The Juicy Lucy

Minnesota isn’t really famous for much when it comes to culinary feats or local foods that take the nation by storm. We don’t have the barbecue of the south east, the brisket from Texas, the seafood from the east coast, the thin pizza and skinny, toasted hot dogs of New York or the deep dish pizza and fat, stuffed hot dogs of Chicago, and we certainly don’t have the amazing wealth of produce and citrus you find in California. Or Florida. Nope, not here. And even though we have a thriving art scene, plenty of sporting events, some really awesome museums and theaters, and enough shopping to satisfy anyone, we’re not really a tourist destination. I think the food scene is the missing link. Or maybe it’s the nine months of winter.

We live in the breadbasket. We are heavily influenced by German and Nordic traditions. Local, beloved recipes include Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Tater Tot Hotdish, Breaded Walleye with Scalloped Potatoes, Fish Tacos and anything you can deep-fry and shove onto a stick at the State Fair. There are a lot of dairy farms, grain and cattle and a whole lot of people of northern European ancestry with incredibly bland pallets. I say it with love, but it’s true. If you guessed that the old stand by meals of meat and potatoes play a big part of the diets of Minnesotans, you’d be right. It’s not uncommon throughout the upper Midwest, boring thought it may be.

If you’ve ever watched Man vs. Food or Food Wars though, you’ve probably seen one Minnesota invention that fulfills both our requirement for a meaty and carby meal, along with a fair infusion of local dairy. The Juicy Lucy. A cheeseburger that wears its cheese on the inside. Nobody here really cares who invented it, Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club. Both are bars in Minneapolis and both claim the notorious invention as their own. Who invented it doesn’t really matter. The ‘Jucy Lucy’ at Matt’s is gooey, greesy, spilling with American cheese and served on nothing but wax paper. Their Lucy is by far the best in the Twin Cities and everyone knows it. At the 5-8 you can order your Lucy with a variety of cheeses and the menu is far, far more extensive than Matt’s. They offer sandwiches AND salads. But the Lucys aren’t as good. Sometimes the cheese is still solid in the middle. The ultimate Lucy let-down. So, you pick your battles when deciding where to indulge in a Lucy. If you’re smart, you’ll get a Lucy at a Twins game where they stuff the burger not only with delicious gouda cheese, but prime rib as well. Yes, prime rib and Gouda stuffed inside a burger patty. It’s as good as it sounds.

But what if you want a unique Juicy Lucy but you don’t want to run the risk of having the 5-8 undercook it? Where do you go? To whom do you turn? I say, you turn to your own craftiness and do it yourself.

There’s something insanely satisfying about biting into a burger that’s stuffed with cheese. It’s similar to the feeling of biting into a jelly doughnut. It’s so much more than just a doughnut…there’s something in there that makes it fancy and extra delicious.

A Juicy Lucy isn’t difficult to make, although you do have to use extra care when prepping the patty. You definitely want to use good beef, with plenty of fat. For our Lucys I made a mix of 1lb ground beef, 1lb ground chuck and 1lb ground round for the ultimate burger meat. Whatever you end up using, make sure you have at least 20% fat in the mix. This is a good rule for any burger. Too much fat and the burgers shrink up and turn into little grease balls. Not enough and they’re dry like sawdust. Shoot for an 80/20 ratio.

Make sure to make thin patties since each burger will have two. Leave the edges a bit thicker than the centers so pinching them together is easier.

Mound the cheese slightly in the center. As it melts and cools it will spread so it reaches to the edges of your burger patties. If you’re using cheese that came sliced, break the slice into four pieces and stack them in the middle of the patty.

Pinch the patties closed around the edges. Take extra care in doing this. You want the patties to seamlessly blend together before you cook them.

Season with garlic, salt and pepper and toss them on a skillet or on the grill. Make sure to cover them during cooking so the cheese inside melts.

Let the finished Lucys cool for at least five minutes before serving. Always bite into a Lucy with extreme caution. Molten cheese can burn your skin right off. It’s totally worth it though.

Lucys are messy in and of their nature so if you’d rather not get cheese on your face during dinner, they maybe aren’t for you. They are a bit tidier if you have a large bun to smoosh them between. Or you can stuff them into a pita and embrace the messiness wholeheartedly. American cheese is the traditional cheese for a Juicy Lucy but if you have 10lbs of blue cheese that you’re trying to work through, it’s clearly the way to go. Any cheese that melts will do, so use whatever suits your fancy.

The Juicy Lucy
Makes two Lucys

4 1/4 lb burger patties

2 oz. cheese

2 buns or pitas

1 small onion, chopped

Garlic, Salt, Pepper

Toss your chopped onion onto a skillet or griddle and fry until golden brown with slightly crisp edges.

While the onion is frying, press your beef into patties with a slightly thicker edge than center. Slightly mound 1 oz of cheese onto two of the patties.

Lay the extra patty over the top of the cheese mound and pinch the to patties together around the edge. Go back and press them together a second time. You should not be able to see a seam in the meat between the patties. If you have a seam, cheese will escape.

Cook the Lucys on a griddle or on a grill. Make sure to cover part way through cooking so the cheese melts. You can also use a thermometer to test the cheese inside. In general, you’ll want to cook them on medium-high heat and flip them after about five minutes.

ALWAYS let a Lucy cool for five minutes before serving. Advise anyone about to eat one to let it sit for another few minutes too.

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