Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to Make an 8-Napkin Patty Melt (with advice from Mandy Patinkin) via Cleo Coyle

Whenever I make a patty melt, I think of Mandy Patinkin (one of my favorite actors) and a scene from his television show Dead Like Me, in which he lays down the culinary law for putting one together. 

If you're curious (or would simply like 2 minutes and 21 seconds of entertainment), watch the YouTube clip below. In the scene, Mandy plays a short order cook at one of the show's standard settings: Der Waffle House

(Der clip includes adult language.) 

Whether you melt der cheese on der patty or on der bread, patty melts are absolutely delicious, and even better than burgers (in my opinion, anyway). 

The traditional version is made with juicy ground beef, but you can certainly mix it up with ground turkey or chicken. The only drawback to making these instead of burgers is an extra step or two in the process, which is why I make them extra-large—eight big ounces per patty melt. No, I do not eat the whole eight-ounce sandwich myself, and that's the point.

Cut this mondo patty melt in half, and you’ve got dinner for two—a four-ounce serving each. Cook two of these big boys, and you’ve got dinner for four. 

Less sandwiches = less work. 

And less work always helps me eat with joy...

~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle, patty melt
maven, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Cleo Coyle’s 
Patty Melt 

The 5-Napkin Burger is a real-life eatery here in New York City, which is what inspired my 8-Napkin Patty Melt. Why eight napkins? One napkin for every ounce of meat, of course. :)

My readers might remember this sandwich from a scene in my latest Coffeehouse Mystery, Holiday Buzz

Coffee hunter Matteo Allegro, weary of the healthy but tasteless appetizers served at a string of Manhattan holiday parties, ventures into the December night to bring back a more satisfying snackthis 8-napkin patty melt. 

Of course, a patty melt this large is made for sharing, and Matt entices his partner in the coffee business, Clare Cosi, to share it with him while she shares the facts (and a cogent theory) behind the murder of a part-time employee. 

To see more recipes from the book, click here.

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E-newsletter (with recipes) write to:


A few tips for the
perfect patty melt…

* Be patient with grilling the onions. Cook them long enough to caramelize and you’ll have a much tastier sandwich.

* Use large slices of bread and shape the patty long in order to fit the bread.

* Don’t make the patty or bread slices too thick, about an inch. 

* Once your ingredients are ready (the onions caramelized; the burger cooked), build the entire sandwich on a spatula. This will allow you as much time as you need to fix the ingredients just right. Then you can move the spatula to the hot pan, and slip the entire sandwich into the bubbling butter in one quick move.

* To prevent your grilled onions from falling out of the sandwich, follow the "building" instructions in the recipe (you'll see it below). The trick is with the placement of the cheese.

* Use the spatula to push down on the sandwich during cooking; a simple way to make a delicious “pressed sandwich” without a sandwich press. 

Cleo Coyle's 8-Napkin
Patty Melt Recipe

Makes two 8-ounce Patty Melts (for four servings) 


1 large yellow onion 

vegetable oil and butter

4 large slices of bread (see my note below*)

16 ounces (1 pound) ground beef

8 slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese 

Kosher or sea salt

*A note on the bread: A patty melt this big requires large (but not overly thick) slices of bread. Fresh crusty Italian or rye bread from a rustic loaf will make a truly amazing patty melt. If using pre-packaged bread, go for the super-sized sandwich-style and not the standard slices. 


Step 1: Cook the onion – Peel and chop the large yellow onion. Place a pan over low heat, melt a bit of butter, add a splash of oil, and stir in the onions. Slowly cook the onions, stirring often, until they are caramelized (soft, sweet, and dark golden brown), about fifteen minutes. Set the cooked onions aside.

Step 2: Form and cook the patty
The shape of the ground meat patties should fit the bread that you're using, so shape the meat accordingly. Each patty should be 8-ounces in weight and about 1-inch in thickness (or a little less). Cook the patties over medium-high heat, three to four minutes per side. For best results, try to flip the patties only once. When the patties are cooked through, set aside. 

Step 3: Build your sandwich – Start by b
uttering two slices of the bread...

- Place one slice on a spatula, buttered side down
- Lay two thin slices of cheese on the bread. 
- Place the cooked ground meat patty onto the cheese. 
- Place a third slice of cheese over the patty.
- Add half the caramelized onions. 
- A final slice of cheese should cover the onions (when it melts this last slice will help to hold the savory sweet onions inside the sandwich). 
- Finally, top the patty melt with a slice of buttered bread, but this time you want the buttered side up. 

Step 4: Grill and press – Heat a skillet and add a bit of butter. When the butter begins to bubble, use your spatula to transfer the fully-built sandwich to the hot pan. From this point on, treat the patty melt as if it were a grilled cheese sandwich...

Toast one side for three to four minutes and then flip. After flipping, press down hard on the sandwich with your spatula. Pressing the patty melt as it cooks will help the parts of the sandwich fuse together. Grill for three or four more minutes, until the cheese is completely melted. (Make the 2nd sandwich exactly the same way.)

