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Way back: Hobo Packs

22.February 2010

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.

So, with no further ado, here’s today’s dinner.
Hobo Packs
(campfire optional)

  • 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
  1. Squish meat and seasonings together with the bread and form into two patties.
  2. Place meat patties, potatoes, mushrooms, and broccoli on top of large square of aluminum foil.
  3. Sprinkle food with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Place another piece of aluminum foil on top and roll the edges up to seal each packet.
  5. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.
  6. Break into aluminum foil packet with a fork and enjoy.
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