What’s Cookin’ – Hamburger & Potato Casserole

I attended a parochial grade school way back when in the 1970s.  My mother made our lunches for us, and I was jealous of the kids who got to eat the cafeteria food every day.  Seriously.

Back then, all of the food was prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients.  We think the movement to use local and fresh ingredients is a new thing, but back before transportation and technological advancements, there was only one choice and that was to use fresh and local ingredients.  Okay, they did use canned vegetables and fruits.

I remember the woman who was in charge of our school cafeteria.  She was a very short woman named Theresa.  Yes, kinda like me.  Anyway, the “older” school girls, those of us in 7th and 8th grades, got to “work” in the cafeteria.  Child labor laws and health department standards would prevent that from happening today.

I remember watching Theresa and the other ladies prepare the food and serve the food and clean up afterward.  I was so impressed by all of the commercial kitchen equipment and stainless steel.

Many of our mothers also volunteered in the school cafeteria, and they usually served the food.  There were no ala carte food choices.  You walked your divided serving tray along the rail and the ladies plopped the food onto it.

True story – my mother was serving food one day, and our only male teacher came through the line.  He asked for extra food.  Teachers were allowed to eat free and could get more adult-sized portions.  My mother didn’t realize he was a teacher, and started to read him the riot act.  After she realized that he was a teacher, everyone thought it was funny, but I was mortified.

I was the world’s pickiest eater, but there were a few foods that they served that I loved – one was the tater tots, one was the hamburger potato casserole, and one was the ice cream bars served only on Fridays.

My mother rarely let us eat the cafeteria food since it cost so much money, and she had so many kids.  She did let us buy milk which cost 2¢.  I remember the uproar when the prices went up to 4¢.  Occasionally, she gave us money for ice cream on Fridays.  That was the only thing, besides white milk, which you could buy ala carte.

But, when I got to “work” in the school cafeteria, I would get to eat the food.  I loved the hamburger potato casserole.  The days that there would be a pan of leftover tater tots, us girls would be allowed to stand over the pan and eat them up.  Wow, those were good days!

Anyway, many years ago I remembered how good the hamburger potato casserole was, but I could not find a recipe.  This was years before the Internet and Google searches.  At some point, I was given a very old Better Homes and Gardens red-checked cookbook – it is so old that there is no publisher or copyright information included in it.  It includes many interesting recipes including one for Chili Con Carne that evolved into my Three Bean Chili Con Carne recipe and one for Best Oven Hash which is very close to the hamburger potato casserole served in my grade school’s cafeteria.

There is just something about certain foods and dishes that remind us about good experiences in the past – truly the definition of comfort foods.  Over the years, the recipe has evolved somewhat from that in the old cookbook.  It’s simple, easy, and kids love it, too.  If your kids are like mine were, you can omit the parsley (I have a kid who won’t eat anything with green stuff in it) and use onion powder in place of the real onion (I have a kid who can detect the minutest pieces of onion in anything).

So, if you are looking for a simple, easy, comfort food recipe especially now that the weather is finally getting a little cooler, try this one.  It is small enough for 4 servings, and reheats beautifully as leftovers.

Hamburger Potato Casserole ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Prepare a 2-quart casserole dish by coating with cooking spray.  Boil the potatoes until tender, remove from heat, drain, and allow to cool enough to handle.

Once the potatoes have cooled enough to handle, peel and dice the them.

While the potatoes are boiling, sauté the onions just until tender.  Add the ground beef, and brown it taking time to break it up into small pieces using a spoon or a fork.  Once the beef is browned, completely drain off any grease.

Add the parsley, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and evaporated milk to the meat mixture and combine well.

Dump the potatoes in with the meat and combine.  Taste to ensure that you have the spices correct.  Add additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

If you used a large enough skillet, you can dump the potatoes into it, stir, and place into the casserole.  For some reason, I used my smaller skillet and then had to dirty a bowl because I needed a container large enough for all of the ingredients.

Pour the meat and potato mixture into your prepared casserole dish.

Sauté the bread crumbs in melted butter until toasted and spread them on top of the meat and potato mixture.

I used the skillet that I used for the meat to toast my bread crumbs.  You don’t need to dirty two skillets.  Also, I had Panko bread crumbs on hand, but you can use any plain bread crumbs, or make your own if you have some day old bread on hand.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.  The milk will be bubbling around the edges.

Note on baking – this casserole can be made earlier in the day or even the night before and refrigerated.  You will need to add about 10 minutes to the baking time if it goes directly from the refrigerator to the oven.

Hamburger Potato Casserole ready to eat.  Perfect with green beans and a piece of bread.

This is a simple little comfort meal.  Yummy.

Share on Facebook



This entry was posted in Food & Home and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to What’s Cookin’ – Hamburger & Potato Casserole

  1. Martha says:

    The lady in charge of our cafeteria at Ste. Gen was Nelda. She made the food for the wedding receptions that were held in mom and dads back yard. She was a great cook. I also brought my lunch all the time. If I remember right I had a punch card to use to buy milk or was that my kids???
    I will have to try this recipe. 🙂

    • Mama says:

      Isn’t funny how we knew the first names of the cafeteria ladies? I remember we had to use pennies. I don’t remember a punch card, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have one.

  2. Teri says:

    We had punch cards, too, one color for milk and another for lunches . . . and we had Mrs. Baechle in our kitchen!!! $1.50/week for lunches and $0.10/week for milk – I remember my mom taping my dime to the inside top of my lunch box, too!

  3. Hillary says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe – I bet my kids will love it! Thanks for sharing.

    My favorite school lunch was pizza. It was always served with corn. Weird, huh? Soybean burgers with mustard were a close second. 😉

    • Mama says:

      I don’t believe pizza was invented back when I was in grade school. Well, maybe it was invented, but it wasn’t served in school cafeterias back then. And soybean burgers?! No way. I don’t even think they ever served hamburgers or hot dogs. We got regular meals.

  4. Pingback: What’s Cookin’ – Easy Homemade Hash Browns | Mama's Empty Nest

Leave a Reply