No, I don’t mean Lucille Ball and the classic 50’s American Sitcom “I Love Lucy”. Truth be known, I never really understood I Love Lucy and was much more a fan of “Bewitched“, I blame a bit of a crush on Elizabeth Montgomery. Anyway, I digress..
Hamburgers have enjoyed a bit of a gourmet renaissance in recent years with the emergence of restaurants and chains offering burgers at the higher-end of the food spectrum, with a focus on quality ingredients rather than the burgers of yesteryear from a van where the meat is of indeterminate origin and eating from them is a fast track to food poisoning. Even Heston Blumenthal got in on the act years ago and created what he considered to be his perfect burger (even if it was the most laborious undertaking for a burger, ever). The Meatwagon (and it’s subsequent various incarnations) really pushed the burger to something special and are (IMHO) amongst the best in the Country. At the Taste of London festival earlier this year, the winner of the best in taste award was a foie gras burger from Club Gascon.
A recent trip to the Real Food Market outside the Southbank Centre resulted in me buying some burgers from the Woodwards Farm stall. They certainly smelled really good cooking on the grill and I was too full from lunch to actually try one, but I thought I’d get a couple of packs to take home and cook. I’d been craving a decent burger for a while and a trip to the Handmade Burger Company didn’t do anything to dispel that craving. Then it hit me – I could use the burgers to make a jucy lucy. The Jucy (or Juicy) Lucy is basically a cheeseburger but rather than have the cheese melted on top of the burger patty, the cheese is actually encased within the burger patty meaning it looks like a plain burger from the outside but take a bit, and melted cheese comes oozing out of the burger. It’s currently disputed between 2 bars in South Minneapolis (Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club) who first came up with the idea but whoever it was, I salute you!
Reading up on recipes, I came across this brilliant page which included step-by-step instructions at the marvellous A Hamburger Today (essential reading for all things burger-related). As my burger was already flattened, I only needed to buy the cheese, assemble, cook and eat. Simple, right?
For the first burger, I flattened the burgers in the packaging and then built up a pile of cheese in the centre of one of the patties. The other burger was plopped on top and I attempted to pinch the edges but the patty was a bit wet so it didn’t adhere too well. I did the best I could and began to shape the burger, pinching any visible holes to avoid an problems with the molten cheese escaping whilst cooking. Now, I made the first one and it was painfully obvious that this burger (using both burger patties in the pack) was WAY too big. I didn’t want (or rather, I was too scared) to take it apart so I left it as it was. For the other pack however, I decided to use 1 patty per burger (as intended in the packet!). I also decided that since the patty was so wet and I had to break it into half anyway, I scrunched each half of the patty with my hands a little before flattening, added the cheese, pinching the edges together and formed the burger. I did the best I could to get rid of any visible holes but the only way to find out was to cook them. Oh, and it has to be processed cheese – Using something like Cheddar will result in the fat separating thus creating a bit of a mess (Processed cheese already has emulsifiers in it thus won’t separate).
The frying pan was heated to a medium-high heat until slightly smoking before a light touch of oil was added and then the burgers. As it had been a few days since I bought the meat, I decided to err on the side of caution and cooked the burgers a bit more thoroughly than medium rare as I’d like them, so I gave them a good 5 minutes on the first side before flipping over and cooking the other side for about the same time.
See that last pic? Yep, that’s cheese oozing out from a hole that I missed. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad so no too much cheese was lost – But let that be a lesson as to why you need to make sure there are no holes in the burger patty when you cook it! For that reason, I’m glad I didn’t poke a hole in the top after flipping the burger as I reckon it’s just another means of escape for the molten cheese inside. What’s more, the first behemoth burger that was made? Well, remember me saying that the mixture was quite damp so I couldn’t really pinch it together? If you look at one of the photos of the burger patties before cooking, you’ll notice a gaping big seam where the 2 patties met and haven’t been pinched together. When it came to cooking, it meant that the patty started to open up like a clam shell so I had to cook it along the edge of the pan in the (misguided) hope that it would seal the edge – It didn’t. However, only a minimal amount of cheese escaped so it wasn’t too bad. Still, I know for next time that you *really* need to seal them burger patties!
The patties were rested a little before assembling into the buns. As I can’t eat brioche, I opted for a plain bap (albeit one topped with sesame seeds) and lightly toasted it. Well, I tried to lightly toast it but as I was concentrating on making sure not too much cheese escaped from the larger burger patty as I was cooking it, the top of the bun was a bit darker that I wanted. I decided that there was no need for any ketchup or mustard and DEFINITELY no mayo and as for extras, I thought a pickle would overpower the taste of the burger. So, I opted for some sliced tomato and thinly sliced red onion but no lettuce – There’s nothing worse than greasy iceberg as you’re eating a burger as far as I’m concerned. Oh, and you don’t want to eat the burgers straight away as the molten cheese from when you first bite into it could burn the insides of your mouth, so it’s best to wait a little while before eating them.
Now, I don’t normally like processed cheese or cheeseburgers in general, but this was absolutely delicious. To be fair, it was helped by the fact that I had a very good burger patty to start off with which didn’t need any more seasoning, but this jucy lucy could very well convert me. The burgers were still a bit pink so still retained moistness, and with the dense meatiness, the savoury cheese and the onion and tomato cutting through the grease to lighten the whole thing, I had to retain some sense of decorum and not eat 2 burgers (the smaller ones, I should add – not the behemoth). I’m tempted to try adding something like (chopped) crispy bacon in with the cheese next time but I’m wondering if it will be lost in all the cheesy and meaty goodness?
I don’t have the equipment to mince my own meat or make my own burgers at home (and it’s generally accepted that you shouldn’t use packets of mince from the supermarkets as it’s not coarse enough), otherwise I would make burgers a bit more often. However, if you ever come across a decent burger which needs to be cooked at home, then I would wholeheartedly recommend making these – They’re sensational. Besides, who can resist a burger oozing with cheesy goodness?
You can view the full set of photos on my Flickr page