Patty Melt with Beer Caramelized Onions + Cooper Sharp Cheese

I'm so happy to be sharing a recipe here, after what seems like an eternity. Photoshoots, family visits and wedding planning kept us away from our kitchen for a couple of weeks. In reality, that isn't that long to be away, but when your weekends are usually devoted to some sort of cooking or recipe testing, two weeks away felt crazy.

So now that cookout season is upon us, naturally we have burgers on the brain. A good classic cheeseburger is high on my list of favorite summer foods, but patty melts are special, and in a whole other hemisphere of burger goodness. As Robert described it while we devoured the above sandwich, a cheeseburger is one note and a patty melts are many notes. Profound, I know. But really, there's a lot going on even in the most basic diner-style patty melt, and that's probably the best place to have them. Come to think of it, until we made this I hadn't had a patty melt anywhere apart from diners. 

We got fresh rye bread for this from High St on Market, which I'm sure I've mentioned here before is a requirement for Philly dining. Fried food (even burgers, sadly) have been tough for me since my acid reflux started worsening recently, so if I'm in the must-have-french-fries mood, these oven baked ones are my favorite, most delicious substitute Robert has made. It's the same recipe from our Poutine, if you need a gravy fix. In an effort to keep our patty melt classic, we used cooper sharp cheese, mostly because it's American cheese with a little more flavor. Serve this with a Saison, or Belgian beer and you're golden.

Patty Melt with Beer Caramelized Onions + Cooper Sharp Cheese
makes 1 sandwich

6 oz ground beef (20% fat, 80% lean)
2 slices rye bread
4 slices cooper sharp cheese
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
12 oz brown ale, or dark beer
1 tbs butter
1 tbs mayonaise, divided
1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce 
2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper 

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. When butter is foaming, add onions and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add a small amount of beer, approximately 1/4 of bottle, scraping to deglaze. Continue cooking until beer has reduced and onions continue browning, about 10 minutes. Add another 1/4 of beer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking, adding beer once onions absorb liquid, for an additional 20 minutes. After approximately 40 minutes of cooking, onions will be deeply browned and caramelized in color. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, combine ground beef with cumin, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Mix gently to combine and press into a thin patty, about 1/4'' thick. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add burger patty and cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Wipe out skillet and return to medium high heat. To assemble sandwich, top rye bread with 2 slices cooper sharp cheese, burger patty, caramelized onions, 2 additional slices of cooper cheese, and second slice of bread. Spread top slice of bread with 1/2 tbs mayonnaise, flip sandwich and place in pan (mayonnaise side down). Using a second skillet, weigh down sandwich and cook for 3 minutes, undisturbed. Spread additional 1/2 tbs mayonnaise on top of sandwich and flip. Continue cooking, weighed down with skillet for an additional 3 minutes. Gently remove from pan and slice in half to serve.

Oven Baked Fries
serves 2

3 medium Russet potatoes
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tbs canola oil
salt and pepper

Wash potatoes and cut into sticks of uniform thickness. In a large pot, cover potatoes with at least an inch of water and bring to a boil. Add vinegar and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain potatoes, and transfer to baking sheet lined with paper towels to dry potatoes. Place potatoes on a cooling rack and continue drying for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°. Toss potatoes with canola oil and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Cook 12 minutes. Flip potoatoes and cook an additional 12-15 minutes, or until potatoes have reached desired doneness. Remove from oven and toss with salt.