Veggie Burger Patty Melts
I have to admit, my old thought process on vegetarians attending the Meatwave was that knew what they were coming to, so why cook anything specifically catered to them. Sometimes non-meat items where on the menu, sometimes not, and I always had veggie burgers and buns on hand to at least offer something. That was literally the least I could do, and it was non-empathic and not fair. Nowadays, I try to balance my menus between meaty and non-meaty items so there's something for everyone, and in scenarios where meat-free is a challenge—like at a German-themed cookout from this past summer—I still can't bring myself to default solely to frozen veggie burgers alone anymore. Everyone deserves more than that, even if it's a small, incremental step, like these veggie burger patty melts.
These patty melts are essentially just grilled veggie burgers in a slightly different form, but the fact that it's not the same thing over again I think shows some extra thought went into the decision and preparation to serve them. They consist of the standard patty, cheese, and bread (swapping rye for burger buns) combo, but the one extra step of caramelizing onions is where these patty melts really show their love, in my opinion.
I've tried so many shortcuts to get great caramelized onions, but nothing can compare to slowly cooking the onions until they begin to leave behind well browned fond on the pan, and then following a process of deglazing and re-browning until the onions are soft and dark brown. With just a couple onions, as this recipe calls for, expect this to take a good 20 to 30 minutes, but the end results are totally worth the time put in.
I have making homemade veggie burger patties on my to-do list, but for now I'm still relying on store-bought. I kind of like that this recipe used these common patties though because it just goes to show that doing things a little different can make such a standard item feel new and fresh. Working with these frozen patties, my goal on the grill was merely to make sure they were well warmed through and developed a slight char, without drying them out.
Once the burgers were done, I removed them from the grill and used the now empty space to toast the bread. Patty melts are traditionally made with rye, which I used here and grilled until golden brown after buttering one side of each slice.
Next I assembled the patty melts by stacking up a veggie burger, slice of Swiss, and a hearty portion of the caramelized onions on each slice of bread.
I then placed the sandwiches on the cool side of a two-zone fire, covered, and let them cook until the cheese melted. Depending on how thick your cheese is and how hot your grill is at this point, it can take anyway from two to four minutes for this to happen.
Now look at this end result and tell me, whether you're a meat eater or not, that doesn't look delicious? For vegetarians accustomed to being afterthoughts at cookouts, it only took minimal extra work and a couple different ingredients to transform what I think was a mere expectation into something that felt like care and thought went into it. The flavor also brought something new, with that common veggie patty getting a big boost from the sweet and soft onions paired with the light and creamy Swiss and crusty and buttery rye. I don't think I could ever go back to the days of not considering my vegetarian friends on more equal footing with the meat eaters, especially knowing that with a dish like these patty melts, a little effort can go a long way.
Veggie Burger Patty Melts
- Yield 6 servings
- Prep 30 Minutes
- Cook 10 Minutes
- Total 40 Minutes
- For the Onions
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- For the Sandwiches
- 6 veggie burgers
- 12 slices rye bread
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 6 slices Swiss cheese
- To make the onions: Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed stainless steel or enameled cast iron dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and bottom of saucepan is coated in a pale brown fond, about 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and deglaze pan by scraping with a wood spoon. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until another layer of fond has built up again, 3-5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and deglaze. Repeat process until onions are completely softened and a deep, dark brown, about 15 minutes more. Season onions to taste with salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place veggie burgers on hot side of grill and cook, flipping occasionally, until slightly charred and warmed through. Transfer burgers to a cutting board or tray.
- Working in two or three batches as necessary, butter one side of each slice of bread and place on hot side of grill, buttered side down, and cook until bread is toasty and lightly browned, about 1 minute. Transfer bread to cutting board or tray.
- Place one patty on top of a slice of bread, unbuttered side. Top each patty with a slice of swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and second slice of bread, buttered side up. Place sandwiches on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until cheese has completely melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer patty melts to a serving tray or plates and serve immediately.