Spring is here and that means spending as much time outdoors as possible, unless, of course, I'm endeavoring to get out of yardwork. In those situations, I can feign back injury and head for the couch. Just kidding, I like working in the yard and I couldn't get away with it even if I wanted to ditch the work.

One of the most enjoyable activities outdoors around my home is cooking. I'm one of those who use the barbecue grill year-round. It's located under a cover in what amounts to be sort of a quasi outdoor kitchen area. Added to that this past year, a smoker, and there's plenty of reason to be cooking outside!

Brian Stephenson

This evening, I wanted to feed my daughter and her boyfriend with something they'd enjoy while keeping it simple and giving me the opportunity to cook outside. What did I decide on? Italian Meatball Sliders with Sharp Cheddar Cheese & Crispy Bacon with a Dijon Habanero Aioli on a Brioche Bun.

Here's how I made them:

First, I get the barbecue grill up to 400*F. On the grill, I used a cast iron griddle. It helps to control the temperature while still creating some nice grill marks. The burgers also benefit from a little sharing of bacon grease while they cook.

Brian Stephenson

While that's heating up, I bring together the ground beef mixture in a large bowl. It's simple: one pound of 80/20 ground beef, one large egg, about 1/3 of a cup Italian bread crumbs, a dash of habanero sauce, pink Himalayan salt (a few shakes), and black ground pepper (a few shakes), onion powder and garlic powder (1/4 teaspoon each) and a 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning (herbs). I'd normally use slightly sauteed onion and garlic - letting them cool down before mixing in with meat mixture - but I was cooking for someone who doesn't care for onion or garlic. (much better with for sure).

Combine the mixture with your hands so that all ingredients are mixed well but don't over-mix. Believe it or not, you can get ground beef to toughen-up by overmixing.

Once mixed, roll large-sized meatballs in your hands and place them in the patty form and press down flat. Be sure to use a non-stick spray on the patty form so the meat mixture won't stick. These patties may seem a little larger than the typical slider but they'll shrink when cooking and will be just the right size for the Brioche Bun.

Brian Stephenson
Brian Stephenson
Brian Stephenson

Place the patties on the preheated griddle and add a few slices of bacon. Add a dash of salt and pepper to the patties and close the lid on the barbecue. While those cook, mix your Dijon Habanero Aioli.

Brian Stephenson

Take three large tablespoons of mayo, add a substantial squirt of Dijon, and a couple of dashes of Habanero. Mix with a whisk until fluffy and you're all set.

Brian Stephenson

After about 4 minutes, flip the burger patties, turn the bacon, and cook an additional few minutes until bacon is crispy and patties are just about done. Remove the bacon and wrap it in foil to keep warm. Slice the Brioche in half and place each half in the area where the bacon was. Add slices of Sharp Cheddar Cheese to the top of the patties and cover with a castiron lid. About a minute later, cheese is melted, burgers are ready and mouths will water.

Brian Stephenson

Then, remove the Brioche and spread some of the Aioli on each side, place the burger patty on the bottom half, place a piece of bacon on top of that, plop the other half of the bun on top and enjoy.

Brian Stephenson
Brian Stephenson

All of these ingredients are very standard, we all have our preferences when it comes to brands, etc., but I do prefer the Buhrmaster Bakery Brioche. It's local and excellent. It's available at Wray's 56th & Summitview.

Brian Stephenson

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