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The Life of a Plated Recipe: Thanksgiving Cheeseburger

Are you familiar with the lifecycle of a recipe here at Plated? If you didn’t get a chance to peek behind the kitchen door for the story of our heartier spaghetti carbonara, here’s a refresher: Our Culinary team takes monthly field trips to pick up inspiration from across the city, then comes back to Plated HQ to write, test, re-test, and photograph their own recipes before they land on your doorstep. Here, we’re taking a deeper dive into the testing phase, exploring how the infamous Thanksgiving Cheeseburger went from already-pretty-delicious to out-of-this-world-incredible.

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The O.G.

Our entire Culinary team really pulled out all the stops for next week’s menu, but being the Thanksgiving cuisine-obsessed cook that she is at home, Chef Michelle really racked her brain to come up with super-original twists for you. She knew she wanted to take all the comforts of a traditional holiday spread—warm stuffing redolent with earthy herbs, bright and sweet cranberry sauce (but without the unsettling jiggle…), tender squash, cheesy spinach casserole—but create a just-as-jaw-dropping alternative to the giant roast turkey. Not an easy feat, right?

Her first draft of this recipe was, we’re not even kidding, the platonic ideal of a holiday cheeseburger. Michelle managed to draw just the right helping of inspiration without getting too literal. It started with ground beef (not turkey!), seasoned with dried rosemary, sage, and thyme. Then, cranberry sauce folded into a bright-red, creamy aioli, bumped up with a little more sugar to balance the tart fruit.

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Finally, a salad of fresh spinach and roasted butternut squash to accompany the burgers, whose toasty brioche buns and melty slices of Cheddar cheese brought the rest of the holiday feast onto our plates. What more could we ask for?

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Burger 2.0

Throughout the testing and tasting process, our chefs mulled over the superb strengths of the dish, and thought very carefully about how to make it even better—to make the textures and flavors as complementary as possible. And what Michelle realized was that she really wanted more savory flavors.

So she went back to the cutting board to rethink a few of the elements. First, the cranberry sauce was subbed out of the aioli, replaced by diced and caramelized onion to add barely-sweet, golden richness to the creamy spread.

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Cranberry-lovers, fear not! Perfectly chewy dried cranberries dot the side salad, but here, half of the roasted squash doesn’t make its way in with the spinach—it’s mashed with a fork to create yet another savory topping for the warm and comforting cheeseburgers.

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This is such an impressive upgrade that we almost can’t believe we’re considering skipping the turkey altogether… almost. Those of us with tiny ovens—or maximum appetites and minimum time—are giving Michelle many thanks this year. Try for yourself!

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