The patty melt has a long and storied history in American diner culture. Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood shares some of that legend and gives his version, created in the familiar moment when the buns you thought were in the freezer were nowhere to be found.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, almost everything I make and write about includes olive oil, salt, and probably one or more of the other things I sell. Sure, I want you to buy them, but I sell those things because I need to have them in my kitchen to make the real good food I like to eat. But I eat other things, too.
Here’s one of them. No olive oil.
Grilled Cheese Burger
Not “grilled cheeseburger.” This is basically a modified patty melt sans onions* that I started making when I wanted a burger and had the beef but no buns. (There's info on the patty melt on the internet, but for those who’ve never had one at the basic American roadside cafe/diner there’s not much info here, and what is needs editing; the whole Northwest variant can’t be that popular since I’ve never seen one.)
Rather than go to the store or dig through the freezer (could be buns down there yet), I made the burgers to fit the bread I had, my usual New Seasons wheat levain, so they were more oval than round. The usual burger making also applies: 20% fat freshly ground chuck (New Seasons make this easy), gently formed and patted to be slightly thicker at the edges. Salt fairly heavily (I used flor de sal). Cook however’s most convenient (cast iron skillet, broiler, or grill…my choice), but only enough to brown the exterior. You want these very rare inside since they’ll cook a bit more during the grilled cheese phase.
Slice your bread, apply your condiments (for me, mustard; ketchup on the side after cooking), add a slice of good sharp cheddar (I’ll use other cheese if I have to, but cheddar is best for burgers), and grill in a cast iron skillet over low heat with another skillet of about the same size balanced on top. Brown well on both sides, which should also result in melted cheese. Eat immediately.
*You could take this closer to a patty melt. Cook some sliced onions in olive oil as long as you can, hopefully until slightly caramelized; add to burger. Rye bread is the usual for a patty melt, but if you go the store for rye you might as well get buns.
Top photo by pointnshoot from Oakland, California, USA.