A Hearty Meal in Hard Times: the ‘Garbage Plate’ Homecooked – Recipes

garbage plate

After watching Chef John’s post on the Garbage Plate he had in New York, we were very keen to give it a go. We’re in Australia, though, so going to NY for a meal was a bit out of the question. Still intrigued, we cobbled together a version for home. According to RokWiki a Garbage Plate is “a true Rochester delicacy. It is a disorganized combination of cheeseburger, hamburger, sausages, steak, chicken, hots, or eggs, on top of two out of (homefries, fries, beans, or mac salad), made to order. On top of that you get the options of mustard & onions and hot sauce. This usually comes with a side of white bread and butter.” If you want some more history see the Foodwishes blog entry.

Although we admire the hard times premise on which the dish was devised, and its appeal as a student-friendly feed, we need to tell you (or perhaps, warn you) now that this is a very, very filling meal, and we didn’t even have the authentic additions of bread or sausages or cheeseburgers on ours. It was plenty hearty without those – by the last few mouthfuls we were too full to talk, entering a sort of food coma. We’ve been to Sizzler before and eaten more than our fill, but I’m not sure we’ve ever been quite as full as we were after eating the garbage plate.

The following recipes allow you to assemble your own garbage plate at home. Ours included Macaroni Salad, Home fries, and quite a spicy Chili, all topped off with finely chopped raw onions. Feel free to add more items if you think you can handle it.

Macaroni Salad


500g Macaroni (Elbow shaped pasta)
5 heaped tablespoons whole egg mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 small clove garlic very finely minced
Generous grinding black pepper
A few spring onion tops finely sliced


  1. Cook pasta in salted water until quite overdone. (No aldente here).
  2. Drain pasta, allow to cool briefly then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.



3-4 tablespoons oil or lard
2 onions finely chopped
6 cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder
500-600g beef or pork mince
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried paprika
4 heaped tablespoons tomato paste
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
1-2 teaspoons chicken stock powder
2 teaspoons salt
Generous grinding black pepper
1 400g tin baked beans


  1. Heat oil in a large pot and fry onions and garlic over medium heat for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.
  2. Add cumin, chilli powder, and cayenne and fry for a minute or two, then add mince meat and brown for about 5 minutes or so stirring often.
  3. Add oregano, paprika and tomato paste and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.
  4. Then add tinned tomatoes, water, stock powder, salt and pepper: cover the pot and simmer for about 1 and ½ hours, adding additional water if it becomes too dry. If you have a pressure cooker the cooking time should be reduced to about 30-40 minutes.
  5. When ready, empty in the can of bake beans and bring the chili up to a gentle boil.
  6. Adjust the seasoning. Serve and enjoy.

Home Fries


4 medium potatoes (peeled or unpeeled) chopped into 1cm x 1cm cubes
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
dried paprika


  1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and add the butter.
  2. When the butter has melted add the potatoes, salt, pepper and paprika to taste, and fry over medium to high heat until nicely browned all over and cooked: about 15-20 minutes. You will need to stir often to achieve a uniform colour.

The Garbage Plate Assembly

Take a large plate and fill one side with macaroni salad and the other half with a good serve of home fries. Pour over a few ladles of chili and top with a scattering of finely diced raw onions.



3 thoughts on “A Hearty Meal in Hard Times: the ‘Garbage Plate’ Homecooked – Recipes

  1. Sounds like a good start, but as an admitted cheese-lover, I’m surprised you didn’t add some shredded Cheddar or colby/jack. It would make a nice counterpoint to the spicy chili.

  2. Oh wow. That’s so weird – I thought we put cheese on it. Hmm..

    Maybe we were out of cheese that day?

    How bizarre! I agree, chili really benefits from cheese. We never eat our chili without cheese..

    Maybe we thought mayonaisey macaroni was enough or something?

    Oh man, now I feel like let down about this dish. It was cheeseless! Maybe it would have been even better with cheese. I’m sure it would have.

    I think we might need to revisit this dish.

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