Growing up in Wisconsin, I remember that each weather forecast that even hinted at a snowflake issued prayers for a snow day (I’m pretty sure “cold” days hadn’t been invented yet). Now that I’m all grown up, while I appreciate not having to drive or set my alarm when I know school has been cancelled, I’m ready for calamity days to be done for a while. I love my girls, but we’re all going a little stir-crazy with the cold and the lack of normal routine. Sure we could get out of the house and find something to do, but the hassle of bundling them up to take them anywhere isn’t worth the effort; I also feel guilty as the whole point of these days off is to keep kids safe and warm.
I think our taste buds are also getting a little stir-crazy this winter. We haven’t grilled since sometime in December when the weather was warmer. I, for one, wouldn’t mind a big, juicy, charred bratwurst smothered in spicy mustard and sauerkraut. My husband has burgers on the brain; he challenged me to this soup. To be fair, he didn’t ask for the mini meatballs to be stuffed –that was all me. But I figured I might as well go all out on this one. It definitely isn’t grilled, but it’s got a smoky flavor reminiscent of a summer burger and it’s hearty enough to warm you up for a bit in these frigid temps. A beer goes nicely alongside, too, especially if tomorrow happens to be another calamity day.
I don’t know about you, but I’m praying for a regular school day.
Bacon Mushroom Cheeseburger Soup
- 12 oz. ground chuck
- 8 oz. bulk Italian pork sausage
- 1 dill pickle spear, minced (about 2 Tbsp.)
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 4 oz. cheddar cheese (chunk, not shredded)–optional
- 6 slices bacon
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 oz. white or baby bella mushrooms, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 4 cups chicken broth (or 4 cups water and 3 chicken bouillon cubes)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 3 Tbsp. dill pickle juice
- 6 Tbsp. ketchup
- 1 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
- 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
- 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Using your hands, mix ground chuck, sausage, pickle, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in medium bowl until combined. If you are not using the cheese, simply roll about 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. of the meat into mini meatballs and proceed with recipe. You will end up with about 72.
- If using, slice cheddar cheese into four slices, then cut each slice into 18 pieces (3 slices horizontally and into 6 vertically). Using about 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. of meat mixture, wrap each piece of cheese and roll between hands to form mini meatballs. (This step should take no more than 10-15 minutes.)
- In Dutch oven or large pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Set on paper towel-lined plate. Add half of meatballs to the pot and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate (the same one as the bacon works) and cook rest of meatballs.
- Remove all but 1 Tbsp. of fat from pot. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until softened and browned, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook another 1 minute.
- Add chicken broth and scrape bottom of pot to get all browned bits up. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, pickle juice, ketchup, and mustard; bring to a simmer. Add evaporated milk. Mix cornstarch with milk and add to soup. Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add shredded cheese and parsley; cook until cheese is melted. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Chop bacon and add to soup with meatballs (you may choose to use only half of the meatballs for the soup; store the remaining meatballs in a freezer-safe plastic bag in the freezer and use as desired–perhaps a bacon cheeseburger pizza would be in order). Serve, ideally with garlic Texas toast or garlic bread made using toasted hamburger buns brushed with butter and garlic.