A few months back, Adam commanded that each of us read Hamburger & Fries: An American Story. Thank God he did, for I would never have tasted the sumptuous yet simple onion burger if he had not. The onion burger was (arguably) invented in Ardmore, Oklahoma at the Hamburger Inn by Ross Davis. Marty Hall of Sid's in El Reno, OK explains how it all began:
"He got it started," says Hall. "It was back in the twenties, back during the Depression. Onions were cheap then and hamburger meat was expensive. Same as it is now. But we were a lot poorer then. So Ross came up with this idea of adding onions to the burgers and smashing them into the meat with the back of his spatula. He called them Depression burgers and he'd smash a half-onion's worth of shreds into a five-cent burger..."
This is one of the few times I'm thankful for the Depression. The onion and the american cheese make it taste like a McDonald's burger, but in all of the good ways and none of the bad. I don't know about you, but that onion/cheese smell is what draws me back to Micky-D's every time. Enough talk. Here's the recipe for a great alternartive burger:
1 lb. ground chuck (fat is good)
2 onions, shaved (as thin as possible)
1 tsp salt
6 slices american cheese
After the jump, we show you how to put it all together.
Your first order of business is cutting the onions nice and thin. John T. Edge recommends a mandolin, but I just used a sharp knife since I don't have one. No biggie.
Heat a heavy, well-oiled skillet over medium-high heat for at least five minutes. The key here is to get even heat. I used a cast-iron skillet, which was perfect.
Divide up your meat into six equal lumps. There's no need to form them into patties. Once divided, put as many in your pan as you can fit. Three was the magic number for me. Once in the pan, push the burgers down into a round shape. (Note: you'll need a strong spatula for this recipe. I used my BBQ spatula as my plastic one would have been too flimsy.)
After it cooks for a minute, pile on the onions. Use more than you think you should, but you probably won't use all the onions. Add half the salt and then push down with all your might. You want to start getting those onions nice and smashed. Be sure to keep working the patties into a round shape.
Cook the burgers for another minute, flip them and then smash really hard again. I never really got them to meld together, or in a round shape for that matter, but it didn't matter.
Drain some of the grease, add the rest of the salt and throw on the slices of american cheese. Cook it until the chesse melts and you smell the onions starting to burn.
Drop them onto your bun (tosted if you like) and slop on some mustard. Damn, it's tasty. Give the recipe a shot and tell us what you think.
You can see all the photos on flickr.