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patty melt

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A while ago I played around with the idea of modifying my diet by cutting back on carbohydrates. These days you will never hear me say the d-word unless I (1) mention that someone I know is on a diet or (2) am explaining to someone that if I had my way I’d happily live off a diet of good pastry and coffee.But back then it was chic to be on a diet where you cut back on something be it fat, protein or carbs.

Some carbohydrates like pasta presented a problem because I like pasta, a lot, eating sandwiches minus the bread was a little weird and really it’s not a sandwich without the bread, right? Oddly enough that wasn’t a problem with burgers. I gladly traded in the thick carb heavy bread for a knife and fork and found that I actually liked my “burger” that way. I’d construct the perfect bite by cutting off a chunk of crusty,juicy meat,adding a piece of tomato of equal size and a leaf of lettuce onto a fork and dip it all into a condiment sized ramekin filled with ketchup. Not bad,actually pretty good.

Obviously the no-carb thing didn’t last and it wasn’t long til I was back eating bowls of pasta and sandwiches on whole wheat bread.

The burger minus the bun kind of stuck with me and even when I had a burger with the bun it all seemed a bit too much.

Let me explain, I don’t eat burgers that often. Mostly during the grilling season and even then not as much as everyone else. After grilling season I eat a burger once every few months only because I or someone else in my home gets a taste for a burger and fries and if it can’t be satisfied with the fast food kind then I make them at home doing my best to make them flavorful and juicy.

If  there were times when I didn’t have buns for my burger then I’d revert to the burger of my youth; a big hunky piece of fried beef sandwiched between  two slices of too soft sandwich bread and quickly developing a soggy hole right in the center from way too much grease and ketchup.

Until I came across a patty melt I never thought a burger on sandwich bread could be good or not sloppy. I’ve never in my life had a patty melt and though it is proclaimed to be the best of diner food I’d never seen it on a diner menu. Maybe because I never get past the breakfast section of a diner menu.

My introduction to something like a patty melt was when I worked at a restaurant that served a flat thin hamburger patty fried on the griddle until crispy then chopped up,onions added to the mix,some cheese and the whole thing piled on a bun. It smelled divine and I promised myself I’d make it one day.

Last week after a quick google search I found a recipe on Saveur.com for a patty melt. It looked scrumptious and I thought if a patty melt was good enough to be on Saveur.com then it was good enough to be on my blog.

Technically not a burger because it has no bun a patty melt  is a juicy,multi-textured sandwich with elements of hot and cold all brought together on rye bread with swiss or cheddar cheese in between  and toasted on a griddle  until the cheese is melting and gooey.All these components go well together-the crusted flat,sometimes square ,burger patty and charred onions with the rye bread adding a pleasantly sour note. Oh, and that rye bread is nothing like white bread. It is sturdy and crispy from a slathering of soft butter and made crunchy from the hot grill.

So now having discovered a patty melt I get to have my burger on a “bun” and eat it too without having to bother with the problem of too much bread.

Recipe: patty melt,adapted loosely from Saveur.com

Note: I used good old american cheese because that’s what I like on my “burgers”. Feel free to use the cheddar or swiss cheese. Also I didn’t include it in the recipe but I added bacon to my patty melts which isn’t traditional but very good.

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper,to taste

canola oil

2  red onions,halved and thinly sliced

12 slices of rye bread

12 thin slices of  american cheese

8 tablespoons unsalted butter softened

Directions:

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Diveide meat into six 1/4 inch thick pattys that are slightly wider and longer than the bread.

Heat a little canola oil in a heavy skillet(or cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add the onions,season with salt and pepper,cook stirring occasionally,until softened and browned,about 12 minutes. transfer the onions to a bowl;wipe out  skillet. Working in 3 batches,heat a little oil in skillet over high heat. Add 2 burger patties;cook,flipping once,until well browned,about 4 minutes total. Transfer patties to plate.

Top each of 6 bread slices with some onions,a cheese slice,and a burger patty.Top each burger with another cheese slice and a piece of bread. Using a table knife,spread butter over the top and bottom of each sandwich.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in 3 batchs,cook sandwiches,flipping once,until golden brown and hot,about six minutes.

Makes 6 sandwiches

The end of summer and meatloaf for fall

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Of all the requests for recipes that I received over the summer,the strangest one had to be meatloaf. Apparently while I was thinking of grilling steaks and burgers and kebabs some of you were thinking about meatloaf. Meatloaf is a favorite of mine but  I’m not usually thinking about it at the height of summer. 

Much about food blogging has to do with the weather. The weather dictates what you cook and then post. Food blogging is in real-time. Unlike magazine’s, that work on deadlines and could be shooting the Christmas issue in the middle of July, I am at most times cooking and then blogging about it within the next few days. If you are writing an online journal about your daily cooking it tends to go along the rhythm of what foods are in season or how hot or cold it is outside. You won’t find me cooking a turkey in summer and blogging about it later in November.

So as I kept getting asked about meatloaf or other cold weather foods, I didn’t want my readers to think I was ignoring  their requests so I begged them to hang in there and enjoy cooking outdoors in the warm weather and to take advantage of the many fruits and vegetables still available at markets.  Cooler weather would be here soon enough.

Once the warm September days started giving way to cool mornings and even cooler nights I knew it was truly the end of summer and time for warmer fare-even meatloaf.  

 

 There is something about meatloaf that makes it comforting, smothered with gravy and served atop a mound of creamy mashed potatoes.

 As good as meatloaf is people tend to shy away from making it at home. The biggest fear is that they will lovingly season and shape ground meat and carefully roast it and then have it turn into a flavorless and dry loaf. I understand that,I’ve had my own experience with dry loaves.  That is until I found the secret to a good meatloaf. The secret to a good meatloaf is that you need a nicely seasoned paste that adds moisture and tons of flavor.

Before I found the perfect meatloaf recipe I had been improvising and just seasoning ground meat with whatever happened to be in the pantry. I didn’t put much effort into it because I had never been a make meatloaf at home kind of person. It was hubby who liked meatloaf and was always after me to make it. After experiencing that first dry meatloaf  and attempting to,unsuccessfully,cover it up with lots of gravy I knew I had to do better.

And better I did. Let me give you  some advice; follow this recipe exactly as you see it below and do not eliminate mixing the ingredients using a fork. This step is crucial to not overworking the ground meat. Overworking the ground meat will give you a dense and dry loaf. Most recipes require that you use white bread soaked with milk,an extra step that I was never fond of. With this recipe you use regular dry,plain breadcrumbs. Amazingly, they do not steal any moisture away from the finished loaf. Over the years I have added ingredients to the paste to make it mine, but it is perfect exactly as it is.  

 

  Recipe: Ina Garten’s meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup canned chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80 percent lean)
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (recommended: Progresso)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (recommended: Heinz)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Off the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don’t mash or the meat loaf will be dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meat loaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven, under the meat loaf, will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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