Lately, I have been craving what’s familiar, and that has translated into what I’ve been eating at home. Some might call them basic dishes: a burger, a cheddar cheese quesadilla, scrambled eggs with toast and bacon.
I was drawn to her new cookbook, “Homestead Recipes,” because it fit my mood in this moment. It met a need for simple food that I can make with confidence. The 110 “Midwestern” recipes feature ingredients that, she notes, you could grow at home, as well as common staples. (She, her husband and five children live on a 15-acre “homestead” outside Minneapolis, where they raise fowl and grow their own food. If you ever need zucchini recipes, she has a whole chapter devoted to them.)
Rettke prides herself on her self-deprecating humor (next to a luscious picture of chocolate cake, she writes: “Not to brag — but I have one of those metabolisms where I can eat anything I want and still get fat.”) Her social media is a combination of take-her-as-she-is silliness, well-constructed recipes and unvarnished insights into how she operates, from seeking and paying for celebrity “cameos” (and getting one from Bethenny Frankel) to debunking bad cooking advice that enrages her (no, you can’t just use baking soda if a recipe calls for baking powder).
As I flipped through the cookbook, I came across her saucy Salisbury steak. It immediately brought back fun memories. The first time I recall eating this dish was in a TV dinner — those flat, foil-covered trays with little compartments to hold your meat, potatoes and vegetables. You’d run it in the oven and then carefully lift the piping hot foil to reveal your meal.
My childhood friend, whose mother was a great cook, often insisted on buying them when I slept over. Maybe it was her little form of rebellion, and I’ll admit that as a kid, it seemed pretty cool — these little boxed meals that we could heat and eat all by ourselves.
Today, I think: It’s so simple to make. Why buy it frozen?
In her cookbook, Rettke writes about her own memories of the dish, noting that she “grew up without much — my first memory is falling off the top bunk bed in our trailer. But my mom was a master at making meals that tasted like we were millionaires.” Her mother’s version uses crumbled potato chips; Rettke notes that they add saltiness, and, I imagine, her mom was also looking for ways to stretch that ground beef.
Her patties are made with lean beef, those chips, ground mustard and garlic powder. “But Salisbury steak is ultimately all about the gravy, and this one is a winner,” she writes. That gravy is made with a yellow onion, beef broth, cornstarch and Worcestershire sauce. I made a super-simple smashed potatoes to go with them.
As I spooned the soft, oniony gravy over the meat and potatoes, I couldn’t help but sigh and settle in. I knew what to expect from this thrifty, 40-minute recipe, and it delivered.
Sometimes simple, uncomplicated and familiar is all I want and need. How about you?
Substitute panko for the chips if you like. Rettke notes “these are great with the skins-on mashed potatoes,” so we whipped up a batch, but you can make your favorite potatoes, too.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Want to save this recipe? Click the bookmark icon below the serving size at the top of this page, then go to My Reading List in your washingtonpost.com user profile.
For the potatoes
- 1 pound baby potatoes, halved, or quartered if large
- Fine salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup milk or heavy cream
For the patties
- 1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (2 ounces) smashed potato chips
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the gravy
- 1 small yellow or white onion (4 ounces), halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cups no-salt-added beef broth, or more as needed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Fine salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make the potatoes: Place the potatoes in a medium pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Add a generous sprinkling of salt, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. As soon as the potatoes are tender, drain and return them to the pot. Add the butter and milk or cream, and mash with a potato masher or fork until they reach desired chunkiness. Cover to keep warm.
Make the patties: While the potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl combine the beef, eggs, potato chips, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until fully combined. Form into four (1/2-inch-thick) patties, about 1/4 pound each.
Line a plate with a towel and place it near the stove. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter in the oil. Fry the patties on both sides until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the patties to the prepared plate and cover to keep warm. Discard any excess fat from the skillet, but do not wipe it clean.
Make the gravy: Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and somewhat soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the broth and cornstarch until smooth. Add the broth mixture and Worcestershire sauce to the onions and simmer, adjusting the heat as needed, until thickened, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, add more broth, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin. Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed.
Return the cooked patties to the skillet. Spoon the gravy over the top and let simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Divide the potatoes among 4 plates, add a patty on top of each potato pile and top with gravy. Serve warm.
Per serving (1 patty, 1 cup potatoes and 1/4 cup sauce, using whole milk)
Calories: 523; Total Fat: 31 g; Saturated Fat: 11 g; Cholesterol: 184 mg; Sodium: 523 mg; Carbohydrates: 34 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 3 g; Protein: 28 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Adapted from “Homestead Recipes” by Amanda Rettke (William Morrow, 2022).
Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you make this recipe? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.