The Legend of the Garbage Plate
In this post we’re reviewing the garbage plate — a creation from Rochester, NY.
There once was a time where we didn’t know what a garbage plate was. Those were the simple times — children played in parks, they drank from garden hoses without fear, and we could go to a convenience store with $5 and load up on snacks. Then, suddenly and without any warning, the garbage plate blew up on the internet. Jenna Marbles made her boyfriend cook it for her, Binging With Babish created a video on it — it seemed like everyone was talking about the garbage plate and where this piece of shit came from.
So naturally, we decided that we had to recreate this thing and try it ourselves.
As far as complexity is concerned, this recipe is pretty straightforward. There are no special ingredients — in fact, most of the ingredients are things that you probably have laying around already, so you won’t have to remortgage your house or anything like that. The techniques are also pretty simple (sautéing, boiling, mixing, frying). The only two problems with this recipe are the timing and the enormous amount of dishes that need to be cleaned afterwards.
To kick things off, we decided to split up cooking duties and have each of us tackle one component of the dish — Trevor started working on the meat sauce, while Brittany made the macaroni salad.
The meat sauce consisted of sweating down some onions, cooking some ground beef, and adding a variety of spices. And boy, were those spices bizarre. We included ground cloves, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, paprika, and garlic powder. We didn’t have any allspice on hand, so we simply added more of the cloves and cinnamon with a pinch of nutmeg to round it out. This results is a slightly sweet meat sauce with a hint of heat coming from the cayenne. We wouldn’t say that it was bad, just very different to any meat sauce we had previously tasted.
The macaroni salad was easy to make (duh). While our macaroni noodles were cooking, we chopped the vegetables for the salad — carrots, celery, green onion, and parsley. We didn’t have peppadew peppers like Binging With Babish’s recipe calls for, so we chopped up some sweet red bell peppers instead. If you can’t find peppadew peppers, you can find a list of substitutes here.
Once our pasta was cooked, we combined it with our chopped veggies, spices, dijon mustard, mayo, and sour cream. We thought the pasta salad tasted a bit bland, so we added a bit more dijon as well as some dill (shoutout to Trevor’s mom who taught him to add dill to pasta salad when he was a wee child). If you find peppadew peppers, you probably won’t need to do this, as they have a strong flavour that will make your pasta salad superior to ours.
Mediocre Tip: Remember, a recipe isn't a bible. If you think something doesn't taste right, improvise! Not salty enough? Add more salt. Not spicy enough? Add more spice. You catch our drift. Taste your food and season it to your preference!
Once you’ve reached this part, congrats! You’re half-done making this mess. Next up comes the home fries, which are essentially oversized hashbrowns. Home fries take a couple of steps to make, but they are worth the time and effort. To make our home fries, we diced three russet potatoes (any brown potato will do) and boiled them in salted water with a touch of vinegar to get them ready for frying. Once the potatoes were a bit tender, we prepped the pan for frying by adding some oil to a pan with a healthy chunk of butter. (Use vegetable or canola oil for its neutral taste and high smoke point.)
Mediocre Tip: Don't skip out on the oil. The oil will prevent the butter from burning and turning a nasty grey colour. If your butter burns, empty the pan, wipe it clean and try it again with more oil.
We let our potatoes cool for a bit before adding them to the pan for frying. Be careful to not add too many potatoes at once as this will crowd the pan, lowering the heat, and thus making the potatoes take way too long to cook. Once our potatoes got nice and golden brown and crispy, we transferred them to a bowl. While still hot, we seasoned with salt pepper, and smoked paprika. Babish’s recipe calls for regular paprika, but smoked paprika really elevates these potatoes to God status. These home fries were life changing, and honestly, probably the best part about the whole dish.
The final step in this recipe is to cook your hotdogs or cheeseburgers. Use whatever you prefer — Jenna used cheeseburgers for her garbage plate, while Babish used white hots, a type of hot dog from Rochester, NY. We butterflied our hotdogs, placed them in the residual butter/oil mixture from the potatoes, and let them fry for a few minutes on each side. How long you cook them will ultimately be up to your preference.
Now comes assembly time! As we aren’t native Rochester residents, we had to trust that the way to plate this is to fill half your plate with macaroni salad, half of your plate with home fries, add some of that weird meat sauce on top, then delicately place two fried and butterflied hot dogs on top (or cheeseburgers if that’s what you’re going with). To truly finish this hot mess we drizzled some ketchup and yellow mustard on top to maximize how unappealing it looked.
