Monday, July 7, 2014

Homeward bound...

Check me out.  I was able to register the New Mom on the Blog domain name over the weekend and even get it set up with my old URL.  I'm official y'all.  Though you will be redirected from the old .blogspot URL, you can update your bookmarks or feeds...just because it makes me feel fancy.

I have probably hundreds of foods tied to memories in my life, but the recipe I'm sharing here today has a taste so nostalgic for me, I might as well be sitting beside a campfire outside of my grandparent's camper the moment I take a bite.  I did a little research on Pinterest and it looks like "foil packet dinners" are becoming a pretty popular trend.  Maybe they're en vogue right now, but I can tell you that my family has been making these for decades (and upon talking to my grandmother about the etiology of this recipe - it appears they've been around for even longer than she thought.)

My family always called these "hobo dinners" and if you search for recipes for that, you'll find something very similar to what I'm going to share today. (You can also look for "foil packet dinners" as I mentioned before, or "campfire dinners.")  From what I gather now, this recipe came from a friend of my great uncle, though we always were told this was something my grandmother learned from all of her years as a Girl Scout leader.  No matter where exactly this recipe came from, we know that, like all things that get handed down, we've adapted it slightly over the years and have learned little tricks along the way.  I'm very excited to share it with you today.  The Incredible Hulk (who we all know has his picky eating moments), declared this his "favorite" meal and ate every single bite.  You know it's a winner with that sort of endorsement.

Though these are great to bring along for camping and can be cooked on an open fire, we cooked ours on our grill at home.  You can also just stick them in the oven.  Additionally, once you've learned the method of filling the packets and cooking them, you can pretty much stick whatever you want in there (even dessert items!)  This would also be a great way to cook up some veggies for my non-meateater friends.  (The vegetables were pretty much TIH's favorite part anyway.)

Let's get started.

{Hobo Dinners}

Cast of characters.
- 2 pieces of foil 2-3 feet in length per packet {Use heavy duty foil - we didn't and it worked, but was a pain...learn from my mistake.}
- 1 hamburger patty {Create this however you want - we used our usual method for cooking hamburgers and seasoned them as such.}
- 1 carrot per packet (chopped)
- 1 celery stalk per packet (chopped)
- 1 red potato per packet (peeled and sliced) {The red potato is so important.  My family has been using them in our cooking forever and they are just the best.  No comparison to any other potato variety.}
- half an onion per packet (chopped)
- 1/2 can of tomato sauce per packet
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 pat of butter per packet {My family always uses a pat of Fleischman's margarine which was how the recipe was taught to us.  I haven't used margarine in my cooking in years and don't even keep it in the house.  In fact, when I eat margarine now, it makes me pretty sick.  I do know for a fact that you can use either form and these will still turn out delicious.  But, Time magazine did recently devote its cover to butter with the headline: "Eat butter." Who am I to argue with Time?}

- Place one burger on top of one piece of foil and cover it with the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and sliced red potato.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.

There's a nice burger underneath all of that good stuff.
- Pour the tomato sauce directly over the vegetables and add the pat of butter (or margarine.)  Season with more salt or pepper

Next step: take a blurry cell phone image for your blog. #fail
 - Now comes the art of foil packetry.  Make a tent out of the foil and fold it at the top.  Continue rolling down until you meet your pile of veggies/meat/sauce.  Then fold up the sides.

I submit to you: the foil tent.
- Flip your foil packet over and then re-roll it with a second piece of foil in the same fashion.  This will keep the juices from leaking out.

Like so.  (As you can see, the results don't have to be pretty.)
- Repeat these steps until you have a foil packet per person ready to go on the grill.  Hobo dinners are customizable, so if anyone likes theirs a certain way (e.g., no meat, no celery, etc.) you can mark them with nail polish.  (This was a suggestion from my grandmother because she says the nail polish won't burn off on the grill so you'll still be able to see whose is whose.)

We lost our grill to a bird's nest this spring. (Gross.)  Here's the new one.  Ain't she a beaut?
- The cook time for these will vary based on the way you are cooking them.  Ours were on the grill for about 30 minutes and were turned often.  In the oven (at 375 degrees), my grandmother said they take a lot longer.  You want to cook them until the burger is just past pink and the vegetables are soft.

- After they're done, carefully open the packet.  (A lot of steam will come out and the foil will be many burned fingers as a kid.)  Transfer to a plate if you're fancy like that.

Like a warm hug from grandma.
Other ideas and bits of advice that my grandmother had to share:
- Consider using a chunkier tomato sauce for a bit more substance
- Set the ingredients up assembly line style and have the whole family build their own packet (get the kids involved!)  This is how I learned to do it, so obviously this was my favorite tip.
- Try chicken breast, green onion, mushrooms, rice, and butter and cook using the same method
- Make "banana boats" for desert (bananas, chocolate chips, pound cake, and marshmallows with a little butter).  WOW.  Done and DONE.
- Make extra because these taste even better as leftovers (You see, these people know me...leftovers are totally my jam.)
- Serve with a nice crusty bread (I did this without even hearing it from her first...totally a good move.)

So, that's that!  Trust me when I say your whole family will love this.  My husband was a huge fan - especially because of the simple clean up.  I would love to hear about adaptations anyone tried and how they turned out.  ENJOY!

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