invites a little teasing. His restaurant empire is known for menu items like “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche.” He’s over the top.

He’s also extremely successful. His flagship tv show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives highlights food that’s in the experience as well as the price range of the average viewer and presents it as a pleasure, no guilt. I’m a fan. I have a Dungeons & Diners & Dragons & Drive-Ins & Dives t-shirt. Flagship implies other shows and he has them. There are cookbooks. There’s the restaurant empire. He’s not for everybody, but he doesn’t try to be.

What few know is how heavily involved he is in charities. Aside from his work with the Make a Wish Foundation, Fieri partnered with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to form The Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to help restaurant workers struggling due to the effects of Covid-19. As of the most recent numbers I can find he’s raised $21.5 million dollars dispersed as $500 grants to 43,000 people. Saint Guy de Santa Rosa.

I was messing with ideas for an interesting burger and Fieri came to mind. It’s not nearly as over the top as he’s capable of and there is none of his terrifyingly named signature Donkey Sauce, but it comes from a Guy inspired mental place. It’s pretty simple and damn good to boot. Besides, burgers are the pinnacle of tailgate food.

Spicy Maple Bacon Jalapeno Mushroom Swiss Burger with Caramelized Onions

- ground beef or chuck

- buns

- bacon, thick cut

- maple syrup

- cayenne pepper

- yellow onion, sliced

- mushrooms, sliced

- jalapeno, sliced and deseeded - or not if you want more heat

- Swiss cheese

- salt to taste

- thick sweet BBQ sauce

No quantities as you, not I, know how many you are feeding and what proportions you like.

Preheat an oven to 400˚. Lay the bacon on a baking sheet and lightly brush each piece with maple syrup before dusting with ground cayenne pepper.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes until done to your liking.

Put on a paper towel covered plate to drain and set aside.

Add a few glugs of olive oil to a sauté pan and cook the onion over medium high heat until it begins to char slightly. Add the jalapenos and continue, stirring occasionally, until they begin to fade in color and then add the mushrooms with a dash of salt.

Cook until the mushrooms are soft and then remove from heat.

Make burgers. Grill, bake, sous vide, skillet. Whatever you prefer.

If you are using a griddle or a skillet add some of the mushroom/jalapeno/onion mixture to the pan, a small mound per burger making sure to get a little bit of everything in each pile. Otherwise just separate the vegetables in the original sauté pan and turn up the heat to high.

Top each pile with Swiss and cook until it melts.

Assemble a burger with melted cheese and vegetables on a toasted bun and top with candied bacon. Spread a little BBQ sauce on the bun and there you have it.

Some may wonder why with the sweet bacon a sweet BBQ sauce is needed. Interesting point, but you didn’t complain when I was putting jalapenos under cayenned bacon so you forfeit any right to demand consistency. (I added the BBQ sauce for moisture and to keep it sweet so it doesn’t clash with the distinct maple flavor.)

That’s it from me. It’s been a hell of season. Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.