Our Mediocre Thoughts
👨🍳 Trevor: I’m honestly not sure what to say about this thing. When we had finally finished and plated up this thing, my first thought was, “oh no, we may have gone too far”. My mother even phoned me from Ireland asking me what the hell that thing with the potatoes and hot dogs was. She called me from another country simply to inquire about my mental state for so proudly posting this hot mess on Instagram. I doubted myself. Can we bounce back from this? Will anyone ever take our cooking seriously again?
But then I mixed it all up and took my first bite. And it wasn’t bad — it wasn’t great mind you, but, importantly, it wasn’t bad. For some reason unknown to me, these flavours worked together. The tangy kick of the macaroni salad complemented the weirdly spiced meat sauce. The salty home fries brought the best out of the meat sauce and the macaroni salad. The hot dogs, well, they were just hot dogs, but they added a bit of texture to this creation. It, somehow, was not as bad as it looked.
I can completely understand how if you were drunk off your ass at 2am, and someone made you a garbage plate, that it would be the best thing ever. This thing begs to be eaten with a cold beer in the wee hours of the night. Sadly neither of us were that drunk, so most of the charm was lost. Not to mention that I would not want to attempt to make this while totally smashed. There were way too many things to do, and I don’t know about you, but, my multitasking abilities take a massive hit after a few pints. In my opinion, this thing is best made by a sober mind for a drunk mind.
👩🍳 Brittany: When I was little, I was a picky kid who hated any food that was mixed together. Goulash? Hate it. Peas, carrots, and corn mixed together? Hate it. Young Brittany would be so traumatized that future Brittany would make such a mixed monstrosity. Hot home fries with cold potato salad? WTF. Meat sauce with more meat, and topped with ketchup and mustard? Questionable. In Jenna’s video, once the masterpiece is complete she cuts up everything and mixes it together. The garbage plate would have given young Brittany nightmares for weeks.
While the garbage plate isn’t the most attractive dish, it exists for a reason — it does taste good. Individually, the components taste great (besides the meat sauce, which I am not 100% sold on). Together, it’s an explosion of flavours in your mouth. One bite you taste ketchup, pasta salad, and hot dog. The next bite is mustard, meat sauce, and home fries. Interesting? Yes. Would I make this again? I don’t know. Although I eat mixed foods now (I grew up, eventually), I still prefer to eat each item on the garbage plate individually. Eating them all together is an assault on your taste buds, but it sure is a taste to remember.
Want to try the garbage plate but don’t want to make each component? Plan a BBQ in the summer with friends and have each person bring one part of the dish. Once you have all of the components, you can either eat them separately (if you’re not feeling brave) or combine them on your plate and experience the legend that is the garbage plate.
Our Final Review
Taste: 3 confused taste buds out of 5 👅👅👅
Presentation: 1 hot mess out of 5 😱
Affordability: 3 hungover twenty-year olds out of 5 🍺🍺🍺
We gave the garbage plate a 3/5 for taste because it’s not anything to write home about, but it’s definitely not bad — it’s an experience. It’s probably not something that you’ll love so much that you add it to your monthly meal plan. However, the components individually are tasty and worth making again. The pasta salad makes a great side dish for any meal, and the home fries can help you step-up your breakfast game.
Now, for the part of the blog post you’ve all been waiting for. We present to you, our garbage plate:
Yeah, it’s not attractive. It’s called a garbage plate, what did you expect? Of course we’re giving this a 1/5 for presentation — I don’t think topping any dish with ketchup and yellow mustard (not even fancy dijon) will make it look good. That being said, it does succeed at being what it claims to be. It’s not supposed to look good, it’s supposed to be a weird mash up of food — if it looks aesthetically pleasing, you’ve fucked up.
While the individual ingredients themselves aren’t very expensive, you do need to buy a lot if you don’t have any of them on hand — potatoes, vegetables, pasta, ground beef, hot dogs or hamburgers, etc. If you don’t have the spices for the meat sauce, it could hurt your wallet a bit. This recipe isn’t cheap, but it isn’t expensive either. Babish’s recipe does make a lot, so you’ll have leftovers if you’re not feeding a family of five (good luck getting your picky ass kids to eat this though).
We recommend putting on your fat pants (or your best leisure suit) and pairing your garbage plate with an equally garbage movie — we chose to watch The Room (how does this movie have a 3.6/10 on IMDb!?). This is a perfectly acceptable way to spend a lazy (and possibly hungover) Sunday afternoon with friends.
Mediocre Tip: Please don’t try to pair this thing with a wine. If you absolutely want a recommendation go with a beer. A light beer. Or maybe a can of your favourite pop. Or just a glass of water. Fuck it, do whatever you want, you just made a garbage plate, you clearly don’t give a shit about wine pairings, fine dining, or your health.
Are you ready to jump in headfirst and try the garbage plate? Follow along with Binging With Babish or watch Julien make a vegan garbage plate for Jenna Marbles below: