September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day. That typically means a slice of supermarket American, cheddar or Swiss cheese: The same old, same old.
How about some better cheese, for a change?
Murray’s, a New York City cheese and specialty food store, has a separate restaurant that has fine cheeses in every course. If this is your idea of paradise, be sure to visit Murray’s Cheese Bar on Bleecker Street.
Of course there are cheeseburgers on the menu, using the great cheeses from the store. While the options change, the recipes from one recent menu are below.
You’ll note that some of these cheeses are not “melters.” Who says that the cheese on a burger has to melt?
The reason melty American cheese is the most widely used is tradition: The cheeseburger started at a sandwich shop where American cheese was the a popular ingredient.
Adding cheese to hamburgers first became popular in the late-1920s. While there are several claims as to who created the first cheeseburger, Lionel Sternberger of Pasadena, California is largely given credit.
In 1926 at the age of 16, he was working as a fry cook at his father’s sandwich shop, The Rite Spot. The creative lad placed a slice of American cheese to a burger sizzling on the grill, to see what the combination might taste like. We all know the answer.
The next step: A 1928 menu for O’Dell’s restaurant in Los Angeles shows a cheeseburger “smothered” with chili.
Other claimants to cheeseburger history:
Have you ever heard of a steamed cheeseburger? It’s the cooking technique used at Ted’s Restaurant in Meriden, Connecticut. They developed the steam box and trays used to cook the “World Famous Steamed Burgers.”
While Ted’s didn’t open until 1959, Wikipedia credits a restaurant called Jack’s Lunch in Middletown, Connecticut, with the creation, in the 1930s.
The way to make the best cheeseburger is to use the best ingredients: not just the meat and the roll, but the cheese.
Some of the cheeses used at Murray’s Cheese Bar follow. You may not be able to get these specific brands, but go to the best cheese shop in town and ask for something similar.
You don’t even have to follow these recipes. Our goal is simply to expand your cheeseburger horizons.
*Pronounced “holler hocker,” meaning “sitting in the cellar, Challerhocker is a Swiss cheese washed in brine and spices, then aged for a 12 months or longer.
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