Or the stuff that found its way onto your school lunch tray with a heap of bad mashed potatoes on the side glopped with deep brown goo and a side of corn that was boiled to death by the denizens of the lunchroom kitchen. Both versions of the dish would typically feature bits of “pencil eraser”—cooked canned mushrooms which somehow have become rubbery.
Yep, that’s Salisbury Steak. It’s a venerable dish which, thanks to the TV dinner industry has been sorely abused. We’ve all had it. It fills our belly and satisfies a primal urge for beef but usually in a form that only technically qualifies as a meal.
I’ve eaten it as a “treat”—something to “reward” an evening of independence from kids and the duties of a household. I’ve eaten it when I didn’t want to cook but wanted something to fill me up—a default pretend feast of gargantuan proportions fresh from the freezer section of the grocery store.
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Now, I have come up with a way to make it a “stick to your ribs celebration of flavor and comfort food.” And it’s good. Flavorful, savory, aromatic.
It’s not hard to make, but there are several steps and start to finish it takes about 2 hours. And sometimes good comfort food takes a bit of time to come together. It’s worth the wait and you’ll be rewarded with some terrific aromas while it’s cooking.
Cheap Bastid’s Salisbury Steak
• 1 ½ lbs. 85% ground beef
• 1 cup diced onion
• 1 tbsp minced garlic
• 2 eggs
• ¾ cup bread or cracker crumbs
• 2 cups sliced mushrooms
• ½ cup diced mushrooms
• 2 tbsp flour
• 16 oz beef or veal stock
First do all your prep. Dice the onions, clean and slice the mushrooms, dice the ½ cup of mushrooms. Prep the crumbs. Get out your eggs, flour and stock. Be ready to cook. Get out a medium mixing bowl for the meat mixture, a large sauté pan and a good size baking dish.
When cool, add the meat then add the eggs and crumbs. (I used cracker crumbs because I didn’t have any bread crumbs and I like the slightly different flavor the cracker crumbs give). Mix all this up really well. (I used a blend of 12 oz. ground round, 6 oz. ground chuck and 2 oz. pork sausage.) Form the meat into patties about ½ inch thick and about 6 oz. each (just eyeball it).
Now, put the pan back on the stove, turn the heat to medium-high and add 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Put the patties down in the pan and brown on each side (it’ll take 2-3 minutes per side). Remove and put the patties in a single layer in a baking dish.
OK, so the meat is ready. Now on to the gravy. (See what I mean, this is just a little bit involved, but it’s worth it!).
Add a bit of oil/butter to the pan you used to sauté the onions and mushrooms and brown the meat (about 3 tablespoons total). Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour into the oil and whisk it into a roux. This is a “quick roux” and will only take a couple of minutes to come together. Add the stock about a third at a time and keep whisking/stirring. Make sure there are no lumps. Add the rest of the mushrooms and simmer for 20-30 minutes until it thickens.
Pour the gravy over the browned meat patties. Cover the dish with foil and put into the oven for about 45 minutes.
Now is the time to make a pot of mashed potatoes and start anticipating the goodness that’s going to come out of the oven.
When done, serve it up. Slather some of the gravy over the mashed potatoes and a bit more on the meat and enjoy.
The meat will me moist and flavorful. The aroma will make your mouth water in anticipation. This ain’t no TV dinner! It’s the real deal. But you can eat it in front of the TV anyway.
The Cheap Bastid Test: This isn’t the cheapest recipe Cheap Bastid has ever done but it’s reasonable. The total for the meat (about 1 ½ lbs) was $3. The stock cost $1 for a 32 oz. box plus I used stock ice cubes that I make myself and freeze. There’s maybe $.50 worth of onion. The priciest item is the mushrooms which were $2.79/lb. and I used about ¾ lb. or $2.10 worth. So the total for this meal for 3 (at our home anyway) was $6.60 but let’s call it $7.00 with stuff like garlic and crumbs added. For 3 servings, that comes to $2.33 each—less than a Hungry Man TV dinner and a lot better. The downside is it takes 2 hours plus to make—but it’s worth it.
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful!