As great dinner sandwiches go, it is hard to beat patty melts: ground beef, Swiss cheese and caramelized onions griddled on rye bread until they become crisp, oozing packages of salty-sweet delight. This recipe for them, which riffs on the ones served at Tiny Naylor’s drive-in restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1950s, is about as traditional as you can get – luscious enough that they don’t require condiments. Between the butter and the onions and the cheese, the sandwiches makes their own. Undercook the burger patties slightly before assembly, so they finish while you’re griddling the sandwiches at the end.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 4to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 ½pounds ground beef, at least 20 percent fat
- 8slices seeded rye bread
- 8slices Swiss cheese, approximately 1/2 pound
Step 1Caramelize onions. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet set over high heat. When it foams, add the onions and sprinkle with salt. Do not stir immediately. Wait 1 minute, then begin to stir frequently over high heat for 5 minutes or so, or until the onions have released some liquid and started to become translucent.
Step 2Reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, for what will seem like a very long time, until the onions are fully melted and dark golden brown, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Remove onions, and set them and the skillet aside. (You can caramelize the onions a day ahead of time and reheat slowly when you’re ready to cook.)
Step 3Cook the burgers. Add the remaining butter to the skillet in which you cooked the onions, and place it over medium heat. Gently divide the ground beef into 4 small piles, and then lightly form these into patties that are like flattened meatballs, roughly the shape of a slice of rye bread. Season aggressively with salt and pepper.
Step 4Increase the heat under skillet to high. Put the patties into the skillet with plenty of distance between them, and allow them to cook, without moving, for approximately 2 minutes. Use a spatula to turn the patties over, and continue to cook for another 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, then remove the patties from the skillet, and allow them to rest. (They will at this point be rare inside.)
Step 5Decrease the heat below the skillet to medium, and put four pieces of rye bread into the butter and fat that remains from cooking the patties. Top each piece with a slice of cheese, then a patty, then some of the caramelized onions, and finally another slice of cheese and another slice of rye. Use the spatula to press down on the packages, and after about a minute or so, carefully turn over each patty to begin to brown the other side. (You may need to add the additional butter.) Cook until the cheese is fully melted and the bread is golden brown and crisp on both sides. Slice in half before serving.