Ok, so this Oka Patty Melt with Wine-Braised Cipollini Onions is the last thing my post-vacation Easter-candy-ravaged body needs but, meh. The heart wants what it wants and my heart wanted an Oka Patty Melt, so I obliged. When you really think about it, cooking is a completely dangerous skill to possess. You can conjure up just about any evil thing that pops into your head. I just mastered brioche…that’s not something you can’t unlearn! Now, when I want brioche, which is inexplicably difficult to find in my neighborhood, I can just whip it up. This is very bad. Thank goodness peak running season is imminent.
But enough about my butter intake, let’s put our nutrition-related worries aside, and talk patty melts. That deliciously retro diner sandwich that nobody’s talking about. Why? I don’t get it. It’s cute, malt-shop-friendly, and flippin’ delicious. I’m not sure why it never made a strong comeback when the diner concept came roaring back. Maybe it’s different in the US, but here in Canada, I’ve never seen a classed-up version of a patty melt on a single menu. Granted I haven’t looked at every menu across this vast, vast nation. But you’d think the patty melt would be more common, more loved, more popular.
Now, due to the patty melt’s relative absence from most menus, you might not know what a patty melt is. Well, let me enlighten you. A patty melt is a hamburger patty sandwiched between two slices of rye bread with cheese and caramelized onions. That’s it. Well, that’s not it depending on who you are and where your patty melt hails from. Some patty-melt-purists insist that only marbled rye will do. Others extol the virtues of Thousand Island dressing. While still others, consider the addition of the same dressing blasphemy. It doesn’t really matter. The common threads are the burger patty, the cheese, the onions, and the rye bread, marbled or otherwise. That’s the patty melt!
I feel about the patty melt much the same way I feel about the float. It should be a thing, but for whatever reason, it’s not. So, I put forth my take on the sandwich, decked out in Canadian cheese no less. Yes, I made this baby an Oka Patty Melt to add a little Canadian content to a decidedly American sandwich. Perhaps it will make it more palatable to my fellow country-people and then I will finally be able to order a patty melt in every province. It’s about attainable goals. Okay, that probably won’t happen and, if I’m honest, I just added Oka because it melts well and it’s damn tasty.
What’s Oka? Well, Oka is a delightful cheese that comes from Quebec. It’s produced in a town called Oka, to be exact, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s a semi-soft washed rind cheese that was once produced by Trappist monks living in the area. It is now, of course, commercially produced and readily available in most Canadian grocery stores. If you’re nowhere near a Canadian grocery store, I think Muenster cheese would be an excellent substitute.
The other standout feature of this Oka Patty Melt is the Wine-Braised Cipollini Onions. Cipollini onions are my favorite onions. They’re sweet, clean, and caramelize readily. It may seem silly to put 20 extra minutes of cook time into a burger topping but, man, it’s well worth the extra effort and time. Honestly, you don’t even have to make the rest of this recipe. Just make the braised onions and put them on everything. They are the perfect topping, garnish, and condiment to ever grace a sandwich. Okay, that might be an overstatement, I’m exaggerating to ensure you make these friggin’ onions! Is it working?
When it came to the hamburger patty, I went super simple. First off, I made sure the beef wasn’t extra lean because why would you do that to your patty melt? Next, I made sure the meat was super duper cold but not frozen before forming it into patties. Yes, that’s right, not a stitch of seasoning when into the meat. This is something that I got wrong for so. damn. long. I used to pile my burger meat high with horseradish, hot sauce, an egg, everything because I thought it made my burger special. It didn’t. Over mixing burger meat and seasoning a patty from the inside out results in a mealy, tough burger. No thank you. Burger nirvana is achieved by keeping your patties cold and unseasoned until you’re ready to cook. Then, simply season your burgers with salt and pepper like a steak. That’s it!
Finally, I did add a sauce. Ever since ODing on Thousand Island dressing as only a four-year-old in the early 90s could, I’ve had a tenuous relationship with the orange stuff. But, on the other hand, the only thing from McDonald’s I still consistently crave is their “secret” sauce, which is as close as you can get to Thousand Island dressing without eating Thousand Island dressing. What can I say? I’m a complex creature. So, I made a sauce that’s a touch closer to the Big Mac’s eternal companion than the dressing I used to drown my iceberg lettuce in. What I mean by this, is I opened my fridge and took my condiments, and put them in a bowl together. With that much sugar and sodium in the mix, the result with unsurprisingly delicious.
So, that’s the deal with the Oka Patty Melt with Riesling Braised Cipollini Onions. It’s definitely a sandwich worth making, eating, and loving. Whip up a batch today and help me in my noble effort to bring the patty melt to more people.
Oka Patty Melt with Wine-Braised Cipollini Onions
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1½ cups cipollini onions peeled and halved lengthwise
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cup riesling or light red wine
- 454g (1 lb) lean ground beef
- 4 slices Oka cheese
- 8 slices light rye bread toasted
- 1 batch Patty Sauce see below
- 3-4 dill pickles sliced
- ¼ cup mayo
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tsp sweet relish
- 1½ tsp yellow mustard
- 1 tsp ketchup
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Fresh ground pepper
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and the olive is shimmering, place the onions in the skillet cut-side-down. Don't disturb the onions for a minute or two. Once the onions are golden on one side, give them a toss and sprinkle them generously with salt. Push the onions to the side of the skillet and add the garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Bundle the thyme sprigs together to form a bouquet. Secure the thyme with butcher's twine and add it to the skillet. Pour in the wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Let the onions braise for 20 minutes or until very tender. Remove the onions from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.
- While the onions are braising, form the ground beef into four evenly-sized patties. Transfer the patties to the fridge to chill until ready to cook. Give them at least 15 minutes in the fridge before cooking.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chilled burger patties with salt and pepper on one side. Place the patties in the skillet, seasoned side down. Create a dimple in the center of each patty and season the naked side with salt and pepper. Cook the burger for 2-3 minutes, then flip. Add a slice of Oka to the top of each burger and cook for 2-3 minutes more. The burgers should be tender and soft pink in the center. Cook for longer if you prefer a burger that is more well done.
- While the burgers are cooking, place all of the Patty Sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Slather patty sauce on two pieces of toasted rye bread. Add 3-4 pickle slices to one slice and place a burger patty on top. Pile a good amount of the braised onions on top of the burger and place the remaining slice of rye bread on top. Repeat until you have four patty melts.
- Serve the sandwiches immediately with a side of fries and soda for the true diner experience.