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Make diner classic easily at home

Here’s a classic comfort food that makes everyone happy. It’s a staple on diner menus across the country: the patty melt. Picture a burger patty slathered with caramelized onions, oozing with Swiss cheese on buttered, grilled rye bread. And it doesn’t cost any more to make than a hamburger. Come to mama!

Should you choose, this recipe lends itself to stretching a buck by adding a little filler to the ground beef. A general rule of adding filler to hamburger is 1 cup filler per pound of uncooked hamburger. Typical fillers include breadcrumbs, oatmeal, cooked vegetables, beans or lentils.

For this recipe I recommend choosing cooked lentils as they add vitamins, fiber and extra protein, bringing a nice meaty texture while reducing the amount of fat per serving. If you add 1½ cups cooked lentils to the recipe below, you’ll have six 6-ounce patties rather than four.

And now, a word about fat content in hamburger. The label tells you the ratio of lean meat to fat in the package of ground beef. The higher the fat content the lower the cost per pound. The range begins at 73/27 (the fattiest) and goes to 96/4 (the leanest). Bear in mind that with the higher fat ratio you’ll lose some of your ground beef’s weight when the fat cooks out. This may mean you’ll need to buy more to account for the loss.

For example: When you cook 16 ounces (1 pound) of 73/27 hamburger you lose 4.32 ounces when the fat cooks out leaving you with just under 12 ounces remaining from your 1 pound o’ beef. Consider that when you make your choice.

Sometimes the price difference between 73/27 and 85/15 is totally worth buying a little more to adjust for the loss of rendered fat. With current prices, you get only 12 percent more lean meat with 85/15 but you’re paying 30 percent more per pound. It’s a personal decision. Do what’s best for your family.

Next time you buy ground beef, get out of the hamburger rut. Put down the burger. Make this instead.

PATTY MELTS

Yield: 4 6-ounce patty servings

What you’ll need:

1½ pounds (85/15) hamburger or 2 pounds (73/27)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking

½ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon butter, plus more softened for schmearing

8 slices Swiss cheese

8 slices rye, marble rye or sourdough bread

1 cup caramelized onions; recipe below

Here’s how:

In a mixing bowl, mix the hamburger, salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Divide the mixture into four portions and form them into patties that are a little bigger than your bread. Sprinkle each side with a little kosher salt to help make a nice crusty sear on the patties.

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add a pat of butter and cook the burger patties for 3-4 minutes per side.

To assemble the sandwiches: Schmear the “outsides” of the bread with butter and place in the skillet, butter side down. Add a slice of cheese, a burger patty, ¼ of the onions, another slice of cheese and top with another slice of bread that’s been buttered on the “outside.” When the bottom slice of bread is golden brown and delicious, carefully flip the whole thing over and grill the other side.

Repeat with the remaining sandwiches. Keep the diner vibe going by serving this with French fries and coleslaw or a green salad.

CARAMELIZED ONIONS

Yield: 1 cup

Time: 30-45 minutes

What you’ll need:

1 large yellow onion, about 1 pound

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper

Here’s how:

Slice the onion in half, then into half rings. Make these as thick or thin as you wish. The thinner they are the faster they cook, but thicker slices come out sweeter. In a heavy-bottomed skillet on medium heat, melt the oil and butter together. Add the onion and turn to coat, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar to help speed up caramelization. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes or until delectably soft and golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now, If I’m going to take the time to caramelize onions, I make at least a triple batch. They’re great on everything — burgers, sandwiches, steak, chicken, pork, in salads, soups, pizza, casseroles, omelets — you name it. Keep some in the fridge or freezer to instantly upgrade practically everything you eat.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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