A New Jersey classic, caramelized Onion Patty Melts are a combination of juicy burgers and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. Two slices of rye bread bookend provolone cheese, sweet and savory caramelized onions, and a quarter pound burger patty.
By Amy Casey
Over 575 diners dot the landscape of New Jersey making it the diner capital of the world. Almost every town has a diner and some even have two. From retro style to greasy spoon to upscale décor, diners are a staple of the New Jersey dining scene. The king-sized menus encased in lament to withstand the next hurricane of the century, offer what seems like a limitless number of dining options.
There is hardly an entree, salad, breakfast item or dessert that is not offered at many diners. Have a taste for Peking duck at 2 am on a Tuesday? No problem. How about chocolate chip banana pancakes topped with whipped cream for dinner? Order up. They are available 24 hours a day. Have a hankering for a slice of key lime pie with meringue a mile high? Every diner has a gleaming glass bakery case loaded with apple cobbler, strawberry topped cheese cake, German chocolate cake and peanut butter pie just to name a few deserts.
I recreated a diner staple menu item, the Patty Melt. Caramelized Onion Patty Melts are a combination of juicy burgers and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. Two slices of rye bread bookend provolone cheese, sweet and savory caramelized onions, and a quarter pound burger patty. The outsides of the bread are slathered with butter and the patty melt is crisped to a toasty brown in a Panini press or a sauté pan set over medium heat. Double the recipe and wrap the extra cooled patty melts in foil and pop in a resealable freezer bag. They will keep up to a month in the freezer. Reheat in a 375 degree oven on a cooling rack placed in a rimmed baking sheet for 15 – 20 minutes. Unwrap the patty melt for the last 5 minutes or so of the reheating time so the crust can crisp up a bit.
Add classic sides of cole slaw, dill pickle spears and potato chips to complete the at home diner dining experience.
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 large Vadalia onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 slice of bread, torn in small pieces
- ¼ cup milk
- 8 slices rye bread
- 8 slices Provolone cheese
- In a large sauté pan over medium low heat add 2 tablespoons of butter and the thinly sliced onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté for 20 – 25 minutes or until the onions a softened and are golden brown. Remove from the pan to a plate and cover with foil.
- In a bowl, add the ground beef, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and onion and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, place the torn bread and milk. With a fork or your fingers, mash the bread into very small pieces. Add to the bowl with the ground beef; gently combine. Form into 4 thin patties.
- Heat the sauté pan to medium high heat add 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter has melted and begins to foam, add the patties. Depending on the size of your pan, it may be necessary to cook the patties in batches. Cook the patties for about 3 – 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan to a plate.
- For each patty melt, place two slices of bread on a work surface. Put a slice of Provolone cheese on each slice of bread and top one slice with a patty. Put ¼ of the caramelized onions on top of the patty and top with the other slice of bread with the cheese. Repeat the same process for the remaining patty melts. Butter both sides of the bread for each patty melt.
- Heat the sauté pan or Panini press to medium high. Cook the patty melts until lightly brown on each side and the cheese is melted, about 2 – 3 minutes for each side. Remove from pan and slice on a diagonal to serve.
Amy Casey, of northern New Jersey, is a food columnist for the New Jersey Herald and cookbook author. She has developed a wealth of recipes as a personal chef and also while cooking for her own family of five. See more of her recipes in her just published cookbook for e-readers Dinner for a Year – 52 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Spice Up Your Family Menu Planning.