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~ How to: Make a Jucy Lucy Cheese-Stuffed Burger ~

IMG_5746A thick, juicy, medium-rare all-American cheeseburger with American or Velveeta cheese.  I kid you not, I gotta have one "my way" once a week, topped with lots of lettuce, onion, ketchup, and sometimes, dill pickle slices.  Over the 4th of July, I decided to celebrate with exactly that, except, with a twist:  I decided to try my hand at the iconic Jucy Lucy, a nifty Midwestern invention and the signature 'burger of Minneapolis.  What's the twist?  The cheese gets stuffed and sealed inside the 'burger instead of placed on top of it.  Be prepared, because the second you bite into it, the 'burger juices squirt out and a molten core of melted cheese flows out like lava.

If you know what a Jucy Lucy 'burger is, you know the above photo is a great photograph of a fun, delicious, mess of a 'burger.  If you are trying to take a photo of the grand opening of a Jucy Lucy 'burger, you should know you're only going to get one very quick shot at it.

IMG_5731The trick to making a Jucy Lucy (or a Juicy Lucy as it is sometimes spelled) are keeping the cheese contained inside the meat.  That requires meticulously sealing two thin equal-sized slightly-wider-than-normal patties of ground beef around the cheesy center.  If the patties aren't sealed securely the cheese will ooze out in spots as the 'burger cooks, instead of turning into an oozy-gooey molten cheesy center.  My tip is to cook the 'burger just long enough for the cheese to melt, which is fine by me, because I like my burgers medium rare, meaning: rare or well-done Juicy Lucy's are problematic.  As for the cheese, I'm of the opinion that nothing other than processed American or Velveeta will do because they melt to free-flowing perfection.

For every Jucy Lucy cheese-stuffed 'burger:

8  ounces lean ground beef (90/10)

1  slice American or Velveeta cheese (the two authentic choices)

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

Part One:  Forming the patties. 

IMG_1136 IMG_1141 IMG_1148 IMG_1153~Step 1.  For each 'burger, you'll need two, even-sized, even-thickness, firmly-compacted, perfectly-formed, intact, thin, slightly-wider-than-usual patties -- it's that specific, so put your detail-oriented hat on before proceeding.  The best way to insure uniformity (which insures the 'burger cooks and the cheese melts properly), is to take all of the guess work out of it.  Using a kitchen scale, for each burger, weigh 8 ounces of lean ground beef.  When it comes to the Jucy Lucy, I get foolproof results with 90/10.  Substitute at your own risk.  Using the scale, divide the meat into 2, 4-ounce portions.  Working on a piece of parchment paper and using a 4 1/2" round pastry cutter and a tart tamper, tamp the meat to form 2, 4-ounce, 4 1/2" round, 1/3"-thick patties.

Part Two:  Stuffing & constructing the 'burgers.

IMG_1156 IMG_1160 IMG_1166 IMG_1171~Step 2.  Cut one slice of American or Velveeta cheese into 4 quarters.  If you are thinking this is not enough cheese, trust me, it is more than enough.  Stuff in more at your own risk. Stack the cheese as pictured in the center of one patty.  Gently lift and place the second patty on top of the cheese.  Carefully pick the 'burger up, and, working your way around the perimeter, use your palm as a crimping tool, to seal the edges -- avoid turning the 'burger into a fat ball.  The burger should be 2/3"-thick and 4 1/2"-round, with a slight bump in the center where the cheese is.

Part Three:  Cooking the 'burgers.    

IMG_1179 IMG_1182 IMG_1183 IMG_1187~Step 3.  Cooking the Jucy Lucy, if you followed all of my directions,  is the easy part.  That said, I do not recommend the rough and tumble, tork and jerk, flip and flop lifestyle of the charcoal or gas grill grids.  The Jucy Lucy is a 'burger that responds perfectly to a kinder, gentler broiler pan, 5 1/2"-6" under the high-dry heat of the broiler, or over medium- medium-high heat, in a nonstick skillet, on the stovetop.  I'm demonstrating the broiler today, but, feel free to substitute a skillet.  In either case, generously season the top of the 'burger with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, and, cook as follows:  Cook 8 minutes per side, turning only once, for a total of 16 minutes. During the cooking process, do not press down on the top of the 'burger for any reason.

Put a lid on it.  Stick a toothpick or two in it too:

IMG_5736Get out lots of napkins & put on a bib -- it really does squirt*:  (*Table linens were damaged in the taking of this photo.)

IMG_5765How to:  Make a Jucy Lucy Cheese-Stuffed Burger:  Recipe yields instructions to construct and perfectly-cook a super-juicy, ooey-gooey, 8-ounce molten-cheese-stuffed 'burger.

Special Equipment List:  parchment paper; kitchen scale; 4 1/2" round pastry cutter; tart tamper; disposable aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom

PICT2209Cook's Note:  Much like the rivalry between Pat's and Geno's over the iconic Philadelphia Cheesesteak Sandwich, two establishments, Matt's Bar and The 5-8 Club, about three miles from each other on Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis, claim to have invented the Jucy or Juicy Lucy.  As one story goes, Matt Bristol purchased a bar in the latter 1950's (naming it Matt's Bar), in which a customer, after biting into one of the previous owner's unique  PICT2218cheese-stuffed 'burgers, remarked, "wow, that's juicy lucy."    Mr. Bristol is credited with adding the 'burger to the menu, thus popularizing it.  The 5-8 Club, originally a speakeasy during the 1920's, doesn't have a particular origin story, but spells their version correctly.  The Club's staff wears shirts that read "If it's spelled right, it's done right."  Matt's Bar says, "If it is spelled right, you are eating a shameless rip-off!" 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 


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