After preparing a palatable version using my recollections of school lunches in Dallas and ideas I’d found on the web, I finally bit the bullet and converted the original institutional recipe. Guess what: it is terrific. No idea why we hated this as kids or why the Dallas Morning News food editor wisecracked “I’m not making this up” when sharing the recipe. It’s a commonsense mass-produced burger that will work in any situation where you want to make a lot of them in advance, like a kid’s birthday party or a prison. Makes 12 schoolburgers.
1 ½ oz white bread, the cheapest you can find (I used a couple extra buns)
½ c beef stock
4 oz potatoes, peeled and cooked very tender
½ to 1 t salt (depends on how salty the beef stock is; there was a very small amount in the DISD recipe making me think they used a salty canned stock)
3/8 t ground pepper
2 lb ground beef
¼ lb chopped onions
¼ c green pickle relish
¼ c yellow mustard
2 T white vinegar
Additional beef stock as needed (I used additional ½ c)
12 hamburger buns
Method: tear the bread into bits and soak in the beef stock till hydrated. Add potatoes and mash with a potato masher into a slurry. Add beef, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a shallow baking pan and cook in a 425 degree oven until meat is thoroughly cooked (about 25 minutes), frequently using the potato masher to break up any lumps and make sure the meat does not brown and crisp. Pour off any excess fat after cooking. The above steps can be done well in advance and the meat can be refrigerated until needed.
Combine chopped onions, relish, yellow mustard and vinegar in a bowl and mix in the reserved meat. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. If dry and crumbly, add a bit of beef stock to moisten. You don’t want it as liquidy as sloppy joes but you do want a cohesive mixture. Spread on hamburger buns (about 1/3 c per bun); place in a hotel pan or other pan that will allow you to stack the buns and arrange them in a double layer then cover with aluminum foil. (This steaming procedure is essential to the texture of the finished product.) Heat through in a 350 degree oven, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately, or allow the burgers to sit around so the flavor sinks into the buns. Any leftovers may be reheated in microwave and served for breakfast the next day with little loss in quality.