Cheeseburger in paradise

Adrienne Freeman Originally Published September 19, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 18, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
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The whole country should take a moment, or at least time for a few bites, to recognize National Cheeseburger Day, officially observed Sept. 18 but actually recognized by Americans year-round. Cheeseburgers are such a part of the American experience that they are forever recorded in the national discography. How many can’t recite at least a few bars of Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or Mickey D’s famous jingle from the ’70s that begins, “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese ….”

The Huffington Post reports that Americans eat 50 billion burgers a year, with McDonald’s claiming to sell 75 burgers every single second of every single day, with no specific mention of adding that slice of melting dairy goodness, but everyone knows that everything is better with cheese!

A quick Internet search reveals all the juicy details: Several mom-and-pop restaurants and diners from coast to coast claim to have invented the cheeseburger, or a least they were anxious to get a claim on the word “cheeseburger,” vying to establish their place in history with what was sure to be a favorite for years to come.

Cheeseburgers started showing up on menus in the mid-’20s, shortly after White Castle started the first fast-food hamburger chain in 1921. White Castle’s product also falls into another important discussion, the vast variety of cheeseburgers. A White Castle burger is distinctive: Precisely five holes are punched into each patty so it can absorb the flavor of the onion that is placed on top.

Other variations include the Juicy Lucy, a cheeseburger that has the cheese inside the meat patty rather than on top. Another twist, a patty melt, is a sandwich traditionally served on buttery grilled rye bread, containing a juicy but thin hamburger patty adorned with grilled onion and tangy melted Swiss cheese. The quintessential California based In-N-Out Burger has taken variations to the “Nth” degree with its “secret” menu that is easily unearthed with a quick Google search. But Arkansans will have to go all the way to Dallas to order a 3x3 Animal Style with well-done fries (www.in-n-out.com.)

Basic ingredients for a classic cheeseburger are simple: a soft bun, a hot patty and a slice or two of melted cheese of your choice. But creative cooks and consumers alike have varied the ordinary sandwich to extraordinary by adding extras such as bacon, jalapenos, avocado, chili, onions and any other number of tasty additions that make each bite unique.

When all options are exhausted for a simply delicious sandwich, try these recipes that transform the traditional tastes of the American favorite to different dishes and preparations.

CROCK-POT CHEESEBURGERS

Ingredients:

3 pounds lean ground beef (90/10 – chuck has too much fat)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons minced garlic

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons ketchup

3 tablespoons mustard

6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed

Extra shredded cheddar cheese for topping sandwiches

2-4 tablespoons butter, softened

Soft buns, lettuce, tomato

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add olive oil. Add onions, cooking for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add garlic, beef, salt and pepper, and stir, cooking until just brown, about 5 minutes.

Add beef to a slow cooker along with milk, ketchup and mustard, mixing well. Add cubed cheddar, making sure it is well mixed into meat. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 hours on low, stirring once every 30 minutes or so, especially on the edges.

Serve on toasted, buttered buns with additional cheese and toppings.

CHEESEBURGER PIE

Adapted from the Betty Crocker/Bisquick recipe

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef

1 large onion, chopped (approximately 1 cup)

½ teaspoon granulated garlic

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup baking mix (like Bisquick)

1 cup milk

2 eggs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

Saute beef and onion over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown, draining any extra grease. Stir in salt and garlic, spread beef mixture in pie plate, and sprinkle with cheese.

In small bowl, whisk remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour over beef.

Bake 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

CHEESEBURGER PIZZA

Ingredients:

Prebaked 12-inch pizza crust (like Boboli)

¾ pound ground beef

¾ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

½ cup dill-pickle slices

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded lettuce

Directions:

Preheat grill. Prepare for indirect heat (if using charcoal, build fire on one side only. If using a gas grill, turn off the burners on one side before cooking.)

Shape beef into three 1/2-inch-thick patties. Grill, covered, over medium-hot heat until meat is no longer pink, approximately 5 minutes on each side. Cut burgers into ½-inch pieces; set aside.

Combine ketchup and mustard; spread over crust, leaving a 1-inch border on the crust. Top with tomato slices, onion, pickles and cheese; season with salt and pepper.

Place 16-inch square of pizza on the side of the grill with no heat. Place pizza on the foil and grill, covered, over medium indirect heat for 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is slightly browned.

Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle with shredded lettuce.

CHEESEBURGER SOUP

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk, warmed

12 to 16 ounces processed cheese (like Velveeta)

16 ounces chicken stock

1 pound lean ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 small tomatoes

½ small head iceberg lettuce, finely shredded

Shredded cheddar (for garnish and topping)

Directions:

In a skillet over medium heat, soften the onion in olive oil, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until the meat is no longer pink; set aside.

In a small Dutch oven, melt the butter, whisk in the flour to make a paste. Take a small stock pot and add the butter and flour, and cook for a few minutes to create a paste. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, and continue stirring until the mixture begins to thicken. Slowly add the stock until the mixture is smooth. Add the cheese a little at a time, and cook over medium, stirring often, until cheese is melted and the soup achieves the desired consistency.

Adjust seasoning, add cooked ground beef, and stir until well combined. Serve into soup bowls and top with lettuce, tomato and additional cheddar as desired.

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