Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite quick, easy and cheap meals. It’s loosemeat sandwiches or Maid-Rites, a Midwestern favorite.
Maid-Rite is actually a small chain of restaurants in the Midwest. The original was in Muscatine, Iowa and opened in 1929. There are only about 70 or so of the restaurants left in a half dozen states. Those of us who have lived in communities where you can get Maid-Rites usually swear by them as an alternative to the usual “fast food fare”. And there are some places with Maid-Rite franchises where there are no MickyDs, BKs, Wendys or other fast food offerings.
If you remember the old “Roseann” TV show and Roseann Barr’s marriage to Tom Arnold, you may also remember their plans to build the “Big Food Café” nearOttumwa,Iowawhich would feature “loose meat” sandwiches. That’s a Maid-Rite but without the copywrited name.
Here’s what Maid-Rites aren’t: They’re not sloppy joes or barbeque sandwiches. What they are is a uniquely tasty “loose meat” sandwich—browned hamburger simmered in a broth and seasonings—notable for their simplicity and flavor. There are all kinds of recipes for them (just Google MaidRite) but the one I use and share today is the version of the recipe I got from a WHO radio talk show in Des Moines over 20 years ago.
You’ll find recipes which use water and brown sugar, vinegar, cola and other liquids for simmering the ground beef. Give it a try if you want but I’ve found this recipe comes really close to the taste and is really easy to make. And “real” Maid-Rites are served with mustard, never ketchup.
Summary: Maid-Rites are a Midwest staple. Here’s a simple home recipe for this tasty sandwich
- 1 lb ground meat 85% lean
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
- Garlic powder
- Pickle slices
- Hamburger buns
- Heat skillet over medium heat. Add cooking oil and onion.
- Cook, stirring with wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes (until onions start to soften).
- Crumble in the ground beef and brown.
- Add about ¾ of the chicken broth, a few generous shakes of garlic powder and several shakes of pepper (I also like to pour in a tablespoon or so of the pickle juice for a hint of acid).
- Simmer until the mix is “clumpy” not “sloppy” or wet. Taste and add salt if needed.
- If the mix gets too “dry” from simmering too long, add remainder of broth.
- Spoon on buns, add some pickle slices and a bit of mustard.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
My rating 5 stars: ★★★★★ 1 review(s)
This is a great “quick” meal and is a departure from burgers or sloppy joes. It’s minimalist. If you want, use dinner rolls or find smaller “cocktail” rolls to use rather than hamburger buns. Because this is a “loose meat” sandwich without a clumpy sauce, you’re going to have a bit of spillage from the bun so have forks or spoons available. I restaurants they’re usually served on waxed paper wrappers with a plastic spoon for the “spillage”.
Does this meet the Cheap Bastid test? Oh yeah. The meat is less than $2, buns or rolls are $1 (at the dollar store!—same bun, cheaper price than the grocery store). So for $3 you’ve got dinner. I made homemade oven fries at a cost of about $.30 (check out just how much you’re paying for frozen fries and you’ll go to making your own oven fries which take about 3 minutes to cut and toss with oil and a bit of salt and pepper and take the same amount of time in a 400 degree oven as frozen!).
That’s the Cheap Bastid way: Eat good. Eat cheap. Be grateful!