Anne Freeze: Whaddyha have? Whaddyha have?

August 18, 2010 11:28:00 AM

Anne Freeze -


I have been working on a project at my dining table for five or so days. I had gotten to the point of recipe overload and really was forced to take all of those little pages torn out of magazines and recipes from Momma''s recipe box and the dirty, greasy ones from my Foodworks binder and just lay them all out in designated piles.  


Terry estimates there had to have been 1,000-plus pieces of paper. I read each one first and then decided to keep it or toss it. Hours and hours later, they are now in plastic sheet protectors and organized in colorful binders -- nine of them. I was thrilled to need to find my crab cake recipe this past weekend. I simply went to the Seafood and Fish book, and there it was! 


Anyway, all of this organizing has another step to it. I need to go through the food-themed magazines I''ve just tossed on a shelf, and tear out the recipes I want to keep, then place them in the plastic sheet protector and into the appropriate book. Now that I use the computer so much I don''t save as many as I used to. There are maybe 60 to look through.  




The ''Jucy Lucy'' 


As I leafed through one of these Sunday I came across an unusual recipe for a hamburger called the "Jucy Lucy." Seems that it is a local delight in Minneapolis, Minn., where they probably need a lot of meat and cheese to warm them through the long winters.  


The burger is kind of an inside-out version of a cheeseburger, with the cheese stuffed in the middle. Yum. (Don''t reach for a hunk of your best cheddar. Don''t even reach for real cheese. A slice of processed American cheese, specifically the kind packed in those plastic sleeves, is the preferred stuffing for this burger. Only those orange squares of vaguely plastic texture will achieve the proper fluidity.)  


I remember doing this myself with burgers some years back, but mine didn''t make the pages of Cook''s Illustrated. The challenge is to keep the cheese soft and gooey without melting into the burger, and cook the burger done enough but not dry. Their trick involved a panade of bread and milk added to the meat, and also wrapping the ball of cheese inside a small meat patty and encasing that patty inside a larger patty. OK. 


A recent issue of an Athens, Ga., foodie magazine said that the current trend for chefs is to open a burger spot rather than a second restaurant. And these guys are sourcing local, organic grass-fed beef and grinding it themselves, or having it ground some place local. Problem is, this beef isn''t terribly fatty, and since few burger places ask for a temp on the meat any longer, what should be a gourmet delight is dry and often flavorless. I hope they solve this before they all go out of business. 




Beef and ... 


John T. Edge has a series of one-subject food books out. I looked through the one called "Hamburgers & Fries: An American Story" to see if he had anything to say about slug burgers. At one of the Hitching Lot library talks last summer, Margo Bretz mentioned a burger she had eaten (I think in Alabama) that seemed to be a mix of bread and meat.  


John T. says that they are also known as tater burgers, cracker burgers and dough burgers and would be known to Mississippians in Tippah, Alcorn, Tishomingo, Union and Prentiss counties. 


These burgers are meat, mixed with some form of filler or extender, and probably became popular during World War II. Two ladies at the library talk told me they still prepare their meat patties this way. I expect that the flavor of these depends on the filler and how much you use. Willie Weeks of Bonneville still makes his as his daddy did -- with hamburger meat and soy. Um ... think I''ll pass. 




A favorite 


I will say that Margo also sent me a delightful e-mail describing her favorite burger. Here are her words:  


"Outside is too hot, so lean (not too lean) ground beef cooked in an iron skillet, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise on well-toasted French bread. ''Gourmet'' would be cheddar cheese melted on, and/or onions cooked alongside. The bun is the hardest part. The soft, white sweet-ish bread that compresses to a thin, sticky layer of paste is the worst."  


I have to agree that finding good bread around here is pretty difficult. Not impossible, just not easy. 




Turtle burger 


A friend, through another friend, told me about the "turtle burger." Now, this has to be seen to be believed. And it''s got to be for the kids. After you''ve viewed the picture I don''t think I need to explain it. But, here''s my recipe: Take a handful of hamburger meat and form it like a turtle body. Weave bacon strips on top. Stick hot dogs in for legs, tail and head and bake.  


My friend, Patricia, first told her grandchildren they were having turtle for supper and then brought these out! Tee hee! 


Beth Callaway used a version she read about in a Paula Deen magazine. You add finely minced mushrooms, onions, and fresh minced basil, plus a dash of balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt, to ground chuck or ground sirloin. Make into patties and grill.  


On a split ciabatta bun spread basil pesto and mayonnaise, top with lettuce, tomatoes and provolone cheese. I think the mushrooms and onions would add a lot of moisture to the meat, along with flavor. I''ve also heard of adding chopped spinach to the meat for moisture, as well as putting an ice cube in the middle of the burger before grilling. 


Right now I agree with Margo, that it is too hot to grill out. But, in case you can brave it, try something different with your burger. If you don''t like it, don''t do it again. And, there are a lot of options besides beef burgers ... but that''s for another time. 


*"Whaddya have?" is the famous greeting called out by cashiers at The Varsity in Atlanta and Athens as customers walk in. 










1 1/2 pounds ground chuck 


1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 


3/4 teaspoon garlic salt 


1 teaspoon black pepper 


Four slices American cheese 


Four buns 


Condiments and garnishes of your choice. 




n Combine the beef with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and mix well. Divide into eight portions. Make thin round patties, broader than the cheese slices.  


n Place a cheese slice onto four of the patties. (Better yet, take the cheese and fold it in half, and half again, to get a thick square).  


n Top each piece of cheese with a remaining patty. Press the edges together very well to seal. Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire and cook for three to four minutes per side for a medium burger. 


(Source: "Hamburgers & Fries," by John T. Edge) 




Anne Freeze, a self-professed foodie, was a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Columbus. She can be reached at [email protected]