Winter is coming, and for some Minnesotans, that can be a hard fact to face. So, as a public service, to help get us through this difficult time, I present the Nacho Juicy Lucy. (Whether you spell it “Juicy” or “Jucy” will depend on where you think the originator of the burger was — there’s a Wikipedia page on it!: Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club, both in Minneapolis. We’re going with the version that doesn’t make our spelling czars go crazy.)
Yes, I realize I’m delving into the dark culinary arts with this one, but sometimes that’s necessary, and this seems like as good a time as any. Still, as frivolous as it sounds, there are serious things to consider.
First, buying lean ground beef for this burger simply won’t cut it. I know that some of you never buy meat that’s less than 95 percent lean, but if you want your Lucy to actually be juicy, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and go for 80 percent lean. The good news is, I’m not asking you to grind your own beef to get that great combination of chuck roast and brisket. Although if that’s what you’re into, bravo!
To give the ground beef some flavor, we mix in a little chili powder, cumin and salt. Make sure to mix the seasonings in gently. If you’re too vigorous in the mixing, you’ll make the burgers too dense and tough, so be nice. After all, the burger hasn’t done anything bad to you.
Next, we need to tackle the oh-so-difficult topic of cheese. Or in this case, pasteurized processed American cheese, which may or may not (probably not) be cheese at all. Save the extra-sharp, aged English Cheddar for a fancy cheese plate. What we’re looking for here is a sure-to-be-molten, neutral-flavored “cheese” that won’t overwhelm all the other elements in the burger, and American cheese delivers on all points.
Because we’re taking this Juicy Lucy to the next level, we’ve also added pickled jalapeños to the cheese filling. If you feel like that might be too zippy for your taste, chopped mild green chiles will also work. Or, if desired, you can leave them out entirely.
Of course, this burger can hardly call itself “nacho” if it’s slathered in ketchup and mustard. No ordinary condiment will do for such a special beef patty. That’s why I felt the need to make my own. Well, by make-my-own, I mean mixing salsa and mayo (not the low-fat kind. I mean, do you really want to be counting calories here?). It’s not complicated, but it is effective.
The garnishes are a matter of taste. I like a slice of tomato, a few rings of red onion, some crisp lettuce and sliced avocado. There is one nonnegotiable garnish, though — tortilla chips. What’s a nacho without chips?
I put a handful in before topping it off with the toasted bun, and the added crunch and corn flavor really bring all the elements together. Look for tortilla chips that are on the thin side. You’ll want the crunch, but if the chips are too thick, they make the burger hard to eat.
Speaking of eating, it goes without saying, but if you bite into a Juicy Lucy right after it comes out of the skillet, a trip to the emergency room may be necessary to treat the molten cheese burns on your mouth, chin and possibly even your forearms. So give your burgers a few minutes to rest before serving.
I know we’re still a couple of months away from our annual Polar Vortex. But if you’re like me, you may need more than a few of these babies before winter rolls around to emotionally deal with the inevitable cold, snow and ice that is a Minnesota winter. You can thank me later.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.
Nacho Juicy Lucy
Makes 4 burgers.
Note: Chopped green chiles can be substituted for the pickled jalapeños. Letting these nacho-flavored burgers, topped with crunchy tortilla chips, rest for a few minutes before serving will help to ensure that the molten cheese filling won’t be too hot. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 1/2 lb. ground beef (80 percent lean)
• 2 tsp. chili powder
• 1 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 tsp. salt
• 4 slices American cheese
• 1/4 c. chopped pickled jalapeños (see Note), optional
• 1/4 c. mayonnaise
• 2 tbsp. salsa (homemade or store-bought)
• 4 hamburger buns, toasted
• Lettuce leaves
• Tomato slices
• Red onion slices
• Avocado slices
• Tortilla chips
In a medium bowl, gently combine the ground beef with the chili powder, cumin and salt.
Divide the meat into 8 loose balls, then pat each into 1/4-inch-thick patties. Fold each slice of cheese into quarters and stack one in the center of 4 patties. Place a tablespoon of pickled jalapeños on top of the cheese. Make sure to leave a 1-inch border of meat around the cheese.
Top each of the four with another patty. Pinch the edges of the 2 patties together, sealing the cheese inside.
Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until cooked to desired doneness. Transfer to a cool place and let sit for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and the salsa. Slather the top and bottom of each toasted bun with the mayo mixture.
Place a burger on the bottom of each bun. Top with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, tortilla chips and the top of the bun and serve.
Nutrition information per serving without chips:
Calories 650 Fat 41 g Sodium 1,570 mg
Carbohydrates 28 g Saturated fat 14 g Total sugars 5 g
Protein 39 g Cholesterol 130 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 5 medium-fat protein, 3 fat.