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I’ll admit this may not be the prettiest sandwich or food photo. I’m a cook, not a food stylist. Yet, I feel it’s fitting as The Ramones were not a pretty band. Punk rock is not pretty. Sometimes you just need a punk rock patty melt.
If one needs any proof, and one shouldn’t, that The Ramones are the one and only Kings of NYC Punk Rock, it’s the song that inspired this recipe. 1977 produced a wave of disaffected and rebellious kids who could barely play instruments much less write decent lyrics. In the midst of this, The Ramones penned a blistering brilliant punk anthem for freaks and misfits and based it on an obscure 45-year-old film cult film. Tod Browning’s Freaks is the story of circus freaks who accept a non-freak. The film’s chant of “One of us, one of us. Gooba-gobble, gooba-gobble” gets reworked by The Ramones into the now-iconic “Gabba Gabba Hey!”. Did the kids singing and chanting to “Pinhead” in ’77 know what inspired the song? Probably not, but it didn’t matter. The Ramones had perfectly summed up what it means to be a misfit, be unappreciated and scorned, and then find a community that will accept you as one of them.
Patty melts are the circus freaks of burgers. Part burger, part sandwich, often ugly delicious, underappreciated, rarely served. There are very few “chef-driven” patty melts which honestly is probably a good thing. Almost every bar or restaurant serving food has a burger, but very few have a patty melt. In my neighborhood, the only patty melt is served at a grilled cheese joint. It’s time to change that! Time to let patty melts know they are not burger freaks. Tell them they are “one of us” and just because they are not as pretty or fancy as that $25 dry-aged burger, they still have worth and deliciousness and the potential for brilliance.
A quick history on this recipe’s name. It comes from a turkey sandwich I served at a BBQ joint in Brooklyn. When I started this project, I knew I’d be resurrecting this name, but ultimately decided not to do another roast turkey sandwich. I had been on a burger binge, so I decided to make a turkey burger. Somehow that lead me to think turkey patty melt. Not really sure why. The result is this.
I am not a big turkey burger fan. Even if you season the hell out of ground turkey, it never really lives up to the flavor punch of beef. Too many recipes try to compensate for turkey’s lack of fat by making a sort of turkey meatloaf patty. All of it just seemed “meh”. I’m a fan of substituting Baby Bella or Portobello mushrooms for beef – you get a meaty texture and a flavor boost – so I added a few Portobellos to the turkey mix. I am quite pleased with the result. It’s got the usual lightness of a turkey burger with an earthy undertone from the mushrooms.
The traditional melt ingredients are beef patty, swiss cheese, 1000 Island dressing, and caramelized onions on grilled rye or sourdough. As I was already switching turkey for beef, I decided to go full-on “cheffy” and throw tradition out the window. In place of the dressing, I went with a remoulade. You get the same sort of creamy factor, but the addition of a bit of heat. Plus, using smoked paprika in place of sweet makes the finished melt taste like it’s been charcoal grilled. I find caramelized onions rather dull and not really worth the effort. If I’m going to spend that kind of time with a topping, I might as well make something great. That something is a tomato onion jam I call Emperor Tomato Ketchup. For this melt, it adds the perfect savory-sweet combo, deeper than just onions but not some kind of generic ketchup.
I did keep the sourdough and swiss cheese as those are my melt preferences. Though I am a bit fan of American cheese on a burger, it just seems to get lost in a patty melt. I’ve had them with a sharp cheddar which was nice though cheddar never melts well. It’s the nuttiness and meltiness that makes Swiss my continued choice for a patty melt.
Like all great sandwiches, this is a delicious mess. Multiple napkins, sticky juicy fingers, and an abandoning of any sense of decorum while eating is required. Just the way I think The Ramones would want it.
GOBBLE GOBBLE HEY!
Turkey mushroom burger, swiss cheese, remoulade, and tomato onion jam on grilled sourdough
Makes 2 sandwiches
1 large portobello mushroom cap, cleaned and minced fine
3 scallions, minced fine
1 pound 85% lean ground turkey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 slices sourdough or rye bread
6 slices swiss cheese
Remoulade (see recipe below)
Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Use a spoon to scrape out the gills from the underside of the mushroom cap. Mince the mushroom and scallions into a very fine dice. Transfer the mushroom and scallions to a large bowl. Add the turkey, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper; gently mix with your hands until just combined. Divide into 5 ounce balls, then lightly press each ball into the size and shape of your bread. You should get 4-5 patties. Put on a large plate, cover and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
When the patties have rested for a half-hour, heat a cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Working with 2 patties at a time, place the turkey patties in the pan. Let the patties cook on one side, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes to form a crust. Flip the burgers and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove one patty from the pan, place on a plate, top with a slice of swiss, and then the other cooked patty on top of the cheese. Repeat the process to cook the other patties.
Once all the turkey is cooked and resting, it’s time to assemble the sandwiches. Empty any fat or oil from the skillet and wipe out thoroughly. Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. place the bread butter side down, on a cutting board to assemble the sandwich. Start by spreading the unbuttered side of two slices with remoulade. Top each with a slice of swiss. Place two patties on top of the swiss. Spoon tomato onion jam over the patties. Spread remoulade on the unbuttered side of the remaining bread and place on top of the sandwiches.
Now transfer these to the skillet of medium heat and cook, much like a grilled cheese, until golden brown on one side. Flip and cook until the other side is grilled. Remove from the pan, cut in half, grab some napkins, and revel in the joys of the burger outlier known as Patty.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup hot sauce (I prefer Red Devil)
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 scallions, whites & greens diced fine
1 tablespoon Rock Candy Jalapenos, minced fine
1 teaspoon Bread & Butter pickle juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Place all ingredients on a medium bowl. Whisk thoroughly to combine thoroughly. Store in the refrigerator.