Hamburger, Hamburger

Confession time: I’m not exactly a whiz in the kitchen. My sister is, but I never really got that gift. I’m not terrible, mind you. I can get the job done. But nothing I make ever truly blows my hair back, you know? And my dad was so great in the kitchen. Sometimes I miss his cooking. He’d cook for his friends or for big events in our town (which in our town was usually something like a Buffalo Bills football game), and he was always head chef for our family holidays and gatherings at our house. He really enjoyed cooking. He once entered the town’s chili cookoff, which he proudly won. That blue ribbon hung on his refrigerator for years (and he requested that we refer to him as the Chili King from then on, which we did not). He rarely used a recipe, and trying to get recipes from him went something like this:

Me: Dad, can you give me the recipe to make your stuffed mushrooms? [Sidebar: my dad’s stuffed mushrooms are infamous in my home town. Seriously. They are that good.]

Dad: I don’t really have a recipe. But they aren’t hard to make.

Me: Ok, can you tell me how to make them?

Dad: Sure. Take the stem off the mushrooms and cut them up. Put in some meat. You can use beef, or sausage, or whatever you want. Sometimes I put in horseradish, too. And whatever spices you want. Sprinkle some cheese on top. Bake them until the cheese is bubbly.

Okay. Can you see what’s wrong with this? Vague ingredients, NO measurements, no oven temperature or time, and way too many options to “do what I want” when I don’t even know where to start. So when I had a hankering the other day for his hamburger soup that I used to love, I knew it was futile to ask around to see if anyone had his recipe. But I did it anyway…just in case. And guess what?

I was right. No recipe. But I did get at least a list of ingredients that he used, so that was a good start. I also found a kajillion hamburger soup recipes online, so I can of smashed them into one recipe and came up with my first attempt at this soup! And it isn’t half bad! I like it enough to eat the leftovers for lunch. Vitamin D liked it enough to eat it- with hot sauce. But we’d definitely make some changes.

Once I perfect it, it will be perfect for the fall and those chilly football Sundays. I’ll definitely be trying it again (my “notes to self” are at the bottom of recipe). So, since I know you are on the edge of your seat, here is the recipe:

Bri’s Hamburger Soup: Version 1

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef (I used 95% lean beef)

1 can condensed tomato soup

1 can beef consumme

5 beef bouillon cubes

5 cups water

1 can diced tomatoes- undrained

1/2 lb. mini wheel pasta (or any other small pasta, my dad always used orzo I think. I just thought the wheels looked fun :))

1 diced onion

1 diced carrot

1 diced celery stalk (I’ll be honest- I used one of those pre-cut onion/carrot/celery combos).

1 tbs. Worchestire sauce

1 tsp. hamburger seasoning

Garlic powder and salt to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese to top

(Vitamin D. likes garlic a whole bunch so I threw in some minced garlic. Probably about a tablespoon.)

Steps to Deliciousness

1. Brown the beef and drain (I forgot to drain it. Good think I got the lean beef).

2. Boil the water and dissolve the bouillon cubes.

3. Throw everything into the crock pot. Stir. Cook on low 6 hours.

4. Serve it with some cheese on top and devour.

Next time, I’d go without the worchestire and the beef consumme. I’d add more salt and more broth and have a different pasta, something smaller than the wheels, and definitely about half the amount, if even that. Oh, and I’d probably use tomato juice instead of tomato soup (which my dad did, I think). But other than that, it’s a good basic recipe. Since all I have to go on to make my dad’s recipe is memories of him making it when I was little, it’s a far cry from his soup. Actually, it’s not at all like his soup. Still, it’s not bad. And I don’t mind that it has room for improvement.

I guess this is what makes cooking fun for a lot of people, the trial and error of it. Playing around with ingredients and measurements. Finding what works and what doesn’t. So I’m okay with not making my father’s soup, because I’m making my own. I’m kind of proud of that.

PS- Have you gone “off book” and made something without a recipe? Some people love doing this and some people refuse. How comfortable are you in the kitchen?

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