Hamburger Hash: School Lunch, Circa 1973

Everybody loves to get on the school-lunch-reform bandwagon, which I think is fantastic and very important. As a kid, I was a witness to the transformation of public school lunches from hot homemade food served on real dishes to prewrapped, premade food served on disposable paper trays.  (Although, somehow, the same feeling was there for both phases—awkward cafeteria moments of not knowing where to sit or whom to sit with, and so forth) It’s a testament to the processed junk-food lunch era that one of my family’s favorite recipes is something I used to get at school for lunch: Hamburger Hash. It’s not a pretty dish (yes, it looks kind of like pet vomit on mashed potatoes—no photos of this one for you!). But it’s so yummy that my kids ask for it all the time, and they were shocked to hear that I hadn’t already blogged about it.

It’s so easy to make, too. I think Carole, my best friend from junior high, and I invented the recipe one night when we made a big vat of it for a whole bunch of really cute (and hungry) guys. Hungry guys, hungry kids, hungry women… It’s a hard dish not to love. Serve it with a salad and you’ve got a meal. My kids also like when I add frozen peas to it, but it’s certainly not the traditional way to make hamburger hash.

The basic premise is ground beef and gravy (cooked in one pan on top of the stove) served on top of mashed potatoes (cooked in another pan on top of the stove). Start the mashed potatoes first because they take a bit longer than the beef. When I make it, everything is organic, of course, so the taste is clean and good. It does make a difference! So, here is my recipe for both parts:

Mashed Potatoes
3-pound bag organic Yukon gold potatoes (or another kind, but these are the yummiest)

5 Tablespoons butter

½ cup milk

¼ teaspoon salt

  1. Put peeled potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water, and boil until soft.
  2. When they are soft, drain the water and mash with a masher.
  3. Add the butter, milk, and salt and mash again. DONE!

Hamburger Hash

¼ cup olive oil

2 pounds ground beef

½ cup flour

1½ cups water

1 cup beef or chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt

  1. Pour the olive oil into the bottom of a cast-iron pan.
  2. Sauté the ground beef until browned.
  3. Mix the flour and water together and pour on to the hot cooking beef (it will thicken pretty much right away).
  4. Add a cup of broth to thin the gravy (you can use all broth if you want, but it’s not necessary).
  5. Add salt. Enjoy!

This serves six hungry people, with a little bit of leftovers, too.

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5 Responses to Hamburger Hash: School Lunch, Circa 1973

  1. Jeri Woods says:

    This is the same recipe my mother always used – and I still use – but we call it “Hamburger Gravy”, and use all milk (no broth) to make a creamy gravy. And yes, it MUST be served on mashed potatoes!

  2. Karen Eller Baker says:

    Yes, we also call it Hamburger Gravy but we also serve it over noodles or rice. Great comfort food.

  3. Pam says:

    It sounds like reverse Sheperd’s Pie.

  4. Patrick says:

    My mother use to make it with with gravy also. Never had a name for it but it was so great to eat. I try to do it also and my son, said Dad yours is not as good as Grandma’s is. I totaly 100% agree with him. It seems you can never make it as good a Mom use to make it. Love it.

  5. PAT HILL says:

    I GREW UP IN RURAL CENTRAL KANSAS. OUR SMALL SCHOOL HAD A CAFETERIA WHERE ALL OF THE COOKS WERE FARM WIVES. WE HAD THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN, MEATLOAF, FRANKS & BEANS, ETC. AND IT WAS ALL FRESH. MY DAUGHTERS ARE MIDDLE AGED NOW (THE OLDEST ONE AN ADMINISTRATOR AT A HIGH SCHOOL LOCATED IN MILLIONAIRE’S ROW OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) AND WE OFTEN REMINISCE ABOUT HOW GREAT IT WAS “BACK THEN” COMPARED TO LUNCH PROGRAMS NOW – WE LOOKED FORWARD TO WHAT WE COULD EXPECT FOR LUNCH EVERY DAY.

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