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~ The Times They are a Changing: The Patty Melt!!! ~

6a0120a8551282970b01a511b16c1c970cTwo Sunday nights ago, in a scene from this years episode two of Mad Men, Don Draper was having a one-on-one, heart-to-heart, father-to-daughter, break-through-the-ice conversation with his now teenage daughter Sally.  Don was driving Sally back to Miss Porter's School and they stopped at a diner along the road to get a bite to eat.  Sally excused herself, to use the ladies room.  When she returned to her place at their table, she looked down and asked "what's this?" Daddy Draper replied, "I got you a patty melt."  That's just one of the things I love about this show -- right down to the food, their portrayal of life in the '60's and '70's is spot on.

For those of you born yesterday, this is not a patty melt:

6a0120a8551282970b01a511b16c5a970cThis is a patty melt (the precursor to the cheeseburger):

IMG_1482A patty melt is ooey-gooey-cheesy crunchy-meaty-greasy diner fare.  It is pre-McDonalds drive-through-window-type fare.  It's a cross between a grilled cheese sandwich and a cheeseburger:

It's a pan-grilled grilled-cheese w/a burger-in-the-middle sandwich...

IMG_1177... and a heap of golden-brown caramelized onions in the center too!

The medium-rare burgers and onions are placed between two slices of caraway-seeded rye bread that have several slices of Swiss cheese placed on them (cheddar cheese is for kids).  It gets grilled in a skillet of pan juices (leftover from caramelizing the onions and pan-searing the patties) until golden and crispy on both sides.  This is an adult sandwich.  Respect it, admire it!

IMG_1052That diner scene evoked fond memories of patty melts gone by. My mouth began watering and I couldn't wait to make these.  Over the past week, I've even been posting recipes using my rye bread.  ~ Try My Rye: It's Homemade in the Bread Machine ~ is one of them.   I found myself wishing I had a few slices left in my refrigerator.  I don't, but that is not going to stop me.  Store-bought will due just fine. Click on the Related Article link below to get my bread recipe!

IMG_0364I'm not saying I don't enjoy a well-made cheeseburger.  I do.  I adore them.  I am saying a classic patty melt, made with  firm-textured, caraway-seeded light-rye is a thing of beauty. The crispy, butttery rye exterior is something a soft, squishy hamburger roll can't compete with. The patty melt is a step up from an ordinary cheeseburger -- or should I say:  a cheeseburger is a step down from this elegant sandwich!

This recipe makes 4, large patty melts.  Cut it in half to make 2!

IMG_1090~ Step 1.  In a 14" skillet, over low heat melt:

1  stick salted butter, into

4  tablespoons olive oil


2  pounds (after peeling) 1/4" thick "half-ring-shaped" slices of yellow or sweet onions (8 cups)

season with:

IMG_10981  teaspoon sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper.

Note:  This may seem like a lot of onions, but it is not.  Similar to the mushroom, as an onion cooks and caramelizes, it loses almost all of it's volume.  So, be sure to always start out with about twice as many as you think you will need!  

IMG_1107 IMG_1130~ Step 2. Increase heat to medium-high, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally at the beginning, frequently in the middle, and, constantly at the end, until the onions are golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Deglaze pan with:

1/4 cup white wine

IMG_1209~ Step 3.  Turn the heat off.  Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the onions to a paper towel lined plate.  With each scoop of onions, take time to allow the buttery liquids to drain back down into the pan.

~ Step 4.  In same pan, adjust heat to medium-high and add:

4  8-ounce, 1/2" thick hamburger patties, your favorite meat mix

Continue to cook until patties IMG_1253are golden on both sides and medium-rare in the centers.  This will take 4-5 minutes on the first side and 3-4 minutes on the second.  

Turn the heat off.  Transfer burgers to a plate and lightly season with:

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

Note:  It's time to assemble the sandwiches, but, don't wipe or clean the skillet!

IMG_1274 IMG_1280 IMG_1287 IMG_1296 IMG_1316 IMG_1320~Step 5.  In addition to the patties and caramelized onions, you'll need 8  slices of rye bread, 24 slices of Swiss cheese and 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter.  

IMG_1325On each of four bread slices, in the following order, place: 3 slices Swiss cheese, one hamburger patty that has been cut in half, and, 1/4 of the sauteed onions.  Take a moment to push a few onions down in between the hamburger halves. This is why I cut the burgers in half. Top each with three more slices of Swiss cheese, a slice of rye bread and a generous slather of butter.

IMG_1331~ Step 6.  Over low heat, melt

4  tablespoons salted butter

into the drippings (from cooking the onions and patties) in the pan.

IMG_1356Increase heat to medium-high, add sandwiches, buttered sides up, and cook until cheese is melted and they are IMG_1384golden on both sides, turning only once.  This will take about 4 minutes on the first side, and 3 minutes on the second side. Remove sandwiches from pan and serve immediately.  

Classically, the patty melt is served with dill pickles, and, French fries with ketchup for dipping both the sandwiches and the fries into:

IMG_1367What's on your menu for tonight's Mad Men episode? 

IMG_1530The Times They are a Changing:  The Patty Melt!!!:  Recipe yields 4 hearty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" skillet; slotted spoon; spatula

IMG_0903Cook's Note: ~ To Sweeten Your Life:  Caramelize Some Onions ~. As all onion lovers know, this is an understatement.  We also know there is a right and a wrong way to caramelize onions properly.  It's not hard.  In fact, it's easy, but, it takes an understanding of onions + time and patience to do it correctly.  Click into Categories 4, 8, 15 or 20 to learn, in detail, how I do it!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


Teresa! Great to hear from you again. I have seen patty melts made with a 1000 Island dressing sauce. I ran into that version at a time when Joe and did occasional traveling to the NYC, Long Island area!

Yes we do, Mel! :) BTW, in these parts you will commonly see patty melts served with a thousand island type sauce with ketchup, mayo, and chopped sweet pickles. Do you ever see it served that way in your neck of the woods?

Thanks Teresa. Believe it or not (I know you believe it), this is another one I hesitated to post. That stops now. You're right, folks love these retro posts!

A tremendous blog, Mel! One of my all time favorites!

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