In all honesty, I don’t know what possessed me to make this. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly a Gourmet discovery. And even if its genesis was a recipe I saw in Food and Wine Magazine, it’s a long way from their usual offerings. Nevertheless, it was soup weather and when I pondered what soup I wanted to sit on the stove merrily bubbling away, it appeared in front of me. Now I am particularly fond of the classic American Cheeseburger, preferably when served with bacon, and this too sent me into the kitchen to make what turned out to be a satisfying, warming bowl filled with creamy cheesy goodness and enough vegetables to assuage any guilt I had left about making Cheeseburger Soup.
The Cheeseburger itself, like many favorite foods, has at least 5 histories attached to it. But first, we have to salute the Mongols who as far back as the 11th century carried flat meat patties for their long treks on horseback. The “Mongol Hordes” ended up in Moscow where their flat meat patties were a big hit. From there, it was only a matter of time until the dish ended up in Hamburg, Germany. And then it was on to New York where it was called a Hamburg Steak or just plain Hamburger. But the dish involving putting the meat between two pieces of bread gets a little more complicated. Credit for the actual hamburger bun goes to a short-order cook named Walter Anderson of Wichita Kansas. in 1915. He went on to found America’s first Hamburger chain, “White Castle”. But by that time, the Hamburger, made by using two pieces of sliced bread, had been around considerably longer.
In 1885, Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin, had little success selling meatballs at a county fair. Then he flattened the meatballs and put them in sandwiches which he called ‘hamburgers’. That same year, a town in Upstate New York may have an even greater claim to the invention of the hamburger. Hamburg was home to the Menches brothers who created the Hamburger for the Erie County Fair. Then there’s Louis’ Lunch, a small diner in New Haven Connecticut, which claim to have invented the dish for busy office workers in 1900.
The first Cheeseburger came along between 1924 and 1926 when a chef named Lionel Sternberger in Pasadena California. The folklore behind this invention was that a passing homeless man suggested adding a slice of cheese to his hamburger order. Sternberger put the item on his menu and the Cheeseburger was born. But even that is not the end of the story: Louisville, Kentucky’s Kaelin’s Restaurant claimed they invented it in 1934. The last word may have been had by Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado. The trademark for the name “Cheeseburger” was awarded to Mr. Ballast in 1935.
We may never know who actually decided to slap a piece of cheese on top of a burger patty but one thing is for sure: The Cheeseburger is an All-American invention that has now been exported all over the globe. Now here’s the recipe for that Cheeseburger Soup:
A ode to the Cheeseburger made into a creamy-rich cheesy soup with mini burgers in it.
- 2 hamburger buns, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. I used Ciabatta rolls instead.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons melted
- Kosher salt
- 3 slices of thick-cut bacon
- 1 pound ground sirloin
- 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups whole milk
- 3 cups coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese (10 ounces), plus more for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the sheet from front to back halfway through. Transfer the croutons to a wire rack. I actually did this in our toaster oven.
- Step 2 Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 14 minutes. While the bacon is cooking, form 16 mini burgers out of the ground beef, sprinkle them with kosher salt and set aside. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crisp bacon to paper towels. Add the mini burgers to the pan and cook over moderate heat, flipping once until browned, about 5 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the burgers to a plate.
- Step 3 To build flavor, leave the ‘burger juice’ in the large saucepan. Melt an additional 2 tablespoons of butter in the saucepan over moderate heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until well coated, 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and the chicken stock to the saucepan.
- Step 4 Once the vegetable mixture has absorbed the tomato paste and stock, transfer it to a large stock or soup pot. Add the mini burgers, potatoes, and milk and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and the soup is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
- Step 5 Stir the 3 cups of cheese into the soup and cook until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes, until softened and hot. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the croutons, bacon, additional shredded cheese if you’d like. Serve.
- Step 6 Make Ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for 4 days. The croutons can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.