Since having two boys, my date nights out with Brian have dwindled down a little. We’ve always been content to spend an evening playing board games or watching a movie on TV – with an occasional round of Rock Band thrown in – I’m sure Brian would say this doesn’t happen often enough.
One thing I do miss, just a little? Going out to eat. When we were first married, we went out to eat much more often, not thinking at all about how much money we were spending. A favorite place of ours to go was (and still is – we just don’t go there nearly as much!) Chili’s. We both have several meals we really like, so we didn’t get stuck in a rut ordering the same thing over and over again. Two of our favorite things at Chili’s are their skillet queso and their blue cheese bacon burger – yum!
I’m working on a book review for Stephanie (copykat.com) of her great new cookbook (I’ll be posting the review later this week, so keep an eye out for it), and came across one for Chili’s Skillet Queso – score! I immediately knew that was one of the recipes I wanted to try, and that inspired me to make my own version of the blue cheese bacon burger, too.
First I made the skillet queso, because after all, it’s an appetizer (and I needed sustenance for all my labor in the kitchen, right?). All I’ll say right now is that it was super easy – I’ll wait to tell you more about this one when I post my book review.
On to the burgers. I’ll fully admit that I have never been the best at cooking hamburgers. Normally Brian handles these out on our grill, but it was in the 30’s yesterday – weird Texas weather strikes again! – so I planned to cook these in our Le Creuset grill pan, which Brian got for a birthday gift (I felt like it was MY birthday too getting that).
First I sautéed some onions in a small skillet with a dash of olive oil, a sprinkling of kosher salt, and a pinch of sugar.
They started out like this:
And ended up like this:
At the same time, I cooked four strips of bacon until they were nice and crispy. We love bacon in our house, but we usually get turkey bacon to try and be a little healthier. I also mixed the ground beef with some Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, and black pepper. I formed it into four patties, refrigerating two for later, and put the two for dinner on our grill pan.
After everything finished cooking, it was assembly time. We found some great onion bread that we decided to use for buns. Very different from what we’d get at Chili’s, but it was a nice difference from normal hamburger buns. And isn’t it pretty?
I made a spread out of light mayonnaise, blue cheese dressing, and blue cheese crumbles. I just eyeballed it and tasted to get the right ratio of ingredients for this, and once I was satisfied, I spread it on each of the bun halves.
Then came the meat. I think it turned out pretty good, although I’ll still let Brian handle burgers whenever possible!
I topped the meat with the sautéed onions next. These added a lot of great moisture and flavor to the burgers.
Next came the bacon:
And then blue cheese crumbles. Did I mention that we LOVE blue cheese? Before getting pregnant with J (our first son) I couldn’t stand the stuff, but now I even crave it sometimes!
And, voila – our finished burgers:
I baked some Ore Ida seasoned crinkle fries – again, pretty different from the fries at Chili’s, but we really love these fries. They have a flavor similar to Arby’s curly fries, and they bake up crispy on the outside and tender inside. I set out the queso and chips, poured our drinks, and we were all set to go. I even used our pretty IKEA napkins. I know, I’m so fancy. Our friends and family know that whenever we go to an IKEA I always get a set of napkins. I love the prints they choose, and I like to use them occasionally to make the table a little prettier.
Our date night setting:
Nothing too dressed up, but there are no Cheerios strewn across the table, or baby food splatters, so it was a nice departure into eating like grown-ups.
Let’s break down the cost. This meal cost more than we normally spend on dinners, but was still a much better deal than eating out.
Cost of two blue cheese bacon burgers, fries, skillet queso, and two drinks at Chili’s (including tax) is $28.31 Oh, and can’t forget tip – we’ll assume 15%, which would be $4.25. That brings the total to $32.56.
Cost of our meal (including tax):
• Two burgers – $7.69
• Skillet queso & chips – $1.84 ($7.34 total, but made enough for at least 8 servings/4 meals)
• French fries – 81 cents ($2.42 total, but we only used 1/3 of the bag)
• Two drinks – $1.02
Total for our meal? $11.36 – a savings of $21.20.
I still think it’s really nice to go out to eat every once in a while, and there’s something to be said for not having to cook or clean up afterward. This provides a great alternative if you’re trying to save money, or if you can’t really get out – or both, in our case. Follow it up by renting a movie and have a nice, cozy, date night in.
Editing to add – we used the leftover meat to make burgers again the following Monday. This time Brian cooked the burgers. See what I mean when I say he’s a lot better at grilling than me? These turned out great!