A perfectly cooked cheeseburger

A perfectly cooked cheeseburger

There are two things airing right now that show the restaurant business from two very different angles.

“The Bear,” offered on Hulu as a series, takes us to a small sandwich shop in Chicago being reluctantly run by a young, rising superstar chef. His cousin has died, forcing him to retreat from his skyrocketing career to a cramped, tiny kitchen and a staff of cooks who can’t seem to do much but scream obscenities at each other in a steady stream. The episodes are so gritty and rocked with angry drama that many in the actual restaurant business have tuned out, even when they love it. It’s just too real and triggering.

The other is the movie, “The Menu,” on HBO. Here we are taking a poke at extremely high-end fine dining and the people who can afford to participate. There are rich folks who just want to say they’ve eaten at the finest place in the world, even if they don’t care diddly about the food. There’s the critic who analyzes the joy out of every bite and the foodie wannabe on hand to genuflect to the head chef at every silly, contrived morsel. All that aside, be aware it is a film in the horror genre and delivers plenty of shocks.

In the latter, without spoiling things, we get the perfect meal. Forget the sea urchin brains and salmon farts on a curated rock. The best meal coming out of this perfect kitchen is a perfectly cooked cheeseburger, by special order.

“Does it come with fries?”

“Crinkle cut or julienne?”

It’s the recipe everyone seems to talk about after seeing the film. If you can watch without immediately wanting a cheeseburger, you’re made of stronger stuff than me or you’re a vegetarian. We were anxious to give it a try at my house and ended up having homemade cheeseburgers for four nights in a row. We chose to make the julienne fries.

It’s not at all difficult but employs a simple trick that adds a great deal of flavor. A few strands of onion, shaved as thin as you can, get cooked under the burger in the final moments. That’s it, and it makes all the difference.

I have to disclaim a bit by saying we added several things to the ground beef before cooking while the movie version appears to use plain ground beef. I say “appears” because we didn’t believe a chef would use plain beef without so much as a shake of salt. You can try it plain, if you like. We added things.

Use caution when mixing flavorings into the ground beef. If using clean hands, try not to smash things up as the end product will be dense and odd. You may want to mix it all together with two forks. Shave the onions as thinly as you possibly can. This recipe follows the film, stacking two per sandwich; we got along fine with one burger each. Use American cheese. Chef says “American cheese is the perfect cheese for a cheeseburger because it melts without splitting.”


1 pound 85% ground beef, or whatever fat content you prefer

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 stick butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.

Dash Worcestershire sauce.

1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

A few shavings of raw yellow onion

4 squares of American cheese

2 hamburger buns, toasted

Start by mixing the salt, pepper, butter, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar gently into the beef. Try not to smash or compress anything. Continue by dividing the ground beef into four equal balls. Do not form into patties.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the 4 balls of ground beef, use a spatula to flatten them, then cook for 3 minutes, undisturbed. When browned well on the bottom, add just a few shreds of onion to each, then flip them over so the onion is on the bottom. Immediately top each with the cheese. When the cheese is melted, the flattened burger is done. Stack two burgers per bun and add any condiments and toppings you prefer.

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