Food You Can Eat: The Filet o’ Fish and Homemade Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper

Image via Thrillist

These are not joke recipes. I make these and I don’t have children. I do it out of nostalgia.


The Filet o’ Fish

I started making these at home because I love them and they’re simple. When we moved into our new apartment we discovered that our new neighborhood only had one McDonald’s, which was open 24 hours. We boozily wandered in around 1 AM and it was dystopian, let’s put it that way. I immediately sobered up, got my Filet o’ Fish sandwiches to go, and upon return said to My Life’s Helpmeet, “If those employees can whip these up in two minutes under prison yard riot conditions, so can I.” I examined the Filet o’ Fish and this is what I came up with. I still have my tartar-sauce-stained notes. It takes longer than two minutes and don’t try to do this while drunk at 1 in the morning. They are faithful to the original, if not better.

This recipe make four sandwiches, two to a customer.

4 Mrs. Paul’s breaded frozen fish fillets, each about 3 inches square.

4 hamburger buns. I use potato or sourdough if I can find them but any will do. I’ve had success with off-brand dollar store hamburger buns, for example.

4 slices of American cheese product, like Kraft’s. This is important. I’ve tried alternatives and nothing else works. I don’t why.

4 tbs. tartar sauce, see note below.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet place the frozen fillets in the middle but don’t crowd them. Put on the middle rack. Depending on your oven, leave in for 20 or 25 minutes. I’ve thawed the fish fillets, thinking the process would go more quickly, but they came out a little gummy so keep them frozen and bake the 20 to 25 minutes. 

Toward the end, slice your hamburger buns and stick them on either side of the baking sheet for two or three minutes face down so they toast.

Remove the baking sheet. Get out two dinner plates. Quickly, because they’ll be warm, put two buns/four halves on each, face-side up. Adorn with one slice of American cheese product on one half of each bun. With a spatula top each of these cheesed half-buns with a fish patty. You’ll need a spatula because if you try to do this with your fingers or a fork they’ll fall apart. Top each with a tbs. of tartar sauce and then top with the other half of the hamburger bun. Serve warm. Eat both sandwiches: these are not good for leftovers.

A note on tartar sauce: It’s usually just mayonnaise and relish. If you want to make your own, put a clump of eggy, thick mayo in a small bowl and mix in a little relish. Maybe one part relish to five parts mayo. I drain the relish because it is watery. Refrigerate for an hour or two before using. Some recipes call for adding a little lemon juice but most mayonnaise has a little lemon in it already. You could make your own tartar sauce from scratch but although I have made my own mayonnaise I’m not into pickling things and I don’t live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the home of artisanal mayonnaise and home pickling. 


Image via Betty Crocker

The Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper

I started making this because a little over seven years ago I had friends over for dinner for something like a theme birthday party and made boxed Hamburger Helper. I hadn’t had it in at least 30 years. It was nothing like we remembered it. It was vile and I just removed everyone’s plates, threw it all in the trash, and made cheeseburgers. This tastes like what I remember.

1 lb. ground beef, broken up, like in tacos. Lean, fatty, I don’t think it really matters. Whatever’s cheapest (so not the lean).

4 or 5 tbs. adobo seasoning. We have a huge stockpile of the Goya brand, but the current head/patriarch of the company has become a little controversial, so maybe pick some other brand. Goya adobo is so cheap, though, and has a nice long shelf life. It’s also widely available.

3 cups water, maybe more. You can always add.

8-oz. box of decent elbow macaroni. If you’re measuring, that’s 2 cups.

8-oz block of sharp cheddar cheese. That’s also 2 cups. Grate this into little slivers, again like in tacos, beforehand but right beforehand, because it will clump if you leave it at room temperature for too long.

In a large skillet brown your hamburger. Move it to a bowl (I used a big slotted spoon), drain the grease into your trusty metal grease can, and put the hamburger back in the skillet. Put burner on low heat, add in the adobo, stir for a minute, then add the macaroni and the water. Cover this and reduce the heat further, to a simmer. Stir every so often and make sure you’re not running out of water. Add more, a very little bit at a time, if you need to. You don’t want this to be watery, though. It’s for the macaroni.

After about 15 minutes uncover and sprinkle your sharp cheddar on top. Stir that around until the cheese is well mixed-in and gooey.

Serve in two big bowls. Put on your favorite Captain & Tennille album (they had more than one!) and discuss whether President Carter deserves re-election.



  1. …thank you for assuming my kitchen is sufficiently well-appointed to have a “trusty metal grease can”

    …which would obviously be different from the ceramic bowl my grandmother taught me to pour the beef dripping into…because after all, standards must be maintained

    • I use an empty Campbell’s soup can. Where it goes I don’t know. We nominally take recycling very seriously here in NYC but that’s a joke. The Department of Sanitation just ships everything off to landfills and spends their time inspecting the garbage to issue fines to keep the City afloat. 

    • As long as you pour the grease somewhere besides down the drain or down your gullet, you are doing well. Excavating pipes – drainage or cardiovascular – ain’t fun!

  2. These are not joke recipes.

    Busted.  Literally the first thing I thought of.
    Turns out that DeadSplinter also has better recipe posts than literally every other recipe site out there.  Newsflash, Jenny from Scarsdale, nobody gives a shit about your 1,000-word history of chicken noodle soup.  We just want to know what’s in it and how to make it.  We also like funny anecdotes and lots of swear words.

  3. Oh God, it’s like Cousin Matthew took over Deadsplinter for the day! Sorry, I didn’t mean to do this. Some of these posts are pre-written. I think there’s a Halloween drink post coming up. 

    • That’s tomorrow Cousin M – and people will come back tomorrow just to see your next FYCE (or drink) recipe! Also, I would vote for a “Cousin M Does DeadSplinter” day.

        • Careful what you wish for, Hannibal. I’ve gone on hours-long road trips and couldn’t stop talking. But my friends are as chatty as I am so we keep each other amused. My husband is more taciturn so after we get together he’ll say to me, “Do you people ever shut up?” 
          I’ll say, “There’s so much to talk about and you can always join in. All opinions are welcome.”

    • …careful now…if you say these things where myo can hear them the next thing you know there’ll be an official Day of Cousin Matthew & you’ll have to find some new hours in the day to get the posts written up

      …Ellie agrees…& we all know she’s much wiser than I

  4. Frozen fish stocks are my guilty pleasure. I get them from Trader Joe’s, it makes me feel slightly more adult when I eat them.

    I was grocery shopping with my daughter when she was around 9 or 10 and she asked if we could get Hamburger Helper. I told her it was terrible and she wouldn’t like it. She said all her friends at school age it and loved it. I shrugged, bought it, made it for dinner. She took a couple of bites and said,” this is awful!”. I laughed, said, “I told you so”, threw it away and made French toast for dinner. 

    I like a good hamburger casserole though, and I have adobo in the pantry so i’ll give this a try. 

    • Although my parents (mother, really) were not averse to buying things like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or Tang, we never had Hamburger Helper.  The first (and last) time I ever had it, I was 18 years old and in AK.  I was visiting some friends in Fairbanks over the weekend and they made it for dinner.  I was 18 so I didn’t care, but I clearly never made a point of getting it for myself.

Leave a Reply