Food & Swine

Winefest & Iowa Beef: Slider Challenge


Upon arriving home from Sutter Home Winery’s Build a Better Burger I was informed through a friend of friend (thank you Betsy S.) of the Winefest Des Moines, Gateway Market and The Iowa Beef Industry Council’s presentation of the “Iowa Beef Industry Council Slider Challenge” recipe contest.  I had tons of inspiration coming off of the preeminent burger cook-off in the world (BBB) and decided to throw my hat in the ring and spin off a couple of recipes before the quickly approaching deadline.

The prize was very attractive to me, of course! (If you know me or my children you know how much we love prizes, treats, etc.)  For the winner: a summer grilling pack stocked with goodies including $250 in beef certificates, grilling utensils I desperately needed, a sweet Iowa Beef apron, three bottles of fabulous wine and beef recipes. The winner also got 6 tickets to the Iowa Lawn Party and 2 tickets to the fancy Willis Grand Tasting event on June 7th.  The best part of the prize package was the opportunity to have Gateway Market, the Iowa Beef Industry Council create the winning slider recipe to be served at “The Iowa Lawn Party“, the Sunday afternoon Winefest Des Moines event at Jasper Winery.


Well I am SO glad I entered that contest.

I took my husband, Mom, Dad, cousin Erin and her hubs to the event.  We had a ball.  And drank a lot, for a Sunday… well for any day for me.  I stumbled, a little. It was a fancy thing to do on a Sunday.  People go out and drink and have fun… they don’t work cattle, do chores and sort pigs.  It was nice, I smelled fresh and had gotten to shower.  Sweet!  Earlier in the day we did this…


Later I was looking much more presentable than I did for chores (think cut off sweat shorts, a nasty tee and NO makeup.  Below: With cousin Erin.  I love to be with my family, the wine was a bonus!


The recipe I came up with was not without some creativity, mostly due to the parameters that it could only be 5 total ingredients in addition to the beef and the roll it was on.  So in essence, 7 total ingredients.  The recipe had to be a great reflection of our lovely state of Iowa and fit into a wine-centered event.  I guess the Merlot Candied Bacon, Maytag Blue Cheese and Arugula Sliders worked.  Zombie Burger in Des Moines more aptly named the winning creation “The Vineyard” and featured it as “Burger of the Week” at their amazing burger and drink ‘lab’ restaurant in the East Village.  Stopped by today to check it out.  Very nice!


Back to the point of this post, the recipe.

Here’s the low-down:

Given Ingredient #1: Homemade Slider Buns (Thank you South Union, you rocked this)

Given Ingredient #1: 80/20 ground chuck (The Iowa Beef Industry Council always has the BEST cattlemen and staff preparing the main focus… the beef!)

Ingredient 1 of 5: Ultra Thick Cut Smoked Bacon (Hello, how could I make a burger without bacon!?)

Ingredient 2 of 5: Merlot Jelly (This may sound fancy but it is really just wine reduced and made into jelly as you would grape juice etc.  It is also sold in specialty food shops. Brushed on the bacon and returned to cook a bit, sets it like candied bacon… my favorite thing.)

Ingredient 3 of 5: Maytag Blue Cheese (This is so Iowa, I knew I had to use it and it pairs so nicely with beef, and believe it or not… the merlot jelly.  It set this slider apart.)

Ingredient 4 of 5: Arugula (This spicy fresh green cuts through the richness of the slider.)

Ingredient 5 of 5: Lemon Herb Vinaigrette (This tossed with the arugula right before adding to the burger, wilts the arugula slightly and adds an interesting boost of bright flavor and acidity.)

I nearly died when my phone buzzed with an incoming congratulatory email from WINEFEST Des Moines.  Thanks so much to all of the nice people I met at The Iowa Lawn party today!  I drank wayyyyyyy too many of those delicious sangrias.  Yikes.  I’ve since sobered up and am sitting here blogging and finishing up my lovely husbands swine nutrition cost analysis spreadsheet. MS Excel, you are not my friend, thankful for real friends who can help me with the confusing stuff.  I need more sangria.

Here’s that winning recipe.  I plan on making it soon, with a few modifications too!   

Not a blue cheese fan?  Try this burger with Maytag Dairy Farms White Cheddar.  You’ll love it.

The lovely ladies of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, we had a great visit with the two of them.


If my cousin doesn’t help me figure out the settings on my new camera, I will take him down.  See this Isaac?  Help Crissy!


Merlot Candied Bacon, Maytag Blue and Arugula Sliders 

by Cristen

24 oz Ultra Thick applewood smoked bacon

3/4 C Merlot Jelly or other red wine jelly

2 lbs. ground chuck 80/20 blend + seasonings of choice by the Iowa Beef Council

8 oz Maytag Dairy Farms blue cheese, cut into shards (or Maytag White Cheddar)

6 C baby arugula, carefully washed

1/4 C lemon herb vinaigrette divided

Extra Ingredient not in original recipe (only 5 could be used): 1 small very thinly sliced red onion

Preheat grill to medium heat.  Cut bacon strips in half so pieces are smaller. Fry bacon in large skillet over grill grate until chewy/crisp. Drain on paper towels. Wipe skillet clean with paper towel. Brush strips of bacon with wine jelly.  Return to skillet over heat for 5 minutes to set jelly onto bacon. Set aside. Divide ground chuck into 18 portions.  Press into desired shape to fit slider bun, handling meat as little as possible.  Depress center of raw burger slightly with thumb so burger doesn’t puff during grilling. Season patties. Grill patties on one side 2 minutes.  Flip patties, place a scant 1/2 ounce of blue cheese on each patty top. Finish grilling patties to medium rare or medium doneness.  Remove and let rest 3 minutes. Add skillet with candied bacon back to grill to warm. Meanwhile, toast buns and toss arugula and 1/4 C lemon vinaigrette together.  Set aside.

To assemble:

1. Drizzle toasted bun bottoms sparingly with remaining lemon vinaigrette.

2. Add cheese topped patty.

3. Add 2 ‘short’ strips of candied bacon in an X pattern.

*Add a few slices of red onion if desired.

4. Add approximately 1/4 C arugula salad mixture

5. Cover with toasted bun top. 

Serve Immediately

Makes 18 sliders

For more Winefest Des Moines fun:

There are more events that aren’t sold out, coming up in the week-long Winefest Des Moines celebration: (click the links to see more details)

Gateway Market Community Tasting: Monday June 2 from 4-8 p.m. (free)

DuPont Pioneer Sips in the City: Friday June 6 from 6-9 p.m. ($40 in advance, $50 at the door)

Willis Grand Tasting: Saturday June 7 from 6-9 p.m. ($75)

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  • Reply Lois June 2, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Congratulations! I will try this.

  • Reply lisakeys64 June 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    wine, blue cheese and beef-a winning combination always–congrats!!

  • Reply Beth Ann June 2, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    The congrats keep on coming for you!!! That is awesome and the recipe you so freely share sounds wonderful!

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