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the only melt i want to see right now

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)
[print recipe]
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.

20 nibbles at “the only melt i want to see right now”

  1. Allison Day says:

    Okay, I’m definitely drooling over here. (Actually, I’ve been drooling from the moment you said “Animal Style” – I totally get it. ;) ) It’s a good thing In N’ Out’s burgers aren’t *this* good, else I’d be eating there every day and probably weigh 300 lbs by now. Man, now I have such a bad craving for a burger… :D

  2. farmerpam says:

    “White Strip of Death” , lol, still laughing over that one.

  3. Kristin says:

    Whoa…a patty melt for dinner guests! I loooooove patty melts. We don’t have In -N-Out, so I’m in the dark on the animal style, but I’m happy to add magic fish sauce to a burger!

  4. Amy Q says:

    Sure, I have your bulgogi marinating in the fridge, and now I’m craving a patty melt. I just can’t win. ;)

  5. Caroline says:

    I’d never heard of a patty melt either! I really don’t eat red meat anymore, but it does look good.

  6. mary says:

    Wow- I guess none of you lived near a Friendly’s Restaurant…their Patty Melt ( on rye) was a classic menu item. Yours really looks much better – and I don’t really eat meat either! When I fall though it is going to be for an old fashioned burger like this – or a good meatball!

  7. selina says:

    “don’t laugh, i made the patties the shape of my bread” – Best line ever!

  8. Kevin (Closet Cooking) says:

    Looks great! I like the sound of a burger patty in a grilled cheese! Got to try it!

  9. Margie says:

    A burger and a Coke? Gurl, now you be talkin my language (and that sourdough bread….geez, u iz over da top)!

    I love the burger, the mount of CB, but that doggie wins by a mile. Every. Single. Time. ;)

  10. Kerry @ Snark & Pepper says:

    I loved getting greasy patty melts as a late night, drunken indulgence in college. It’s been years since I had one, too! Never thought to make my own, but this looks so easy and better than what I was ordering at Steak & Shake :)

  11. Villy @ For the love of Feeding says:

    This looks insanely delicious!

  12. Carla says:

    Im now starving….this sounds like breakfast to me….so much better than “breakfast food”. Onions have been on sale lately. I have caramelized onions stashed in the fridge and freezer!!! Yummmmmm !

  13. Sandra says:

    OMGoodness, these look so good! I want one now!! Thanks for the recipe.

  14. Jill says:

    Ohhhh she is a sweet girl. Love her expressions! And the patty melts, well YUM! Never would have thought of fish sauce!

  15. angelitacarmelita says:

    I have to say, the last patty melt I ate was sooo not worth it. But every now and then, this is what you want and yours looks amazing! I’ve got to get a new Thanksgiving gig… I am stuck in the Turkey rut because of family tradition…. but I’d so much rather eat a warm bowl of slurpy noodles, soup, or sushi or this! precluded of course by a hike on the AT (Appalachian Trail here on the East Coast). Yep, time for a new Turkey Day gig.

  16. Martin says:

    Hi Jen,

    I was looking for an ultra-healthy snack recipe, made from vegetables — and I remembered the blueberry/cherry homemade bar that you’d written about before on userealbutter!! I’m wondering if you can think of a snack-bar recipe that uses vegetables and is really, really healthy and convenient (like maybe 1 to 2 serves of vegetables in a bar)? That would be so so so cool!

    Thank you :)

  17. Hande says:

    This just encourages me on my grilled cheese sandwich craze of late. This would be deluxe – i just really have to leave out the mustard cause strangely i have developed an allergy :( and i will be drinking a franciacorta with it instead of coke :)

  18. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    I always order my In-N-Out burgers animal style :) Definitely going to need to give this a try at home.

  19. jenyu says:

    Allison – it’s actually fairly easy to do! Totally turns it into a great patty melt too :)

    farmerpam – ;)

    Kristin – ahh, well animal style is grilled with mustard and served with grilled onions (but I caramelized them because it’s awesome). If you ever venture out to California or another western state that has an In-n-Out, it’s worth a visit!

    Amy Q – mmm, that’s good too!

    Caroline – I think you could replace the beef patty with a turkey burger?

    mary – I didn’t frequent Friendly’s much although we had them in southern Virginia. My patty melts were consumed in random dives around my college campus!

    selina – ha ha! ;)

    Kevin – it’s right up your alley!

    Margie – :)

    Kerry – Steak and Shake? That sounds really good right now :)

    Villy – it’s totally worth a try.

    Carla – I’m with you on the savory breakfasts, girl!

    Sandra – you’re very welcome.

    Jill – you don’t notice it at all, but it makes the flavor so darn good.

    angelitacarmelita – I have to say, I don’t think I could get away with bucking tradition if I lived near family or had kids ;)

    Martin – I can’t really think of anything that would work as well as the fruit, because vegetables don’t have that sugary, gooey texture. Maybe you should experiment? I actually prefer my vegetables fresh :)

    Hande – bummer about the mustard, but I love you for picking a wine to drink with the patty melt. I’ll pass that along to my wine drinker (Jeremy) xoxo

    Brandon – yes!

  20. Christi says:

    “Ghetto patty melts”… wah hahaha

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