Hye Thyme Cafe: Cheeseburger Pasta (Missing Semolina)

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cheeseburger Pasta (Missing Semolina)

You may have been following along with me long enough to know that one of my favorite restaurants when living in New Orleans was Semolina. My favorite was their Chicken Enchilada Pasta. Every once in a while, I would veer away from the Chicken Enchilada Pasta to enjoy their Chicken Parmesan or Pasta Chicago, but not often. One afternoon while there for lunch with a group of co-workers, I saw that they had a special - Double Cheeseburger Pasta. After reading the menu description, how could I resist trying it? It later became a regular menu item.
Double Cheeseburger Pasta
Sauteed 100 % Angus beef and caramelized onions in a BBQ marinara sauce over Penne pasta with a cheese sauce topped with sesame seeds, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, French fry sticks and mustard on the rim.
I was so stuck on the other entrees that I think I only ordered this once or twice, but I recently caught sight of a bag of potato sticks at the grocery store and in a fit of nostalgia, decided I had to make this. Sadly, Semolina had several locations while I was living there, but it looks like they're down to one now. Not sure if that's a by-product of Hurricane Katrina or something else.

An internet search for this item will pull up a bazillion posts, all with the same recipe. I have no idea if someone ever posted the "actual" recipe or if it's a case of a copy-cat recipe re-posted over and over again, so I can't possibly give attribution here. Regardless, since no specific product brands are referenced, the flavor will vary slightly from version to version.

Here are the ingredients as listed in all those posts (one serving) ...

8 ounces hamburger
2 ounces BBQ Marinara (1/2 BBQ sauce, 1/2 marinara sauce)
2 ounces red onions (1/2 slices)
4 ounces cheese sauce
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
10 ounces cooked rigatoni
1/2 cup Durkee Potato Sticks
1/2 cup lettuce (shredded)
4 slices Roma tomatoes
1 ounce sesame seeds
3 pickle slices

The recipe calls for cooking the pasta; cooking the hamburger and breaking it into eight pieces, then tossing it with the cooked pasta; mixing together the BBQ/Marina and plating that first; topping the sauce with the hamburger/pasta; topping that with the cheese sauce; dressing with the sesame seeds, lettuce, tomato, potato sticks, pickles, and mustard. There is no reference to the onions or to the 1c shredded cheddar cheese. You would think that with so many people posting this recipe, someone would have noticed that?? I included the onion (in my case shallot) with the beef when tossing with the pasta. As for the shredded cheddar, I completely ignored that, since there is already a cheese sauce, although if you look at photos of the actual  restaurant dish, it appears that there may be shredded cheese tossed in with the lettuce and tomato.

Rather than making one hamburger and breaking it into eight pieces, I decided to make eight tiny burgers. I also forgot about the red onion, so I stole a shallot from my supplies for an upcoming Asparagus Risotto. I sauteed the shallot in a little butter, then removed it from the pan. I seasoned the ground beef with salt, pepper, and a little onion powder, then cooked the tiny patties in the same pan the shallots came out of, so they would pick up that extra flavor.

For the cheese sauce, I whisked together 1T of butter and 1T of flour to create a roux, then added 1/2 c of milk, and when smooth, started adding shredded cheese until it melted and got to a good pouring texture. 

It seems a little odd, but it really is good. Might be a great change of pace if you've got kids in the house. If you're making it for a crowd, you might try the White Castle copy-cat method for the beef. Instead of making a bunch of burgers and breaking them up, or making a bazillion tiny burgers, you could season the beef the way you want, then press it into a thin layer in a sheet tray and bake it, then cut it into tiny "patties." Heck, this is probably a fun way of using up leftover meatloaf for that matter.

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