Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Anatomy of a Patty Melt—and Its Recipe

It hit hard.

Really hard.

It started so innocently.  I was putzing around the kitchen, doing this, doing that, when I opened up the fridge and saw a package of raw hamburger sitting there, staring at me—hamburger meant for, well, hamburgers.  I closed the fridge door, and suddenly I saw in my mind's eye:

A patty melt... Ohhhhhh, a patty melt!!!

I desperately tried to shake the image from my mind.  Your guts don't like grain, I told myself.  Just—eat the meat.


I went for a run.

The craving followed.

You don't really have anything else in the fridge to cook, anyway, my craving reminded me.

Oh, good grief.

And I caved.

To assuage my guilt, I hereby give you the four components that make up the patty melt of my dreams.  Now you, too, can taste and see...

You will need:
  • raw hamburger (however much poundage you want to eat is up to you)
  • 2 slices of melty cheese (I love Muenster)
  • 2 soft, thick slices of white bread
  • lots of butter
The only other requirements? A skillet, a metal spatula, a small piece of parchment, and ketchup, for serving.

Heat that skillet over medium heat until it is hot but not blazing. While it is heating, shape your hamburger into a large rectangle that is the shape of your bread but slightly larger (meat shrinks as it cooks, and you want the cooked patty to be the size of your bread).  Salt and pepper both sides of the patty, then cook it in the skillet until brown and crusty on both sides.  (I did about 1/3 lb., and mine took about 4 minutes per side.  Keep an eye on yours.  Different amounts of meat and different stoves make for different cooking times.)

Remove the patty from the skillet and drain it on a paper towel-lined plate.  Pour off the meat fat, wipe out (scrub, if necessary) the skillet, then reheat it on the stove until hot.  Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet and push it around to thoroughly and heavily coat the bottom of the skillet, focusing on the center where the bread will be placed. You want a good pool of butter for that bread to fry in.

Add a slice of bread to the skillet, sopping up the melted butter with the bread before placing it in the center of the skillet.  Lay one slice of cheese on top of the bread, then top the cheese with the beef patty.  Give the sandwich about 2 minutes to brown, then, using a metal spatula, start peeking under the bottom slice of bread periodically.  You want a nice golden crust to your sandwich, not a burnt one (and all that butter can burn quickly, if you aren't careful).

Once your bottom crust is golden, momentarily remove the half-sandwich from the skillet with the spatula and add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet.  Do the same swirling technique as before, then place your second piece of bread in the butter pool, sopping as before.  Lay down your second slice of cheese, then carefully flip the first half of the sandwich on top.

Lay the piece of parchment over the top crusty piece of bread and press down HARD with the metal spatula.  Do this frequently for a few minutes, smashing the whole pile down and making the melty cheese glue all the sandwich parts together into a deliciously compressed mess.

When the bottom crust is browned how you like it, cut the patty melt in half diagonally and plate it.  Squirt a crap-ton of ketchup onto your plate, and get ready to dip and bite away.

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