Does anyone else watch ‘Man vs. Food’? We’ve been watching sometimes lately, and we saw an episode where they were in Hartford, Connecticut, and the secondary restaurant that was featured claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger. Louis’ Lunch says that they served up the first burger in 1900, and that they’ve been serving it pretty much the same way ever since.
We all thought it seemed like fun to try the Louis’ Lunch burger recipe. So I looked around online to see if I could find a recipe, and I came across this one, and we made them that evening.
The keys to a Louis’ Lunch burger are the mixture of beef. I believe they claim to use a mixture of 6 meats, but this recipe settles for a mixture of 1/2 ground sirloin, and 1/2 ground chuck. They also use a hearty white toast rather than a bun, and they don’t have ketchup or french fries. You can have tomatoes and onions (they grill the onions with the burger in their vertical grills, which date back to the 1920s, I believe), lettuce, and cheese sauce, and sides are potato salad or potato chips. Mmmm. Potato chips. We cheated, because Maya loves sweet potato fries, and since we’re home, we can do what we want, right?
For the cheese spread, you could make your own, the idea of which didn’t thrill me. Another option would be to buy a processed cheese food product, like Cheese Whiz, or just use a slice of Cheddar, since we don’t have a groovy vertical grill to worry about the cheese oozing sideways. Instead, I found this Kaukauna spreadable cheese (from Wisconsin!), which is actually pretty good.
Here’s the recipe.
Luis’ Lunch Hamburger
- 1 1/4 pounds ground chuck
- 1 1/4 pounds ground sirloin
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 medium-size onion, cut into 8 thin wedges
- 16 slices sandwich bread
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)
- 1 large or 2 medium-size gorgeous, luscious, ripe red tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 8 Boston lettuce leaves or iceberg lettuce slices
- Cheese Sauce (optional)
- Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
- Place the chuck and sirloin in a large mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon, or mix the meat in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. If possible, avoid mixing the meat with your hands so your fingers don’t warm it.
- Wet your hands with cold water and divide the meat into 8 equal portions. Working quickly and with a light touch, pat each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick squarish patty. Generously season each patty on both sides with salt and pepper. Press an onion wedge into one side of each patty so that it’s flush with the meat.
- Lightly brush the bread slices with the butter, if using. Arrange the tomatoes and lettuce leaves on an attractive serving platter.
- When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the burgers on the hot grate, onion side down. Grill the burgers until cooked to taste, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the side of a burger into the center. The internal temperature should be about 145°F for medium-rare or, if using commercial ground beef, cook it to at least medium, 160°F.
- Meanwhile, place the bread slices on the hot grate and grill until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
- To serve, place a lettuce leaf on top of a slice of toast. Top with a burger, tomato slice, and Cheese Sauce , if using. Slap a piece of toast on top and serve at once.
The result? A really good burger. I tried pushing the onions into the meat before grilling, but the vast majority of it fell down the grates when I turned it over. Bummer too, because they looked good. (Which made me think of something the butcher told me about Sam’s or Joe’s or some place in San Francisco, where the hamburger is mixed with chopped onions…sounds good…but I don’t know if it would get that grilled flavor that being on the surface of the burger should give.) I ate mine with cheese spread and chips, and it was delicious. I kinda liked the toast thing instead of a bun, actually, and not having ketchup, mustard, or mayo, because what you tasted was the excellent MEAT. So from now on, I think when I make burgers, I’ll use that 1/2 sirloin, 1/2 chuck thing. Give it a try.