State Plate Recipe: Connecticut Food Fun

Mangia Pizza!

Connecticut has some of the country’s oldest pizza restaurants in the country, including one on this episode of State Plate: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana!

A Can-do Invention!

Every time you open a can of beans, diced tomatoes or any other item, thank Connecticut! Waterbury resident, Ezra Warner invented the first U.S. can opener in 1858.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

In 1908, when New Haven resident, George Smith noticed most candies were too large for children’s small mouths, he had the idea to put candy on a stick, and the lollipop was born! He named the confection Lolly Pop, after a popular race horse, at the time.


How did boys get that perfect “bowl” haircut in Colonial Connecticut? The haircutter plopped a halved pumpkin on their heads and snipped away! The practice gave rise to the name “Pumpkinhead.”

Beef Up!

When you toss a burger on the grill, give a shout out to the great state of Connecticut! In 1895, Louis Lassen was selling steak sandwiches from his wagon outside a factory in New Haven. He hated waste, so he took the excess pieces of meat, ground and grilled them, and served them between two slices of bread. An American tradition was born! Today, Americans consume about 50 billion burgers a year, and as of 2011, a certain fast food chain sold an average of 75 hamburgers per second in a 24-hour period! That’s approximately 6,480,000 burgers every day. Yes, the burgers are flipping behind those golden arches!

Nutty for Nutmeg

Though, Connecticut’s official nickname is The Constitution State, it’s also called The Nutmeg State. Legend has it early residents had the reputation for being so clever they were able to whittle and sell wooden nutmegs to unsuspecting customers. Another interpretation of this story has it that the buyers, not from the north, didn’t know one had to grate the nutmeg to a powder in order to release its nutty, earthy and sweet flavor.

Getting Steamed is a Good Thing…for Food!

Steaming cooks without fats or oils and helps retain more of the food’s nutrients. The moist heat surrounds your burger with vapor and allows for a juicy, tasty meal.

Steamed Cheeseburgers


  • 1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • Sharp cheddar cheese (or you favorite cheese) to cover 4 burgers – sliced, chunks or shredded
  • 4 hamburger buns

Condiments of your choice

  • Onion
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Pickles
  • Mayo
  • Ketchup

Note: You can use the beef plain and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper or mix in any of your favorite spices or sauces such as: Worcestershire, barbecue, sriracha or soy sauces, tomato paste, onion or garlic powders—whatever pleases your taste buds!

Basic Directions

  1. Divide meat into 4 balls and using a press or your hands, form the burgers into patties, about 3/4-inch thick and 4 inches wide, or whatever will fit your steaming device.
  2. Bring water to a boil in your covered pot.
  3. Place your burgers on the steamer leaving room around each patty and gently place into the pot, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the steamer. Cover, and cook for 8 to 12 minutes.
  4. You can steam the cheese with the burgers by cooking for about an additional minute, or remove the pot from the heat, add the cheese, and let it sit until it melts.

Remember to remove the lid with great caution, and always away from your face!

Option: Near the end of cooking, steam the buns with the burgers for about 30 seconds until soft and warm.

Types of Steamers

The idea is to have the food raised above boiling water in a covered pot, and allow the steam to cook it.

  • Traditional perforated veggie steamer that sits like a nest in a sauce pan over boiling water.
  • Bamboo steamer for use in a wok.
  • A metal or silicone, folding or collapsible rack placed over water at the bottom of a pot or fry pan. You can improvise with a metal rack you already own. See what works!
  • A variety of electric steamers, at a wide range of price points, you can buy in most stores.


  • Make sure you have enough water in the pot to last through the cooking process.
  • Arrange your burgers with space around them so the steam can circulate to every part and they’ll cook evenly.
  • Use a glass lid so you can check the burgers without having to uncover them. If you don’t have a glass lid, don’t remove it too often while your burgers are steaming, as this will cause the cooking temperature to drop and have to rise again once the lid is replaced.
  • Always, use caution when removing the lid to avoid being burned. Open it away from your face.