By Tristen Phipps
As a kid, my diet consisted strictly of three basic food groups: burgers, chicken and french fries.
The burgers had to be juicy, the chicken crunchy, and the fries salty. I was raised on a burger recipe so divine that I rejected any cheeseburger that didn’t come from my parents’ kitchen.
Now that I’m 20, my palate has expanded beyond the basics, but my love and appreciation for a quality burger has only grown.
The saying goes something like, “The key to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” right? I assure you, the statement isn’t unique to men. The key to any college student’s heart is likely right through his or her stomach.
My favorite part about this recipe is that it gave me an excuse to visit my home in Peebles and be back by my dad’s side in the kitchen. This time, the tables turned and he got to be my sous chef. He deserves the credit for this one, though. He taught me everything I know about preparing food that makes your mouth, tummy and soul smile simultaneously.
In this recipe, I used a pretzel bun and, if you choose to do the same, you can omit the salt if you don’t consume salt as vigorously as I do.
This is the first time my dad and I have actually measured the ingredients we throw into the burgers, so if you aren’t keen on measuring, don’t do it. We won’t judge.
Remember, the foundation for a superior cheeseburger is local meat. Don’t go to the store and pick up a pound of ground beef, it just won’t be the same. You absolutely must find your local butcher for this one. Once you’ve located local beef, you’re ready to begin building a decadent burger … but don’t forget homemade, fresh-cut fries.
BURGERS AND FRIES
3 pounds ground beef, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons A1 sauce
Real American cheese slices
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan, then add minced garlic. Sauté until golden brown and add to beef.
Combine all ingredients, except cheese slices, in a bowl with beef and mix by hand. Pat meat into half-pound burgers. Quarter-pound patties will work, too. They’ll pack a bit more flavor in each bite.
Cook on medium heat 5 minutes per side, covered. Add cheese slices, let sit a minute and remove from heat.
For a perfect burger, toast the bun in the oven for a few minutes.
French Fries Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable oil
5 large potatoes
French Fries Directions:
Rinse potatoes, then cut into 1-inch slices. If you don’t own a crinkle cutter, a knife will do just fine.
Heat vegetable oil in a large pan. Submerge half of the batch into hot oil. When golden brown, remove and place on paper towel-lined plate to absorb grease.
Top with salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with second batch.
This recipe emerged from my undying love for cheese, an insignificant amount of funds in my bank account, and my desperate need for any amount of protein.
Hillshire Farm’s Italian smoked sausage was on sale at the store, my cabinet is dutifully stocked with an uncanny supply of pasta and, again, I love cheese.
The universe was in favor of this concoction because it just so happened that, despite my college budget, my refrigerator was stocked with two types of cheese — so a creamy, cheesy, smoky, pasta dish was born.
Before I share the winning recipe with you, I must first tell you about its earlier versions. After picking up smoked sausage and discovering the variety of cheese in my refrigerator, I threw on a pot of water to boil. I cooked my pasta, fried my sausage, combined the two and tossed in generous handfuls of cheese. I was completely satisfied with the outcome. The meal became a regular for me. It was cheap, quick and hearty.
I began to experiment a bit more, because sometimes I just can’t smother my curiosity for flavor. Once, I added store-bought Alfredo sauce. Another time, I chopped green peppers and added those to the mix. Everything was good, but nothing was perfect … until I discovered the magic of heavy cream and overcame the deep hate for onions that was instilled in me by my dad since I could cry over baby food.
Onions and heavy cream finally put the recipe over the top. It surpassed its once-simple, sticky pasta dish that longed for flavor, and became a creamy, smoky, delightful meal all on its own.
Now, if you dislike onions as much as I thought I did, you are welcome to skip them. I empathize with you, and I assure you, I will only mildly judge you and your fear of the delightful little vegetable.
CREAMY SMOKED SAUSAGE AND PASTA
2 packs Hillshire Farm smoked sausage, sliced
1 box Barilla Collezione pasta, Casarecce
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 medium red pepper, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 cups Sargento Italian blend cheese (mozzarella/provolone)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Once hot, add garlic, sauté, and then add sausage. Cook sausage until brown, then add onions and red pepper.
Meanwhile, add pasta to boiling water and cook until done.
Cook vegetables over medium heat for 2 minutes, then add heavy cream, cheese, salt and pepper. Cover, cook over medium heat until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally.
Once cheese is melted, add cooked pasta and allow sauce to stand for a couple minutes. Once sauce thickens, add parsley for garnish.