I grew up in a little town back in Indiana along the Wabash River during the tumultuous 60s. West Lafayette was then, as it is now, the home of the Purdue Boilermakers.
The town is also home to an old fashioned, drive-in restaurant called the Triple XXX, located midway up the hill from the levy, a low lying area that separates most of the town from the river just five blocks east of the main Purdue campus. At least I think the restaurant is still there.
One might think the name a bit risque, but when I was growing up X was just another letter in the Greek alphabet so the restaurant was known back then as the “Tri Chi” not the Triple XXX..
Several years ago I was sitting at my desk reminiscing about my childhood when I recalled how great the hamburgers were there. The buns were buttered and toasted, of course, but that wasn’t really what made them special. There was something about that hamburger that made my mouth water even as I recalled the experience.
Sitting back in my chair, I closed my eyes and recalled sitting on one of the aluminum, black leather topped stools along the left side of the horseshoe counter inside. There weren’t any tables, the place wasn’t large enough for that. Eyes closed, I looked to my left. There he was, the back of that anonymous, short order cook, standing a few feet away at the grill just below the big picture window facing the parking lot.
I was having an out of body experience that day, you know one of those amazing mental trips everyone occasionally takes to another time and place without the use of synthetic drugs. “I wonder what made these hamburgers so exceptional,” I asked myself.
I recalled watching him closely, thinking to myself. “Could it be that it really wasn’t hamburger they were using? Maybe they had a secret pact with Purdue’s School of Agriculture to test some new sort of hormonalized meat product.” Eyes still closed, I remember shaking my head and mumbling something barely coherent like “Nope, couldn’t be that.”
“Did he put seasonings on them? No, no, and no.” That wasn’t the answer either.
Then it struck me. After 40 years, I actually saw what I had failed to see when it was staring me right in the face. The burgers weren’t red. They were white.
Driven by the desire to test the merit of my recollections, I quickly drove to the supermarket to pick up some hamburger and flour. An hour later, my tastebuds were reintroduced to the wonders of the Tri Chi burger. I’d succeeded in duplicating the hamburger of my early childhood.
I’ve experimented from time to time and discovered that the closest I can come to replicating the Tri Chi’s recipe is to make sure that I use hamburger with at least a 10% fat content. The greater the fat content, the juicer the burger. Lean meat just doesn’t cut it.
Second, it’s imperative that the entire patty be covered with flour, not just the top and bottom but the sides as well. Flouring not only adds an incredible taste and texture, it keeps the burger juicy and hot.
Lastly, the hamburger has to be prepared on a flat grill on a medium heat setting. If you use high heat, you burn the flower and this creates a less than desirable taste. This recipe will not work on an open outdoor grill unless you use a flat baking sheet. I personally prefer cast iron.
I don’t know if the Tri Chi actually prepared their hamburgers in this manner or for that matter still cooks them this way, but it makes an interesting story to tell my guests while I prepare my favorite short order dinner.
If you ever have a chance to visit the Tri Chi, watch the cook. If he’s flouring the patties, I would love to know. If not, I guess I was just hallucinating which, as it turns out, is a good thing even if it is an early sign of dementia.
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Ron Scott, The PR Guru Guy, is an experienced journalist who specializes in internet public relations. He spends most of his time teaching entrepreneurs how to use internet press releases to promote their online businesses.
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