Wednesday night, as I was getting ready for bed, I took off my shirt and noticed a dried smear of reddish-brown running down the middle of my chest. Pooling there. Naturally, I bolted into the bathroom to see what was going on and if I needed immediate medical attention. On closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t blood.

I’d dropped a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce into my sports bra.

Little thing. Big impact. Kinda like these Sliders with Bacon and Creamy Horseradish Mayonnaise.

It still feels weird to say “sliders” instead of “little burgers,” which is what they were called at the dairy shack near our house when I was a kid. Every once in a while, my dad’s friend Big John would stop by there on his way over and surprise us with a white paper sack stacked to the top with oniony, mustardy, cheesy little burgers. And we’d stuff ourselves stupid.

I’ll always have a soft spot for dairy shack mini-burgers. They’re cloaked in a special kind of dirty-goodness that comes from being fried up in a place where thousands of burgers and fries and tater tots have been fried before. But I also like making my own, because it’s nice to be able to choose your own beef and switch up the toppings.

This recipe calls for a mixture of chuck and sirloin, but you can choose one or the other. I usually dump the meat into a big bowl and use a one-quarter measuring cup to scoop out the meat and form it into patties that are all the same size.

Once you’ve got your burgers patted out, there’s plenty of time to fry the bacon and whisk together the horseradish mayonnaise. No need to start from scratch with the mayo. Just whisk a few spoonfuls of your favorite store-bought brand with a little sour cream, horseradish, salt and pepper, and you’ll have a burger topping that will pack a punch and clear your sinuses.

While your burgers are grilling, you have time for one more tiny but powerful detail: buttering the insides of the buns before you grill them. Oh, man. Grilling the buns (or toasting them in the oven) makes the insides nice and crisp, so the buttery flavor is intensified and brings the whole thing together: the grilled burger, crisp bacon, creamy horseradish mayo and toasted bun.

They’re wee but they’ll get your attention. Like a bra full of chipotle.

Sirloin Sliders with Crisp Bacon and Creamy Horseradish Mayonnaise

From Emeril Lagasse’s “Emeril at the Grill”

If you don’t have an hour to wait between patting out these burgers and throwing them on the grill, it’s fine to leave out the garlic and onion. Otherwise, they’ll be pretty strong. Have some mints ready.

Makes 12 sliders; 4 to 6 servings

  • 12 ounces ground beef chuck
  • 12 ounces ground sirloin
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Horseradish Mayonnaise:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 12 dinner roll-sized buns, split in half
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Lettuce
  1. For the Burgers: In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix the chuck, sirloin, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.
  2. Divide the mixture into 12 portions using a 1/4 cup measure. Using your hands, shape each portion into a small patty, about 3 inches wide and 3/8-inch thick.
  3. Place the patties on a platter or in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them (for at least 1 hour or up to overnight) to let the garlic mellow and all of the flavors mingle.
  4. For the Horseradish Mayonnaise: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream and horseradish. Season the mixture with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Cover the mixture, and refrigerate it until ready to serve.
  5. Just before you grill your burgers, fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. (Or, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, place the bacon on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.) Drain the bacon on paper towels, and break it into 2-inch pieces. Set aside.
  6. To Cook the Burgers: Preheat your grill to high, and grill the burgers for about 2 minutes per side for medium. (If you’re using a grill pan, preheat it to medium, grill the burgers for about 5 minutes per side, and check them for doneness.)
  7. While the burgers are on the grill, brush the insides of the rolls with the melted butter. Wrap the buns in aluminum foil, and place them on the coolest part of the grill to warm. (If you’re using a grill pan, preheat your oven to 250 degrees F, place the open rolls on a baking sheet, brush them with melted butter, and let them toast in the oven while you grill the burgers.)
  8. To Assemble the Burgers: Place a little lettuce on the bottom portions of the warmed rolls, and add the burgers on top of the lettuce. Top the burgers with bacon. Spoon a dollop of mayonnaise over the bacon, and place the bun tops over all. Dig in!