A FAB RECIPE FROM MY YOUTH
Surfing through my favorite food blogs, I stumbled upon Domestic Muse and found myself laughing out loud! Actually shrieking with laughter. She is hosting THE 1ST ANNUAL EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN VINTAGE RECIPE CONTEST. She has asked us to pull out those old hand-written recipes of our youth, dust off the favorite family recipes, and re-create a “vintage” dish that we would love to see come back into vogue. Brilliant idea and what fun! But little does she know…
Anyone that has followed my blog from its earliest days has read about my mom’s cooking, the liver fried to resemble old shoe leather, baked fish overcooked and dry, cabbage soup that is best left undescribed…. my mother, and heaven knows we all love her, was not the best of home cooks, her heirloom dishes, recipes handed down mother-to-daughter, were enough to make us cringe and grab for the ketchup bottle. The canned vegetables, the boxed mixes (just add meat and water), the hot dogs served with her fabulous home fries were perfectly fine, but a vintage, family recipe that I would want to see come back into vogue? Not likely! Well, this took a bit of thinking…
Over the course of my last few trips home to mom’s house, I have pilfered so many of her old cookbooks, Joy of Cooking, The Settlement Cookbook by Mrs. Simon Kander (don’t you love those old cookbooks written by women who still went by their husband’s name?), Secrets of Better Cooking, coming across, oh joy! the actual recipes she used for meatloaf (who said “lead weight”?), salmon cakes (canned tuna, but these I actually loved!) and something similar to her Baked Red Snapper.
I also grabbed up handfuls of old promotional pamphlets put out by food companies offering recipes using their products, and, on my last trip home, I hit the jackpot, actually stumbling upon my old 7th-grade Home Economics notebook, complete with all of the recipes we learned how to make for this class: Chocolate Pudding (the teacher marked it “Neat”), Club Chicken Casserole and, heaven forbid! Cream Cheese Dainties! I had thought of making this oh-so 70’s treat for the Vintage Recipe Contest, I mean, who else would make these? But the list of ingredients was daunting to say the least: 2 sticks of butter, 6-oz package of cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups flours and all rolled in crushed Rice Crispies cereal! I mean, who in my house (in their right mind) would eat these things?
But then a truly brilliant idea struck! One thing my mom made that we all loved, that we clamored for, that was so special, so exciting to eat was... Surprise Burgers! Mmmm…. hamburger patties split in two and filled with spaghetti sauce and a slice of American cheese, then sealed up and fried. Wow! This was a Kid’s Dream Meal! Out with the boring, the usual and in with the surprise! I can see the tv commercial for this now: “Why serve those boring burgers when you can surprise them with a mouthful of fun?” Yah!!!!
The recipe for this burger delight came from, yes, a product promotional pamphlet: the Hunt’s Tomato Sauce pamphlet “21 New Ways to Serve Hamburger (Hamburger Loves Hunt’s Tomato Sauce)”, printed in 1964. I have changed the recipe only insofar as, living in France, I can’t get the true jarred ingredients, but here goes….
SURPRISE BURGERS for a family of 4
20 oz (600 g) ground beef – or, as I did, I got the butcher to weigh me out 4 medium-sized burgers 5 oz (150 g) each
Your favorite jarred spaghetti or tomato sauce (you’ll be using 4 generous tablespoons)
4 slices (processed, of course!) American cheese (ours are a mix of emmenthal and cheddar)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, your favorite steak seasoning if you like
I took each pre-made hamburger patty, divided it into 2 equal pieces and rolled each half into a ball. If you have just a package of ground beef, divide the meat into 8 equal pieces and roll each into a ball.
Place each ball of ground meat between 2 squares of waxed or parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, carefully roll and flatten each ball into a thin disc, just larger and wider than a square of cheese, working 2 at a time (one Surprise Burger).
Remove the top piece of waxed paper and spread one disc with a generous tablespoon of the spaghetti or tomato sauce.
Lay a slice of American cheese on top of the sauce.
Sprinkle the other disc with salt and pepper and steak seasoning if using. Carefully flip this disc over onto the prepared disc. Fiddling with the meat if need be, seal the edges, enclosing the sauce and cheese inside the two layers of burger.
Put aside until you have prepared all 4 Surprise Burgers with the remaining ground beef.
Simply fry these delights as you would any hamburger (I do this in a non-stick pan so I don’t have to use any fat or grease). As they are a bit delicate to turn (you don’t want the top half sliding off), make sure they are completely cooked and well browned underneath before flipping them to cook the other side. Make sure they are well cooked all the way through so the sauce is hot and the cheese melted (I took mine off a bit too soon).
Enjoy your Surprise Burgers on a bun with chips or fries or on the plate with baked potatoes (filled with gobs of butter and sour cream, of course!) and a salad of iceburg lettuce with bottled Italian dressing.
Addendum : my very French older son asked me in a crazed voice :”Cheese in the middle? Who puts cheese in the middle of a hamburger?” which in his language means “You are absolutely nuts!” Oh, if he only knew!