Recipe: patty melt (animal style)
Time to fess up – I’m not doing traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I haven’t done one in several years. We voted turkey OUT and seafood IN. Sea critters cook faster, taste better (to us), and I don’t become stuffed, sleepy, and belligerent. Winning! Are you having a traditional meal or are you doing something different?
I wish I could say I’m going to be skiing, but I think I’m going to be trail running and biking instead – because we don’t have much snow locally. Sure, our local hill has the White Strip of Death (the single run that goes top to bottom on the mountain), but it’s not especially appealing now… or ever. However, I was able to enjoy snow in Crested Butte this weekend, because we had some business out there. On Saturday, we were greeted with week-old snow on the ground under blue skies. Kaweah was eager to get out for a walkie even though she can’t walk very far any more. We stopped in a field and I told her to sit for a photo. Kaweah sat, then slid into a comfy lounging position. She was tired, but happy. Sunday morning brought fresh snow and once again, we got Kaweah outside for a short walk around town. I swear, snow makes everything awesome.
this car ride leads to a trailhead, right?
enjoying the snow with mount crested butte looming large
my happy girl
fresh snow sunday morning
We’re home now, looking forward to a mellow week of house maintenance, catching up on work, and quick meals. From time to time, my friends at Lava Lake Lamb like to send along some of their beautiful products for me to prepare and sample (rack of lamb, rosemary lamb noisettes, and braised lamb shanks). This time, they mentioned they are partnering with 100% grass-fed Brandon Natural Beef from the Wet Mountain Valley of Colorado. Lava Lake Lamb is good lamb from Idaho, but I wanted to give Colorado some lovin’. I received a 12 ounce Rib Eye steak, a 12 ounce New York Strip steak, and two 16 ounce packages of ground beef (80% lean) to try with no obligation on my part. After Jeremy and I had the steaks (grilled rare), I was so impressed with the tenderness, quality, and flavor, I was excited to try something with the ground beef.
the beef arrived frozen, so i let it thaw slowly in the refrigerator
I really feel the best way to let ground beef shine is in a burger, grilled. Oh, but I’ve posted many a burger here before. As I muttered to myself over the many variations on burgers that exist, Jeremy interrupted and asked me what a patty melt was. Silence. “You don’t know what a patty melt is?” He had a vague idea, but really… he didn’t. That’s partly my fault because I hadn’t had a patty melt since college much less made one. It’s the marriage of a hamburger and a grilled cheese sandwich, but I wasn’t going to make just any patty melt.
crusty sourdough, mustard, salt, pepper, fish sauce, onions, swiss cheese, ground beef
When I say “animal style”, what do you think of? If your mouth is starting to water, then we speak the same language – the language of In-N-Out Burger. If you don’t get it, that’s fine. You don’t get it. If you tell me that you can make a better burger at home, my response is “Duh!” and yeah, you still don’t get it. But for the rest of you lovers, I figured I could snazzy up the patty melt with a little riff on an animal style burger which in this instance means: mustard and caramelized onions.
thinly sliced onions
browned after about 20 minutes
First you want to caramelize the onions, because that’s the big time sink. No matter how much you try to rush the process, you can’t. Whenever I rush it, I burn the onions. So set the heat to medium and brown the onions in some oil slowly for at least 20 minutes. Stir it about every now and again to prevent burning. If you’re a multi-tasker, go ahead and mix the beef while the onions soften and brown.
the dash of fish sauce = magic
don’t laugh, i made the patties the shape of my bread
There are no round loaves of sourdough where I live, so I made my patties resemble the shape of my bread slices. Because this shape is less structurally stable than a circular patty, I made them slightly thicker to prevent any failure during the grilling process. Before you grill the burgers, I suggest getting everything ready ahead of time so you can assemble your sandwiches as soon as the patties come off the grill.
butter each slice of bread on one side – please use real butter
brush some mustard on after you flip the patty
Now some of you may not be mustard fans and turn your nose to the idea of putting mustard on the burger. It’s not especially strong, but it’s nice. Jeremy, who is NOT a mustard person AT ALL, didn’t have a problem with it at all. When the patties are done, set a slice of bread, buttered-side-down on a grill pan or cast iron skillet. Layer some cheese on the bread. Pick a cheese you like. I like Swiss. If you like a lot of cheese, load it up. If you are like me, just stick to one layer. Distribute some caramelized onions over the cheese, then set the patty on the onions. Cover the patty with another layer (or layers) of cheese and then cover with a slice of bread, buttered-side-up. I set the pan over a flame that is just a tick below medium heat, because the cheese has to melt, but you don’t want to burn your bread. I like mine to be golden and crisp when all is said and done. Check the bottoms every few minutes to gauge how quickly it is progressing. When the cheese is melted and the bread is golden (or done to your liking), flip the sandwich over and monitor the bread and cheese for doneness (read: melty goodness).
assembling the sandwiches
topping off with the second slice of bread
yes, this – golden
It’s been a while – nay, 20 years – since I’ve indulged in a patty melt. Of course, those were ghetto patty melts. I have never had a patty melt this good before. Wow. I dare say it’s fabulous enough to serve to dinner guests.
don’t forget the cornichons
Patty Melt (sorta Animal Style)
adapted from Saveur with a nod to In-N-Out Burger
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 – 1/2 tsp sea salt to taste (I use less because the fish sauce is salty too)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional, but yes, do this!)
2 tbsps olive oil
2 yellow onions, sliced thin
pinch of salt
grind of black pepper
2-3 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
8 slices of bread, 1/2-inch thick (I used sourdough, use rye or whatever you like)
2 tbsps yellow mustard
8 or more slices of cheese (I used Swiss, but you can do cheddar, Jack, American, etc.)
Mix the ground beef, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and fish sauce together in a bowl until just combined. Try not to overwork the ground beef as this can make it tough. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onions, a pinch of salt, and grind of black pepper. Stir the onions around every few minutes, but allow the onions to cook for at least 20 minutes until browned and caramelized. Don’t rush this process by turning up the heat, you will burn the onions. When the onions are done, remove from heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread, set aside. Form four patties from the ground beef, taking care not to pack the beef too tightly. Grill on high heat for a few minutes until the patty releases easily. Flip the burgers over and brush yellow mustard on the cooked side. Let the burgers cook another couple of minutes until done. Remove from grill. Set a slice of bread, buttered-side-down on a grill pan or skillet. Layer cheese, then onions, then a patty, then more cheese, then a final slice of bread (buttered-side-up) on the first slice of bread. Repeat for the rest of the sandwiches. Place the pan over medium heat and monitor the bottom bread until it begins to turn golden and the cheese starts to melt. Carefully flip the sandwich over and cook until the bottom is golden and the cheese melts. Serve hot. Makes four patty melts.