Thursday, October 11, 2012

White Castle Hamburgers: A Taste of My Past

Don’t forget to vote at the poll at the bottom of the page for the story you want me to write for NaNoWriMo. Thank you for your help!

Long ago and far away, there was a city with magical hamburgers. They were tiny, but no one had even created the term “sliders” in reference to sandwiches. Word spread throughout the kingdom and lo, other cities wanted what the first had.

People would line up at the clean, white, porcelain-fronted stores and wait patiently for their bag of a dozen or more of the savory treats. One had to buy many of them, because one dissolved in a moment of mouthwatering flavor, similar, I have heard to that first Krispy Kreme donut.

My first White Castle hamburger was from Columbus, Ohio in the 1950’s, though they were originally created in Wichita, KS in 1921. White Castle is credited with being the first fast food chain. The food concept was original, too--a round ball of meat was squashed thing into fresh onions on a grill and then served up on a steamed bun, sans condiments but with a dill pickle slice. It is so hard to describe that flavor to anyone who has not eaten a White Castle.

When desperate for the taste and far from a fresh source, I have bought the frozen ones. Oh, dear. No offense, Mr. White Castle, but, umm, it’s not the same.

Others must have felt that same pang of loss as there are many recipes on the Internet. Here are three links that you can try if you are inclined to re-create your own lost past.

This one from Recipe4Living seems much less complicated than the second one, and, to my tastebuds, not as authentic.

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My Recipe Notes:  Save recipe note
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  • 12-14 dinner rolls, Parker house shape, 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" size
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (80% lean)
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 C. diced onions
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1/2-1 C. water
  • Dill hamburger slices

In food processor place ground beef, salt and water. Process for a few seconds so water and salt are blended through ground beef and meat should look a little pasty. On a 11" x 13" jelly roll pan place plastic wrap on bottom. Place hamburger in middle and with another piece of plastic wrap on top of meat. Roll hamburger out to 1/4" thick. Remove plastic wrap and cut meat into 3" x 3"squares, leave ground beef pieces on tray. You should get between 12 and 14 squares.

Perforate each piece five times with the end of a plastic straw, this will give the meat little steam holes. Cover hamburger with plastic wrap and place in freezer until meat is partially frozen but not solid. Place onions, beef bouillon, and 1/2 C. water in fry pan. On medium low heat sauté and stir onions until they are clear, more water may be added as needed.

Turn heat off until ready to cook hamburger patties. When beef patties are ready to prepare, turn fry pan on medium low heat and add enough water to onions just so the bottom of fry pan is covered. Place patties in pan and cover with lid. Frying time is just a few moments. Turn patties and cook until done but not dry. The patties should be juicy.

When hamburgers are finished cooking place on top of a roll add pickles, cover hamburgers so they will steam slightly or pop in microwave covered just for a few seconds until ready to serve.

Another version that I think is likely closest to the original, from what I understand to be true of the original, is this one from Anne Dolce of The Daily Meal and is posted at .

• 1/4 pound ground chuck
• 1/4 pound ground beef
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 1 cup finely diced onions
• 6 dill pickle slices
• 6 square dinner rolls

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the beef and chuck, carefully so that you do not over-mix the meat. On a clean surface or a cutting board, lay out 1 sheet of parchment paper. Place the beef in the center and top with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll out the beef until very thin, about ¼-inch thick, into a rough rectangle that is about 7-by-10-inches. Trim the edges of the square and use the scraps to pat into a neat rectangle that is 6-by-9-inches.

Season the hamburger square generously with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, cut six 3-by-3-inch patties out of the square. Using a straw, poke 5 holes in each patty, one near each corner and one in the center.

In a 12-inch skillet, melt the butter. Add the diced onion, season lightly with salt, and sauté in the butter for 1-2 minutes until it begins to sweat. Spread the onions evenly along the bottom of the pan so that the bottom of the pan is covered. Turn the heat to medium-low, and top the bed of onions with the patties, 4 at a time, seasoning side down. Allow the onions to "steam" the patties. Cover and cook the patties until they are no longer pink and cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, dampen a kitchen towel and wrap the 6 buns in it. Place in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to steam the buns.

To assemble the burgers, take each patty with no more than 1 tablespoon of the cooked onions and place on the bottom ½ of the bun, onion side up. Top with 1 pickle slice and the top ½ of the bun. Serve with ketchup, if desired.

This third version is really fun to view. Go to for a highly entertaining, time-intensive, but likely delicious version.

Are you a WC junkie? What have you tried to get your fix?

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