Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Easy Dinner Idea: Hobo Packets

The other day, I made a dinner that was super easy and satisfying. And it was something that everyone in the house was happy to eat -- which is a miracle in and of itself given the pickiness of The Peanut.

Growing up, we used to eat it a lot.  My dad always called this "hobo packets," because he said folks who rode the railways in the Great Depression could make this easily over an open campfire.  I tend to think that might have been what he learned to call it from a boy scouts leader or from my papa at some point when they were camping, but whatever the name, it turns out mighty tasty.

We will definitely be having this more often.

Basically, it is just burgers, sliced onions and potatoes, baked in a foil packet with the sides pulled up and twisted so that it ends up looking like a hobo pouch.  Here's how I made mine:

Hobo Packets

2 pounds ground turkey (you can use ground beef, buffalo, chicken or even ground venison for this)
Several good grinds or pinches of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped freeze-dried chives or snipped fresh chives
1 Tbsp. Penzey's Ozark seasoning (or your favorite flavor-all seasoning blend with paprika in it)
1 to 2 onions, halved, then sliced thin
4 or 5 red skinned potatoes, halved, then cut into slices

Tear off 6 large-sized pieces of aluminum foil, preferably heavy duty if you have it.  Get out a baking sheet to hold your packets once they are completed.  Then preheat oven to 350 F.

Place in a large bowl the ground turkey (or whatever ground meat you are using), sea salt, pepper, chives, and Ozark seasoning (or other all-purpose seasoning -- Lawry's would work well here, too, but I like the extra allspice zing in the Ozark blend).  Mix the meat and seasonings together lightly, taking care not to overwork the meat, but making sure to disperse the seasoning throughout to the extent you can without overdoing it.

For each hobo packet, lay out an individual sheet of foil.  Top it in layers as follows:  make a hamburger patty out of the seasoned ground meat, top with some sliced onion, then potatoes, then another patty, onions and potatoes.   Gather the sides of the foil up around the meat, twisting the tops of the foil together to seal the edges up around and make a sort of purse-like packet -- it really does end up looking like a hobo bag that you'd see on the end of a stick for a hobo costume.

Place each packet on the baking sheet with the twisted side on the top as you fill them.  You can tailor each packet to individual food needs or allergy issues -- leaving out the onions, for example, or adding baby carrots and/or mushrooms for others.  I do one for The Peanut with less onion and only one hamburger patty, for example.

This should make 5 full packets with hamburgers in them, and I usually make an extra packet of just veggies so we have plenty for everyone.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on your oven and how full you've stuffed the packets.  Mine usually take a little over an hour in my oven, but I like my ground turkey cooked through entirely so I'm not taking any foodborne illness chances.

This is an incredibly easy dish that will feed your kids and your meat and potatoes loving husband alike.  And there is less clean-up if you have sealed your packets well, too.  Who doesn't love that?

UPDATE:  Ooooh, I found a similar blog post at Southern Plate from someone who cooks hers just like mine -- but she has step by step pictures with her post.  For folks who aren't sure how to make these, this is a good primer!  Clearly mine isn't the only family calling these things "hobo packets."  LOL

(YouTube -- John Lee Hooker singing Hobo Blues. Classic stuff.)


Richard Taylor said...

This is a lot like what we called "Trail Dinners" (which I think was the Girl Scouts term for it - I don't recall what we called it in the Boy Scouts)

But the seasoned hamburger patty on aluminum foil then thinly sliced potato, a couple of onion slices, baby carrots or just carrot slices, maybe a little celery or mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, wrap the foil around everything then bake at 350 unti done

Christy Hardin Smith said...

It really is surprisingly tasty -- because the packet cooking keeps the leaner ground turkey moist and the onions make everything yummy. So glad I remembered it the other day in desperation trying to come up with a meal that would work with what I had in the fridge and the pantry. And voila! Childhood food memories to the rescue. ;-)