Way back: Hobo Packs
When I was little, there were a few meals that inspired dread in me like nothing else I knew – Stuffed Peppers (which I oddly now crave) and Polynesian Chicken (which I still loathe to think of) come to mind. There were other meals (Spaghetti Casserole, Chili, Pasta) that would, without fail, improve a bad mood or turn a proverbial frown, proverbially, upside-down. Another of those, one that my grandma (who was not an adventurous cook, and whom I miss every single day) made often, is very, very simple – it’s the kind of dish that makes it feel wrong to write down a recipe, but it’s also the kind that everyone – but everyone – should try, at least once.
I speak of hobo packs. I know, I know, how hard can it be to bang some ingredients into an envelope of aluminum foil and pop it in the oven? It’s not hard at all, but the taste – oh, it’s divine.
Hobo packs. I always thought my grandma’s adherence to this recipe was a result of her having grown up in The Depression and I always imagined my grandpa and his friends dressed as hobos (battered trilby hats, patched clothes, a hankie tied onto a stick) poking around in the fire waiting for the meat to cook, breaking into the packets with pocket knives under a starry sky. My grandpa wasn’t a hobo, but I thought it would have been so cool, if he had been.
Instead of huddling around a fire, we busted into the steamy packets while gathered around the dining room table, me always sitting next to my grandpa and waiting impatiently for one of the grown-ups to open my hobo pack since I always burned my fingers. I always ate mine with lots of ketchup.
The taste of my hobo packs wasn’t the same. I don’t have home-grown, home-canned green beans (with bacon in) to throw in there, and I did add some mushrooms and broccoli for good measure. The taste wasn’t the same, but the spirit was. I reverse engineered my version from a rather distant memory, but a few things I remembered paid off. Most important, I remembered the bread squished into the meat, which makes for a few smooth, almost custardy bites in between meaty morsels. That’s an important thing. Don’t leave it out.
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 1/4 lb ground sirloin
- 1 T olive oil
- salt and pepper
- dash cayenne pepper
- dash garlic powder
- 1 t balsamic
- 1 piece white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
- 1 large yukon gold potato, cut lengthwise into eighths or so, steak-fry style
- 1/2 head broccoli, cut into florets
- mushrooms, cut into chunks
- Squish meat and seasonings together with the bread and form into two patties.
- Place meat patties, potatoes, mushrooms, and broccoli on top of large square of aluminum foil.
- Sprinkle food with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
- Place another piece of aluminum foil on top and roll the edges up to seal each packet.
- Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.
- Break into aluminum foil packet with a fork and enjoy.