It's USC week, which calls for a bit of west coast fare. With a nod to the burger joint rivalry that challenges the ND-USC rivalry in its ferocity (/casts sidelong glance at Five Guys), we decided to try our hands at recreating what is just about In-N-Out's most popular item, the double-double: a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions (or raw, depending on your preference), and the restaurant's thousand-island-like spread.
Now, what makes this burger so awesome is, in part, eating it while nestled in its little paper wrapper, in southern California, with the palm trees waving nearby, the salt air on your skin, and your wallet just $3.40 lighter. We can't give you all of that; all we can offer is a mere taste, a vanishing, effervescent taste of the In-N-Out double-double experience. And hey, this makes for a pretty good cheeseburger, whether you're tailgating or sitting down to watch ND take the field against USC from your couch.
The take on the double-double here is very much dependent on this recently published re-creation of the burger in the LA Times. I've made a few changes, but head over there for a great starting point. If you really want to get into the science of a double-double re-creation, check this out over at Serious Eats's Burger Lab.
Now on to our fine southern Californian comestibles.
For the spread:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
a scant 1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
5 teaspoons sweet pickle relish (the LA Times recipe splits this between sweet and dill relish; I had only sweet on hand, so I used all sweet and omitted the 1/2 teaspoon sugar called for in that recipe)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the cheeseburger (and this makes 2 double-doubles):
1 large yellow onion
1/2 pound ground beef (take your pick here - 80/20 chuck is recommended by the LA Times recipe; Burger Lab goes with 60/40 [!!!] chuck; I honestly used 90/10 chuck, and they tasted absolutely delicious)
4 pinches of kosher salt
4 leaves of iceberg lettuce, washed and torn to burger-size
2 slices of beefsteak or vine-ripened tomato, about 1/4 inch thick
4 slices of American cheese (I used cheddar since that's what I had available, but go with American for a more truly In-N-Out experience)
2 hamburger buns, preferably white and spongy (In-N-Out's do not have sesame seeds, though mine do here)
First things first: you've got to make the mouth-wateringly yummy sauce that bedecks all In-N-Out burgers. The true recipe for what In-N-Out calls their "spread" is a secret, but desperate experimentation by the public at large has led to some pretty convincing imitation. The spread is basically a variety of thousand island dressing with greater punch (captured here through the mustard, vinegar, and Worcestershire). You're essentially bringing together all of the classic burger condiments in a blissful marriage.
Combine all of the spread ingredients in a small bowl.
Mix together. This'll give you about 3/4 cup of spread, or enough for 4 burgers and some animal-style fries (see below for those).
One of my absolute favorite things about an In-N-Out burger is the grilled onions. You can get your burger with raw onion, or both, but the grilled onions are just the best. These things are deeply caramelized, and the sweet, rich taste of them takes the burger itself to another level. I now always put caramelized onions on any burger I make.
Instead of slicing their grilled onions into thin rings like most do, In-N-Out thickly dices their onions. You've got to do it like this for these burgers:
To caramelize, put these babies in a little olive oil in a wide pan over medium-low heat and stir occasionally as they start to brown - SLOWLY. Work slowly. Let them develop.
When they start to stick and burn just a bit, add a little water to deglaze the pan and keep caramelizing them. I let these bad boys go for over an hour before I was happy with them.
Now that you've got your spread and your onions ready to go, it's time to make the double-double itself.
Form four 2-ounce patties from your ground beef. They'll look like little meatballs; then you need to flatten them to about 1/4 inch thickness (between two plastic cutting boards works well). Season each one on the top side with a pinch of salt.
Heat a lightly greased griddle (either a pan or electric) to medium heat. While the temperature rises, toast your cheeseburger buns until golden, about 30 seconds. When the griddle is hot, slide the burger patties in there and cook for about 1 minute.
Then flip them and top each with a slice of cheese and cook for about 1 more minute. Set the patties on a plate for burger assembly.
Smear a good dollop of spread on the bottom bun. Top with a slice of tomato, two leaves of lettuce, and your first cheesy patty. Then push a good spoonful of grilled onions into the cheese and top with the second cheesy patty. Top with your remaining burger bun. If you want the authentic experience (and for your burger to hold together well), wrap a little parchment paper snugly around the finished double-double.
Oh, yes. That's what a hamburger's - let's be honest - all about.
So you've got your burger; now you're gonna want fries with that. I didn't bother with reproducing In-N-Out's fresh-cut potato fries here - we're going simple with these. Animal-style fries are not on the In-N-Out menu, but they're a decadent favorite of its patrons.
Prepare a baking sheet-full of your favorite frozen french fries or make your own from scratch, if that's how you roll. I used Ore Ida's Golden Fries, which are thicker than the In-N-Out variety. When they finish cooking to your preferred crispness, pull them out and leave the oven on (mine was at 425 degrees F). Dump the fries into an oven-proof baking dish that will comfortably hold them, like a loaf pan.
Now here's the magic: lay 2 of your remaining slices of cheese on top of the fries and return to the oven for 3 minutes, until the cheese has just melted. Pop them out of the oven and top with your remaining caramelized onions.
Then spoon some of your remaining spread over the top of the fries, right down the middle (you can use less spread if that's your thing - it is strong stuff). This one needs to be eaten family-style, with a fork, right out of the dish.
Now go Irish. Destroy USC like a late-night tray of animal-style fries.