The holidays are over. Although I have several marzipan pigs and some cranberry sparklers hanging around, everything else is a memory. The turkey. The New York strip roast. Many cheeses. The creamed spinach and Yorkshire pudding. God knows how many cookies. All gone.
My final holiday act will be to tell you about a twisted Thanksgiving recipe.
While perusing the coupon insert in my local newspaper ’round November, I caught the words “stuffing” and “White Castle” in the same glance. “No,” I thought. “It can’t be.” It was. A stuffing recipe calling for 10 broken up White Castle hamburgers.
You know about White Castle, right? If you grew up in the New York metropolitan area or another city the company set up shop, you know it isn’t just about boxes of frozen burgers at supermarkets. Or a Harold and Kumar movie.
White Castle was the first fast food burger chain in the US. It opened its inaugural stand in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. The company is still family-owned, according to its website, and continues to crank out small, malleable — they’re “steam-grilled” — and distinctively potent and addictive hamburgers. Lest you think the product is “less than,” know that these people served their billionth hamburger in 1961.
Nowadays the company calls its basic, cheeseless burger “The Original Slider.”
The frozen supermarket jobs didn’t come on the scene until 1987. Brilliant idea, really. A frozen White Castle burger is the one food in the universe that’s just about as good microwaved as served hot off the line.
Still, White Castle burger stuffing pushes the boundaries of product-driven recipe development to a place few may wish to venture.
Consider Philadelphia Cream Cheese cookbooks. While you can add Philadelphia Cream Cheese to just about any dish to its benefit or at least without causing harm, White Castle hamburgers are a whole other ball game.
The mere mention of this brand — synonymous in my house with “belly bomb” — tends to evoke strong feelings in the initiated. My parents used to go to the White Castle in Bayside, Queens, when they dated in the 1950s. They’d eat 25 oniony burgers between them — bringing to life the old White Castle slogan, “Buy ’em by the sack.”
As a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, they took me to the same White Castle — and it’s still there. Until 1972, when the company discontinued curbside service, we’d eat in the Cutlass Supreme, courtesy of the carhops.
It’s difficult to describe the White Castle hamburger experience. Because they’re small, you can eat quite a few. Because they’re savory, it’s hard to stop. When you’ve had one slider too many things start to unravel without warning. It’s like drinking tequila. One goes from partying hearty to collapsing on a pile of coats in a strange bedroom in seconds.
The stuffing, well, I may have to give it a try next year just for insanity of it.