It’s not exactly what I imagined for myself as a kid, but I seem to have made quite a reputation for myself on all things ground beef. Sounds kind of silly, right? First, there was my meatloaf, which I call “manloaf” because if you make it for a man he’s destined to fall in love with you. I whipped one up on Oprah and I still have people in the grocery store say, “Hey –love your meatloaf!” Warms my heart.
Being on Oprah was certainly a highlight, but the real shining moment in my ground beef coups came a few months ago, on a balmy night in October, just across the bridge in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo. Somehow, I won the New York Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash!
Katie Lee Joel at the Burger Bash in NYC
The Burger Bash has become somewhat of a phenomenon in the food world. It all started a few years ago at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival and quickly became the most popular and anticipated event of the entire festival. Think Star Trek convention for burger fans. Tickets sell out within a few short hours, chefs are fiercely competitive, attendees take their vote very seriously, and the victor is the hot topic of conversation for the festival’s entirety. At the first annual New York Wine and Food Festival, I was lucky enough to be that winner.
Let me start by saying I never expected to win. Never. I entered just for fun and the opportunity to hang out with some chefs and talk to other burger lovers. Little did I know…
My plat du jour — Logan County Hamburgers, a recipe inspired by my grandma. This isn’t your typical hamburger – it’s more like a grilled cheese with a burger stuffed inside. You see, burgers are my favorite food. But please, no fancy cheeses or toppings. No truffle butter, foie gras, or chutneys – just give me the basics. American cheese, pickles, ketchup, and yellow mustard, thank you very much.
Logan County Hamburgers are named for my grandma’s hometown in West Virginia. When she was growing up, they didn’t have much money, so they had to make their meat go a long way – one pound of beef stretches to at least 6 burgers. To the beef I add some grated onion, along with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and an egg to hold it all together. After shaping the meat into thin patties, I cook them on a griddle, then sandwich it between two slices of American cheese and buttered white bread. Then back to the griddle to toast. Buttered bread, melted cheese, and ground beef – what’s not to love??
Now some naysayers made accusations that the Logan County Hamburger wasn’t really a hamburger, but instead a patty melt and nothing more than a glorified grilled cheese. I say, call it what you wish. As long as it tastes good, I’m eating it.
Next Thursday, February 19th, I will be defending my title in South Beach. The best of the best in burgers will be there and I’m looking forward to tasting all of them. People have asked me my strategy, but I’m going in with the same attitude that I had in New York – I just want to have fun. If I win, fantastic. If not, it’s not the end of the world.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my canines are watering – all this burger talk has flung a cravin’ on me. Off to the butcher!
Katie Lee Joel’s award winning recipe for Logan County Hamburgers:
Logan County Hamburgers
Yields 6 Servings
- 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 medium yellow onion, half grated, the other half thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 12 slices white bread
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 12 slices American cheese, optional
In a medium bowl, combine the beef, egg, grated onion, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix until combined. Form into thin patties.
Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread.
Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers about 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Drain the grease from the skillet.
In the same skillet, place six slices of bread, butter side down. Top each with a slice of cheese, if desired, some onions, and a burger. Top with remaining slices of cheese, if using, and bread, butter side up. Cook each sandwich until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
Serve with mustard, ketchup, pickles, or any other desired hamburger toppings.
You can find Katie’s book, The Comfort Table at amazon.com