Growing up in Hawaii, regional specialties of my childhood included the Spam musubi (spam, often fried and basted with teriyaki sauce, on a rectangular onigiri), the Loco Moco (rice, topped with a burger, topped with a fried egg, topped with gravy - go big or go home!), and thanks to my dad, who went to high school in Summit, New Jersey, the Hill City Sloppy Joe. Anyone who has had a New Jersey Sloppy Joe knows that it has nothing to do with ground beef and sauce on a bun and is more like a double-decker ham sandwich on rye, with Swiss cheese and coleslaw and Russian dressing. At least that’s the way may dad would make them. Fast forward a few decades and I’ve started putting caraway seeds into our burgers, and everyone in my family agrees they are a delicious addition. I quietly wonder why the Patty Melt never made more of an impression. Anyway, I usually also add minced garlic and Worcestershire to the caraway burgers and top them with Swiss cheese and call it a day. Then I remembered the Hill City Sloppy Joe and thought why haven’t I ever put coleslaw on a burger? I simplified things a bit and made my version of a Russian dressing coleslaw and the Hill City Burger was born. Just in time for summer barbecuing.
For the special slaw
1 1/4 cups
thinly sliced red onion (peel and halve first, then best to use a straight slicer or mandoline) - I used about 1/3 of a large red onion
rice vinegar (unseasoned)
thinly sliced green cabbage (you can use a mixture - I used 2 cups of green and 2 cups of Savoy that I had from my CSA box)
2 1/2 tablespoons
1 1/2 tablespoons
1 1/4 teaspoons
freshly ground black pepper
For the burgers
1 1/2 pounds
ground chuck (80/20)
1 1/2 teaspoons
slices favorite Swiss cheese
hamburger buns, buttered for toasting on the grill
Make the slaw at least an hour in advance by combining the thinly sliced red onion, vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl large enough hold the remaining slaw ingredients. Toss with tongs and let mixture sit 10 minutes before adding remaining ingredients (cabbage through black pepper). Thoroughly combine and taste for salt and sugar, adding a pinch at a time to your liking. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Combine ground chuck and remaining burger ingredients in a medium bowl. With clean hands, and a light touch (do not squeeze the meat in your hands) mix the ingredients to ensure even distribution of spices. Form 4 equal sized patties (roughly 6 oz each) and make an indentation with your thumb in the center of each. Do not overwork the meat.
Prepare and light your grill. Once it is hot, clean with your wire brush and then, using long handled tongs, quickly oil it by wiping grill with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Cook burgers over medium high heat to your liking, adding slices of Swiss cheese after you flip, if desired. For medium, I cooked mine for 3 min, flipped, added cheese, and cooked for another 4 minutes. Once you flip your burgers, toast your buns on the grill, being careful not to burn them.
Remove slaw from refrigerator, and mix (cabbage will have let out some water) before serving.
To serve, arrange cheeseburger on bottom bun, top with a generous amount of special slaw, cap with top of bun and enjoy.
My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love.
Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.