HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us

THE GRAPEVINE

Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline.com on Twitter

Critics Challenge

San Diego Challenge

Sommelier Challenge

Winemaker Challenge


Jun 12, 2018
Printable Version
Email this Article

WINE WITH…Patty Melts

The origins of patty melts are somewhat murky, but most sources seem to agree that the genesis of this gastro-treat can be traced back to Southern California in the 1940s or 50s, possibly to Tiny Naylors, a drive-in on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and La Brea.  Whatever its true history, if you love a good, juicy hamburger, and if grilled cheese sandwiches are another of your go-to comfort foods, you’ll definitely find patty melts delicious.

For classic patty melts, certain rules apply.  The finished product should never, ever, include condiments such as ketchup, relish, sliced raw onion or mustard.  All of these spices and flavors would dilute the lovely, rich essence of the caramelized onions--which are a must.  For diners who must have lettuce and tomato with any kind of burger these additions are best served on the side, if at all.  A pickle is a permissible, even standard, accompaniment (one of us likes the pickle, the other finds that the brine interferes too much with wine).  Many recipes suggest using cheddar or American cheese, but Swiss is the tradition.

As for the bread, seeded rye is customary, and we strongly recommend it.  Even those of us with only a modest enthusiasm for it find that some sort of mystical alchemy transforms the flavorful punch of caraway seeds mingling on the palate with beefy juices and cheesy nuances into an enchanting taste sensation.

And one more essential thing: the meat must fit the shape of the bread, so when you shape the hamburger patties make sure they are oval, not round.

*      *      *

Patty Melts

Makes 4.

Since these tend to be rich and filling, one patty melt per person is generally plenty.

To save time at the last minute, the onions may be caramelized several hours ahead.

1 ½ pounds ground beef
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
About 2 cups thinly sliced yellow or red onion
8 slices rye bread, preferably seeded
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
4 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

Shape the meat into 4 oval-shaped patties.  Salt and pepper them on both sides.

To make the caramelized onions, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sturdy skillet.  Add the onions and cook them slowly, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat as necessary, until they are thoroughly soft and browned; then season them with a little salt and pepper.  Remove them to a bowl and wipe out the pan.

When you are ready to make the burgers, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Heat the oil and then add the patties, working in stages to not overcrowd them.

Top each slice of bread with a slice of cheese. Position a patty on 4 of the pieces of bread and divide the onions among each of the patties.   Top each one with the remaining slices of cheese and a slice of bread.  Divide the softened butter among the top and and bottom slices of bread, spreading it with a table knife.  Heat the skillet; then, working in batches, cook the sandwiches, flipping them once when they are golden brown.

*      *      *

These meaty melts work wonderfully with full-bodied red wines, particularly those with a sweet edge (whether from ripe fruit or oak aging).  They are exuberant New World treats, and not surprisingly pair well with equally energetic New World wines.

Questions or comments?  Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Selection

 

Approx. Price

Comments

 

Dry Creek Vineyard,

Sonoma County

(California)

Zinfandel

“Heritage Vines

2016

 

 

 

 

$24

 

Spicy but restrained, without excessive heat or sweetness, this is a seductive Zin, with finesse as well as energy.  It holds its many elements in check and balance, so impresses with more than just power.

one is always delicious. Drink now.

 

Newton,

North Coast

(California)

Cabernet Sauvignon

“Skyside”

2016

 

 

 

 

$24

 

Sweet dark berry fruit distinguishes this rich wine.  Its fruit seems so ripe as to be sweet and jammy, and the oak accents only add to the impression of something opulent and luxurious on your palate.

 

 

 

 

Nine Hats,

Columbia Valley

(Washington)

“Red Wine”

2015

 

 

 

 

$20

 

A Bordeaux-styled blend from the Long Shadows’ winemaking team, this is a super value.  It marries ripe West Coast sumptuousness with more European-inspired structure, resulting in a complete and deliciously complex red.

 

 

Pascual Toso,

Mendoza

(Argentina)

Malbed

“Reserva”

2015

(Imported by Quintessential Wines)

 

 

 

    $25

 

    

 

                                                                                        

Providing the sort of depth and length that eludes most overtly fruit-forward Malbecs, this is an impressively balanced wine, with subtle hints of savory spice and sweet tobacco in addition to its lush fruit.  Those compelling flavors meshed beautifully with the patty melts, especially with the sweet onions.

           

 

Two Angels,

Red Hills

Lake County

(California)

Petite Sirah

2015

 

 

 

$27

 

There is nothing subtle or shy (or petite) about this wine.  Instead, it packs a pretty punch, with oodles of ripe fruit and quite persistent tannins.  Like the melts themselves, it’s not for the faint of heart or palate.