By Joe Drozda and Bob Bley
When you think of what is the quintessential American tailgate fare, what comes to mind? Hot dogs (last week’s column) and hamburgers are what you probably will answer. And, to be fair, who really doesn’t love a good burger? Even those who don’t eat meat love a good veggie burger. So, why do tailgaters love burgers?
To start with they taste good. There is just something about the taste of a juicy burger. Many people prefer the taste of a well-prepared hamburger to that of a steak, and the burger on a bun is easier to eat while standing in the parking lot. It’s also easier to chew and digest. A burger can also be part of a satisfying meal that’s much more versatile than a lot people realize because of the different types of meats and the variety of toppings that you can pile on top. Burgers offer a flavor that can be individualized to each person’s taste.
According to the Library of Congress and the Food Network, the first hamburger in America was served at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1895. It seems there are almost as many lists available ranking America’s best hamburger as there are people eating burgers. But the Travel Channel, Time Magazine, the Food Network, Zagat, Food and Wine Magazine and most other rankings place Louis’ Lunch among their best. As a result, we traveled to New Haven and checked off another item from our bucket list. The burger at Louis’
is made with five cuts of meat, ground fresh daily. It is served on white toast with only cheese, onion, and tomato as garnishes. This was a tasty experience, but we needed to find a more Midwestern flair for our tailgate burger.
Thus, we asked around for the highest rated local burger and found the 317 Burger in the trendy Broad Ripple neighborhood in Indianapolis. The 317 is known for their Jucy Lucy burger with the cheese on the inside. The name derives from the fact that as the burger cooks, the cheese inside melts. This has the effect of keeping the meat near the center of the burger very juicy. This process also separates the cheese from the bun, resulting in a much different texture than the usual cheeseburger. The 317 Burger is made from 100% premium Black Angus beef and the cheese in the middle can be varied to individual tastes. They serve Jucy Lucy burgers with centers of Velveeta, Cheddar, Blue Cheese, and others.
At 317 we met Lance Freeman the Manager and Chef Jeff Meyers who gave us a class on how to prepare the Jucy Lucy. Taking the directions for these Jucy Lucy burgers home, we have now made several batches to perfect the way to use them at a tailgate. Here is how to best make the Jucy Lucy.
2 pounds of 80/20 Angus Beef
4 to 5 oz. cheese
4 hamburger buns
Make four round thin half pound patties of the ground beef. Now flatten a one-ounce piece of Velveeta (or other cheese) into a disk shape and place in the center of the patty. With your fingers pull up the edges of the beef patty up to the center and completely cover the cheese with no gaps. Now smooth out the top of the patty so that it is even like the bottom. Turn the patty over and store it on wax paper in a sealable plastic container for transport to the game in your food cooler. To get a good sear, cook the Jucy Lucy on a flat top grill, or you can use a regular grill grate to get grill marks. Cook 5-6 minutes per side for medium.