According to the folks in Pasadena, California, this week is Cheeseburger Week, celebrating one of those dishes that we all probably take for granted – the humble hamburger topped with cheese. It’s one of those dishes that most people probably don’t even think of as a dish but more something provided in fast food places such as McDonalds. But the cheeseburger can be so much more…
Inventing the cheeseburger
The reason that Cheeseburger Week is celebrated in Pasadena is because the city is credited with its creation. Back in 2916, a sixteen-year-old named Lionel Sternburger was working as a fry cook for his dad’s sandwich shop in the city called The Rite Spot. It was here that he decided to deposit a slice of cheese onto a sizzling hamburger and a new trend was born.
By 1928, these burgers were appearing around the state with a Los Angeles restaurant called O’Dell’s listing a cheeseburger smothered with chili available for 25 cents. It was also said that you could add a portion of spaghetti to the meal for another 15 cents if you were feeling flush.
However, there are other competitors for the title of cheeseburger creator. Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, claims to have invented the dish in 1934 while the first trademark for a cheeseburger was awarded to Louis Ballast of Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado in 1935.
Whoever invented the cheeseburger, it has travelled all around the world and developed many different variations. These include adding bacon, avocado, sautéed mushrooms, onions and chili are common additions to the basic burger with cheese. More unusual additions include feta cheese, egg, salsa, chilli peppers, anchovies, ham, mustard, bologna and even sauerkraut. Side dishes are traditionally French fries as well as onion rings as well as other types of potato products and even pineapple or tofu.
Making a cheeseburger
If the idea of sticking a store-bought burger into a bun and adding some cheese doesn’t do much for you, then you can always try making your own. To make your own burgers, take one kg mine beef and crumble it into a bowl with 300g breadcrumbs, 140g extra mature cheddar cheese as well as four tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, some finely chopped parsley and two beaten eggs. Mix them together with your hands until all the ingredients are combined then shape them into 12 burgers. These can be frozen in this condition by wrapping them in baking parchment and then defrosting overnight before cooking.
To make up the cheeseburger, simply cook the burger on a grill until cooked as you prefer. Take a bread bun, a ciabatta rolls or even a brioche bun if you prefer. Then you can add your favourites – perhaps some more cheddar or another strong cheese. White or red onions, either raw or cooked are popular additions in our household.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the bread element of the burger (sorry, traditionalists) as I find it too filling. My version involves taking a good steak burger and cooking as instructed. Once it is cooked, I top with a knob of garlic or other flavoured butter then top with some strong cheddar. Pop it back into the oven until the cheese and butter melts for a very moist and tasty breadless version!