Serve hot! A dill pickle is a thing of beauty with a patty melt. The bright tartness of the pickle (not to mention the happy, green color) nicely complements the rich unctuousness of the sandwich. Cole slaw, French fries, or potato chips are tasty sides, too. However you serve it, I certainly hope you will...

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle 

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here
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Visit my online coffeehouse here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes.  


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.


  1. Yum.... I could so do this for breakfast this morning....

    1. LOL, Alicia, in that case, you might want to add bacon. :)
      Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Lucy, wish I could slide half of that sandwich over to you!

      Have a great week,
      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Darn, now I'm extra hungry. I must remember not to read this blog on an empty stomach! I am laughing as this is the second blog with Mandy Patinkin I've read today!

    1. Katreader - I'll save the other half of Lucy's sandwich for you! That is funny about Mr. Patinkin, he truly is one of my favorite actors, and he was great in Dead Like Me. Thanks for dropping by today, Kat, it's always a pleasure to see you in our Kitchen.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Unctuous. That is the word!
    I'm wiping the drool off my smiling face.
    Thanks for a mega yummy, Cleo

    1. Libby - You're very welcome and thank you for dropping in. It's always great to see you here. Isn't unctuous a fun word? (And you're right: Merriam-Webster should use a little picture of a patty melt to illustrate the definition.)

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. The video clip is priceless :) My boys would love all the protein! 6' 3" son could eat the whole sandwich in one sitting. I baked up your Baked Egg Custard. While I was preparing the custard my husband asked why try a new recipe when the old one was perfectly fine. I replied I was curious about the 10x sugar, decreased amount of milk, more salt.... He has raved about your custard ever since! Do you have any suggestions about baking custard at a high altitude? Thank you

    1. Helena - The video clip is fun, isn't it? Of course, I'd love Mandy Patinkin if all he did was recite a grocery list. You're right about the portion size for young men. I have no doubt your boys could polish off an 8-ounce patty melt each. Having two young nephews with healthy appetites, I should have added on the servings "Your mileage may vary!"

      Finally, I have to tell you that you absolutely made my day on the nice words about my baked egg custard recipe. I'm so happy that your husband enjoyed it. Thank you for letting me know! As far as high altitude baking, I don't have any advice. From what I understand, things can vary from recipe to recipe, and cooks tend to experiment with what works. I'll try to learn more about it, and if I'm able will post something in the future. In the meantime, thanks again. It's always a joy to have you stop by our Kitchen!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Cleo, one of my all-time favorite meals. I adore a patty melt. And I have even used a patty made the day before for the sandwich. It heats up great with the cheese! Yum. Love all the clues in the leading picture, too. :)

    Daryl aka Avery

    1. Avery/Daryl - I'm so glad you mentioned making the patty melts in advance (even a day in advance). I should have mentioned that in the recipe. It's a great way to cut down on the cooking time right before a dinner or party. That prep work can be a very big help in both cases.

      And (BTW) congrats again to you on the release of your new Cheese Shop Mystery - To Brie or Not to Brie!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. I shouldn't have read that while I was hungry--I think I drooled on my keyboard!

    1. LOL, I have a silicone cover on my laptop keyboard for just such emergencies. I'll send one over. (Kidding, kidding...)

      Have a delicious week, Wendy, and may you always get what you drool for!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. Wow, that looks just great! Is anyone else thinking of Dagwood? He would flip for a sandwich like this.


    1. I remember the Dagwood, and all those mile-high sandwiches. What a great example of a fictional food (in that case a comic book creation) causing a sensation in the real culinary world. Fun stuff! Thanks for dropping by today, K...

      Have a delicious week,
      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. I have been on a grilled cheese kick since Avery posted her last grilled cheese recipe. I bought the ingredients yesterday after reading your recipe. Dinner tonight cant wait. Love Steak and Shakes patty melts.

    1. Sandra – Thanks for the comment, and I hope you enjoy your homemade version of this diner classic. I’m with you on Avery's inventive grilled cheese recipes, which everyone should check out in our Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen index. (Scroll up the left column to see the index link.)

      A quick FYI – for anyone on a diet or worried about fat and calories, I added some suggestions in my Facebook comments for making this sandwich a bit lighter and healthier. Although I enjoy a ground beef patty melt, one can always cut the fat and calories by substituting some or all of the beef with a leaner ground turkey or chicken.

      For the cheese, low fat can be swapped for full fat, and the bread can be whole grain. The onion is a healthy addition already, but the butter can be swapped for a spread that's part butter/part canola oil, and nothing stops a cook from serving this with a big salad instead of fries. Finally, as I say in the post, the portion for this recipe is large, but it’s meant to be split between two people.

      Thanks for dropping by today, Sandra. May you always...

      Eat with joy,
      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter