A Chef Remakes Our 1950s Beef Casserole as a Southwest Burger

The winner of this burger showdown might surprise you.

If you're not exactly sure what a jumbo corn burger entails, you're not alone—but this episode of Then & Now breaks it down. Chef Alexis deBoschnek follows a 1950s Better Homes and Gardens recipe to create the dish, which takes on a casserole style and—wait for it—a corn filling between two oversized beef patties. She then serves up her own version of a Southwest burger to see how it stacks up.

Jumbo Corn Burger
Shirley Cheng

Then: Jumbo Corn Burger

Turning to the "Hearty Beef" section of the cookbook, Alexis begins by forming the patties. She mixes ground beef, tomato sauce, eggs, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce with her hands and places half in the bottom of a baking dish. The recipe then instructs Alexis to "combine the rest of the ingredients," which include bread crumbs, bell pepper, pimiento, onion, and the star of the show: corn. "I'm just kind of skeptical with the filling ingredients," she says. "Like, are you going to taste anything apart from the corn?"

The mixture then gets spooned onto the beef in the baking dish, and the other patty goes on top. Once it's in the oven, Alexis begins working on peeling a tomato and cutting it into wedges for the topping. To get the skin off, she scores the tomato, boils it for a few minutes, and shocks it in ice water. After an hour, Alexis adds the peeled tomato wedges and shredded American cheese (it is the '50s, after all) on top, and bakes it five more minutes to finish it off. "I'm really excited about this," she says at first glance. "You get tomato soup and grilled cheese vibes on top, with a burger, with corn. You're going through a whole journey of food here."

Southwest Burger
Shirley Cheng

Now: Southwest Burger

Moving on to her modern take, Alexis makes the kind of burger we're more familiar with today. Starting off with a Southwest salsa, she adds corn—of course—and chops tomatoes (keeping the skin on), green onion, and jalapeño. "I've noticed in these recipes from the 50s, there's not a lot of spice or heat," she says. "I think that can add good dimension to a dish." The salsa gets finished off with lime juice and zest.

Preparing the patties comes next. Just like with the corn burger, Alexis's recipe calls for ground beef. She decides to make it pub-style, which she describes as thicker and usually cooked on the grill or stove, as opposed to a much thinner smash burger. After heating the pan, Alexis adds just a small splash of oil "because the burgers already have so much fat in them." Once the patties are almost cooked, pepper jack cheese goes on top. They're placed onto brioche buns along with the salsa, which give elements of sweet and spicy.

The Taste Test

With both dishes in front of her, Alexis takes a slice of the corn burger first. Overall, she doesn't have many complaints. "I think the corn filling is actually really nice; it adds some really nice textural elements," she says. "The cheese on top is lovely. The tomatoes feel … you know, lose the tomatoes." Moving onto her burger, Alexis admits her version of the recipe doesn't excite her as much. She concludes that a smash burger with two patties, more cheese, and just more flavor, in general, would've been the way to go. The retro recipe wins this round.

"I went back for many bites because there's so many different elements," Alexis says. "I think the Better Homes and Gardens food editors of the 1950s knew what they were doing here."

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