Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Battle of the Juicy Lucys

Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call
Arsenal’s Juicy Lucy burger misses the mark. The Merguez burger is a jucier and more flavorful option.

Its lineage may be hazy, but the mechanics of the dairy-filled delicacy are quite clear: Stuff adequately fatty meat with cheese, carefully grill and proceed with caution.

“Wherever you get it, best to heed the warning and let it sit before you bite, lest you also be introduced to the pain of scalding hot cheese,” City Pages warned in its tribute.

The Twin Cities’ own Heavy Table suggested using no less than 80/20 lean-to-fatty ground beef and generic American cheese in its make-your-own video tutorial. When America’s Test Kitchen took a crack at developing a foolproof Juicy Lucy back in 2007, the culinary think tank devoted a good deal of time to preserving the iconic purse of embedded cheese within the surrounding patty (which was also bolstered with a bread and milk mixture). Their solution: double wrapping the beef.

“To keep the cheesy center of our recipe in place, we created a double-sealed pocket by wrapping a chunk of cheese inside a small beef patty and then molding a second patty around the first,” Team ATK counseled.

Arsenal chef Kyle Bailey, however, has his own take on Juicy Lucy construction.

Dueling Lucys

While I can’t stop telling everyone about the wondrous beers flowing from Bluejacket’s carefully curated taps — Panther smacks of dark chocolate and coffee, Bombshell bubbles over with citrus notes and hoppiness, the sour-packed Trouble delivered winey gulps of cherry and ripe stone fruit — the Juicy Lucy gave me immediate pause.

The first alarm went off when the server informed me that all Arsenal burgers are cooked to well done.

Bailey confirmed that the kitchen uniformly fires its burgers to ensure that the custom patties are cooked all the way through.

For his patties, Bailey said he salts and peppers beef brisket, air dries it in a cooler for two days, grinds the meat and flattens it into 2-ounce patties with a tortilla press.

“In the past, I’ve always used chuck for burgers, but in this burger it was important that we could grind our own and keep the price reasonable. Brisket was perfect for that, plus it has a big beefy flavor and a good amount of fat cap on it, so we can keep it all beef,” he said of the base material.

The clanging of alarms became deafening as soon as the burger hit the table.

Before me sat a formidable meal. Possibly even a noteworthy double cheeseburger.

But this was clearly no Juicy Lucy.

There was certainly an abundance of cheese. Twin slices of Grafton cheddar from Vermont were draped over the featured brisket patties. But there was no cheese filling to be found.

The first bite confirmed the worst: This burger was way too dry.

Whether it’s the prolonged cooking method or the actual cut of beef (for my money, brisket lacks the protective fat of an 80-20 grind), the burger was simply not juicy.

The remaining ingredients did their part (the house-made brioche bun was good, the dijonnaise dressing enticing, blocks of crispy tater tots were delightful), but could not salvage the otherwise disappointing meal.

In fact, the only thing I wanted after pushing away my half-finished plate was a real Juicy Lucy.

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