When I first heard of the idea of a patty melt, I thought it was genius. The union of a grilled cheese sandwich and a burger. While conceptually, the idea seems easy, there are small details that can ruin it.
If the bread is too thin, the burger makes the whole thing floppy.
If the burger is too thin, there’s no meaty comfort.
If the sauce is too heavy, the bread falls apart.
How did I solve these problems?
Firstly, a specific kind of bread is used. I wanted to simply use a good sandwich bread that can be found anywhere. I decided the bread needed a barrier to absorb potential moisture so it doesn’t fall apart. When I make French toast, I like to dredge the eggy bread in oats. It not only gives a delightful crunch but almost limitless absorptivity for maple syrup. The most important part of French toast to this Canadian! 😉 This is an important inner part of the bread component to absorb any meaty juices from the burger.
Secondly, the burger component. Normally I don’t like to bind my ground meat with eggs and breadcrumbs. It takes away the meaty texture and flavour. If I’m taking the time to find a quality rancher who cares for the animal I wish to eat, I want to ensure every part of that animal is treated with the same respect in my kitchen. In this case, binding with egg and breadcrumbs. To replace some of the meatiness that is diminished, I season the patty more liberally than normal. But not with salt. Salt, when mixed into meat, will start to degrade the muscle fibres in ways that affect texture no matter if it is bound or not. I make my own Creole seasoning for host of things to add flavour. Whether it’s this patty, or eggs, or oven roasted potatoes. An intensely flavoured seasoning is good to have on hand at any time.
Thirdly, a sauce that one would associate with a burger. I don’t put anything in the patty melt. I reserve any sauce as a dipping sauce on the side and the intensely seasoned patty covers a lot of the flavour a sauce would normally add.
Finally, always use a cheese that has extra flavour in it. Whether it’s an extra aged cheddar, any smoked cheese that you can find, or cheeses infused with herbs, spices, wines or beers, any of these flavoured cheeses will work wonders.
Let the patty melt games begin…
For the Creole Seasoning:
1/2 cup chili powder
1/2 cup sweet paprika
1/4 cup ground cumin seeds
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsp celery seeds
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup dried oregano
For the Patties:
220g/8oz ground beef
2/3 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Creole seasoning
For the Patty Melt:
4 slices whole wheat bread
2 eggs + 1/4 cup milk, beaten together in a small bowl
1 cup rolled oats
150g/6 oz shredded jalapeño jack cheese (or any highly flavoured cheese)
4 Tbsp butter
For the creole seasoning, combine all of the spices in a medium bowl until uniformly combined. This is going to be more than what you need for this recipe, but it stays in an airtight container for a month or more. It won’t last that long, trust me.
For the patties, combine the ground beef, eggs, 1/4 cup of creole seasoning and breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Stir vigorously with your fingers, squeezing the mixture between your fingers to ensure a full incorporation of all ingredients.
Divide the patty mixture into two portions. Lay each portion on a sheet of parchment paper. Press each into a rectangular shape and flatten to the size of your bread slices so it fits the sandwich completely.
Set a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and when the oil smoulders and almost starts to smoke, add the patties carefully into the pan. Griddle them for 4-5 minutes per side until they are deeply golden and cooked through. Set aside on paper towels to drain and keep warm while you prepare the bread.
For the patty melt, dredge the bread, one slice at a time, on one side in the egg-milk mixture, then into the rolled oats. Preheat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons of oil and two teaspoons of butter. When the butter melts and bubbles, add the dredged bread, oat side down and griddle for 90 seconds to two minutes. As the bread griddles, spread the side facing up with butter. When the oats have toasted to a golden brown, flip and griddle the buttered side. Sprinkle each golden oat side with one quarter of the cheese. When the cheese has melted and the buttered side is golden, remove from the pan, add a prepared patty and top with another toasted, cheesy bread slice. Serve with your favourite dipping sauce. I’m partial to an equal blend of sweet chilli sauce, relish and Greek yogurt. Serves 2.