Come with me, on a stroll, down a White Castle memory lane. Back in the 1960's, my family lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York off the Fort Hamilton Parkway. Typical homes in the neighborhood were brick townhouses and the major ancestry was Italian, with a mixture of Croatian and Norwegian here and there. I wish I could say that I had an absolutely wonderful childhood in Brooklyn, but I did not; most of my fond memories are of my maternal grandmother, museums and, most especially, of food.
White Castle is one of those wonderful food memories; three mini-hamburgers for one whole whopping dollar. The "meat patty" was a little square (2 and 1/2 “by 2 and 1/2 "), just about 1/8 inch thick with 5 holes punched into each; this allowed the steam to cook the patty thoroughly and quickly. A soft square bun (three of those meat patties stacked would equal the height of half the bun) and tiny, diced onions; all prepared on a special steaming table. The smell was awesome, but the taste sent you to heaven; four perfect little bites for each little hamburger or cheeseburger. Sliders? White Castle invented the original sliders! Enjoyers of White Castle had nicknames for the food; the burgers were "belly bombers" and the thin cut fries were "suicide fries". Why? You have to eat them to understand, that is the only way; sorry, cannot explain it to a novice, you just have to experience it all.
I have eaten White Castle in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania; New York always tasted the best, but what do you expect a New Yorker to say, right? Now down South, they have a similar fast food item called Krystal's; tried them in Florida and Georgia and in my personal opinion, they can stay down South. They are not the same as White Castle!White Castle introduced a frozen version of the hamburgers and cheeseburgers to supermarkets when the microwave became a popular home appliance. Two burgers in a cellophane package steam when "nuked" for one minute; and yes, the onions are included. I eat them when I crave that particular childhood memory, but they are not as good as the fresh made. As soon as the heated cellophane is opened, you can see the bun begin to wrinkle up; eat it quickly or it becomes chewy. The meat does not cook evenly; a section here overcooked, a section there undercooked. The onions are, well they just do not look, smell or taste right. So why buy them? It is all about the memories; it is all about the memories!
While I do not have the machinery to make frozen square log of ground beef, punch holes through it, and then create 1/8 inch slices; I can do some kind of copycat version.
Belly Bombers and Suicide Fries
1 bag (1 lb.) frozen crinkle cut fries
4 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
½ cup diced onions
½ cup water
Salt and ground black pepper
1 lb. ground beef (80/20)
4 slices American cheese
4 hamburger buns
To make the suicide fries; heat oven to 400 F, and spray a large jelly roll pan with nonstick spray. In a bowl, mix the frozen crinkle cut fries with oil. Spread the fries onto the pan, in a single layer, place inside oven and do not touch for 20 minutes. Now start those onions and burgers!
On medium-low heat, in a 12-inch skillet, spread out onions, sprinkle slightly with salt and pepper and pour water over all. Cover, let onions steam for 5 minutes.
With the beef, make 4 balls, place each on a square of wax paper; place 2nd piece of wax paper on top and then press meat down until it reaches ¼-inch in thickness. If the meat breaks up, or frays on the edges, pat it back together, but keep that ¼-inch thickness and round shape.
Remove from wax paper and place on top of onions in skillet. Raise heat to medium, add ¼ cup water, cover and steam 5 minutes. Flip burgers, cover, steam additional 5 minutes. Place slice of cheese on top of each burger, cover, steam additional 5 minutes.
After 20 minutes, the
belly bombers are ready to be placed on buns, add ketchup, and a good supply of
those suicide fries on the side.
Makes 4 servings.
These burgers are juicy and packed with onion flavor; do not be surprised to be reaching for a second one.
This was a pleasant trip down memory lane for me, and thank you for the company.
White Castle Locations: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin.