You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 of my Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. Have fun!


~ Oh-My-Goodness-Good Retro Rice-a-Burger-Roni ~

IMG_1156When I was a kid, my mom invented a beefy Rice-a-Roni dinner that kept my brother and I from bugging her to buy us an occasional, to quote mom, "over-priced, over-rated TV dinner" -- which, to us kids of the era, were nothing more than a trendy novelty.  As they say on the Rice-a-Roni website: Prepare for a stampede to the dinner table when you serve our delicious rice and vermicelli blended with the savory flavors of onions, carrots, beef broth and garlic.  It's true.

Mom would carefully shape hamburger patties, prepared meatloaf-style (meaning mixed with a binder, some milk, an egg, and diced celery and onion), to look like the oval salisbury steaks pictured on the Swanson box.  She'd brown them on both sides in a skillet,  Next, she'd pour about half a jar of beef gravy over the top, cover the skillet and let the patties simmer gently for a few moments.  Mom would serve us her burgers and gravy atop beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni laced with peas and carrots. It was simple semi-homemade comfort food -- and we adored it.

My younger brother named mom's dish "burger-roni".

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4fc20c6200dBack in the 1960's my mom was the queen of Rice-a-Roni recipes.  I was the princess who loved them.  If I was feeling under the weather, she knew I'd rather have a bowl of chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni than a bowl of Campbell's chicken-noodle soup.  She served the prince (my brother) and I the aforementioned hamburger patties atop a bed of beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni drizzled with some store-bought beef gravy to prevent us from bugging her to buy Salisbury-steak TV dinners.  To two boxes of Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni she added two cans of stewed tomatoes and two pounds of peeled and sautéed shrimp.  In our kingdom, our family of four ate it as a sort-of Creole-style jambalaya dinner.  To two boxes of Chicken Rice-a-Roni, she'd add sautéed chicken thighs or tenders along with some sausage.  We four enjoyed it as a sort-of Cajun-style jambalaya dinner. It was my brother who named these meals, "jamba-roni" and "burger-roni.  Try my recipes for all three: copycat chicken, beef & Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni.

Part One:  Making Mom's Perfect Meatloaf-Style Burger Patties

IMG_1032For eight burger patties:

2 1/2-3  pounds extra-lean ground beef (90/10)

4  ounces saltine crackers (1 sleeve of crackers from a 1-pound box), crumbled by hand into small bits and pieces, not processed to crumbs.

1  cup milk

2  extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

2  tablespoons salted butter

1  cup small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup small diced celery

2  tablespoons dried parsley leaves

2  teaspoons granulated beef bouillon

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

4  tablespoons corn oil, just enough to coat bottom of pan, for frying burger patties

1/2  cup water, for deglazing pan

IMG_1036 IMG_1036 IMG_1036 IMG_1036 IMG_1036 IMG_1036 IMG_1036~Step 1.  Place crackers in a large bowl.  Using your fingers, crush crackers into small bits and pieces.  Add the 1-cup milk and stir to combine.  In the same 1-cup measuring container, use a fork to lightly-beat the 2 eggs, then stir them into the cracker mixture.  Set aside about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the crackers time to absorb all of the liquid.  The resulting mixture will be thick and pasty.

IMG_1055 IMG_1055 IMG_1055 IMG_1055 IMG_1068 IMG_1068~Step 2.  In a 10" skillet melt butter over low heat. Add the onion and celery along with the parsley flakes, beef bouillon, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium and sauté until onion and celery are nicely softened, 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool about 10 minutes.  Stir the still-warm vegetable mixture to the cracker mixture.

IMG_1076 IMG_1076 IMG_1076~Step 3.  Add the ground beef to the cracker and vegetable mixture.  Using your hands (it's the most efficient), combine the two.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divided mixture into 8 equal portions, about 8-ounces each.

IMG_1086 IMG_1086 IMG_1086 IMG_1086 IMG_1086 IMG_1086~Step 4.  Form the burger portions into 4"-round patties, placing them in a 12", 5 1/2-quart chef's pan to which 6 tablespoons corn oil has been added.  Turn heat on to medium- medium-high and sauté patties until golden on both sides, about 10-12 minutes per side, flipping them over only once during the cooking process.  Transfer burgers to a large plate or platter and set aside.  Add 1/2 cup water to the pan.  Using a spatula, deglaze the pan by scraping the flavorful browned bits from the bottom and continue to cook until the water has evaporated, until only loosened brown bits remain in bottom of pan, about 1 minute. In this same pan of meat drippings, prepare Rice-a-Roni, according to the following directions:

Part Two:  Making the Rice-a-Roni or my Copycat Rice-a-Roni 

IMG_1105For the rice-a-burger-roni dinner:

3  tablespoons salted butter

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  cup diced onion

1/2  cup diced celery

2  6.8-ounce boxes Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice Mix + seasoning packets*, or, 2  times (double) my recipe for copycat Beef Rice-a-Roni, prepared using 1 1/2-2 cups frozen peas and carrots in place of small-diced fresh carrots + diced celery and onion (listed above)

5  cups water

1 1/2-2  cups frozen peas and carrots, unthawed

all of the beef patties, from above recipe

store-bought beef gravy, your favorite brand, warmed, for dipping or drizzling

IMG_1110 IMG_1110 IMG_1110 IMG_1110 IMG_1110 IMG_1110~Step 1.  Over low heat, melt the butter into the pan drippings.  Stir in the garlic and onion powder. Prepare the Rice-a-Roni according to package directions, or my copycat directions, starting by browning the rice and pasta in the buttery drippings.  Stir in the diced celery and onions and cook about 1 more minute, stirring constantly.

IMG_1122 IMG_1122 IMG_1122 IMG_1122 IMG_1122~Step 2. Slowly add the water to pan --  steam will billow up, so, be careful.  Add the seasonings (the packets from the boxes, or, the 2 tablespoons granulated beef bouillon and 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder as directed in my recipe).  Give the mixture a thorough stir and wait for it to return to a simmer, 1-2 minutes.  Adjust heat to a simmer gently.

IMG_0991 IMG_0991 IMG_0991~ Step 3. Cover the pan and simmer until rice and pasta are cooked through and have absorbed almost all liquid, 14-16 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside 5 minutes.  Remove lid and rake through the mixture with a fork to fluff and separate the rice grains and pasta pieces.  Portion onto plates or into shallow serving bowls.  Top each portion with a beef patty and a generous drizzle of gravy.  Serve ASAP.

Top each portion of Roni w/a patty & a drizzle of gravy:

IMG_1186Stick a fork in it.  Enjoy every savory, succulent bite:

IMG_1177Oh-My-Goodness-Good Retro Rice-a-Burger Roni:  Recipe yields 8 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; 10" nonstick skillet; kitchen scale; 12", 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight-deep sides; spatula; 1-quart measuring container; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0a011943970dCook's Note: The Japanese Take on Salisbury Steak is an interesting one.  If this doesn't sound very Japanese, it's because its not.  It's an all-American-inspired dish that's been culinarily Japanized and popularized by Japanese home cooks and yoshoku chefs (restaurants that serve Japanese versions of American- and European-style food).  It's a spin-off of our American bunless hamburger steak (aka the plump mini-meatloaf-esque knife-and-fork salisbury steak smothered in savory gravy).

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment