Just a few days ago, we celebrated our country’s independence. On this independence day I unfortunately had to work, but this didn’t stop us from having a proper celebration!
My initial go-to to celebrate the 4th is a burger. I think most people tend to cook out for this American holiday–hamburgers, hotdogs, watermelon, potato salad, corn, etc. But where did this tradition come from, and more specifically, where did the hamburger come from? You may know, but I had no idea. So I did some research.
The hamburger as we know it came to our country in the nineteenth century.
“The hamburger originated on the German Hamburg-Amerika line boats, which brought emigrants to America in the 1850s. There was at that time a famous Hamburg beef which was salted and sometimes slightly smoked, and therefore ideal for keeping on a long sea voyage. As it was hard, it was minced and sometimes stretched with soaked breadcrumbs and chopped onion.” –The Food of the Western World – An Encyclopedia of food from North American and Europe
Hamburgers were made at stands around the port in New York City to attract German sailors–they were advertised as steaks “cooked in the Hamburg style.” This meat was low-grade shredded beef mixed with simple spices and cooked quickly on a grill. This was the food of the lower classes. Today it is essentially the same, and now we traditionally eat it in a hamburger bun with cheese, ketchup, mustard, and an assortment of toppings and condiments.
I had seen a post from bon appétit for this burger/melt/thing. It looked like the perfect gourmet burger, so of course I had to try it for the 4th. Photo from bon appétit, October 2014 “The BA Patty Melt”
There are a few things I discovered while making these burgers. First, I realized that using organic ground beef makes the best burgers. Not necessarily because it tastes different or is better for you, although those things may be true. The meat itself is much easier to form into patties–it is more tender and not shaved into individual strands that look like thick red hair. Appealing, right? So the first step to perfectly shaped, juicy burgers is organic ground beef.
I followed the basic recipe from BA (below), but I made some modifications. To the meat mixture, and to practically any meat I make, I add a good amount of Adobo seasoning. You can find Goya Adobo in most grocery stores in the Latin foods section.
To the inside of the sandwich, I also added a good handful of baby arugula. I decided that this burger needed something to cut through all the fat, richness, and goodness. I chose arugula because it’s the perfect size, it isn’t too big or obnoxious like a big piece of lettuce, and because its aromatic, peppery notes perfectly elevate the burger.
The final adjustment I made to this recipe was that I used ciabatta bread instead of the seeded rye bread that they suggest. The rye bread would definitely change the profile of the burger, but I preferred to use crusty ciabatta. (I’m talking about pieces from a whole loaf, not those ciabatta rolls already made for sandwiches. I find those way too hard to enjoy.)
After all these delicious ingredients come together, the outside of the bread is spread with some mayonnaise (not butter) and pressed down in a skillet. The result is a juicy, rich interior and a beautifuly golden, crispy exterior. THAT is a perfect burger!
Of course you can make so many varieties with different flavors and toppings, but the concept of the burger in crusty, fried bread–you can’t resist!
I think Nathaniel enjoyed them too:)
The BA Patty Melt
SERVINGS: MAKES 4
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil *I used olive oil
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
Patties And Assembly
- ¼ small onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground beef chuck (20% fat) *organic ground beef
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- *Goya Adobo seasoning
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 8 slices seeded rye bread (preferably Levy’s) *Loaf of Ciabatta cut into burger sized pieces
- 4 ounces aged sharp cheddar, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced (I didn’t use Swiss cheese, just because I didn’t have any)
- 8 teaspoons mayonnaise
- *baby arugula
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook onions, stirring often and adding water as needed to prevent burning, until deep golden brown and very soft, 20–25 minutes. Set aside.
Patties And Assembly
Gently mix onion, beef, ketchup, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, in a medium bowl. Divide into 4 portions and press each between 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper until about ¼” thick (you want them roughly the same dimensions as the bread you’re using.)
Heat oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook patties, pressing gently, until browned but still pink in the center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Wipe out skillet and reduce heat to medium. Top 4 slices of bread with cheddar, then beef patties, caramelized onions, *arugula, and Swiss cheese. Close up sandwiches and spread each top with 1 tsp. mayonnaise. Place in pan, mayonnaise side down, and weight with a foil-covered heavy pan. Cook until bottom slice is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove weighted pan and spread the top of each sandwich with 1 tsp. mayonnaise. Flip and weight again. Cook until other side is golden brown and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.