When Roy and I lived in Pennsylvania, one restaurant we enjoyed eating at was the LoneStar Cafe. It was a chain restaurant, but that had great steaks, baked sweet potatoes that needed their own dinner plate to be served on, and amazing appetizers. The Cheese Fries was the best thing ever; seasoned steak fries smothered in melted cheese and crispy bacon bits; served with a Southwestern Ranch sauce. Heart attack on a plate and we didn't care. Then one day we discovered that the restaurant had closed; we knew a couple of the waiters who said they had reported to work, only to find a sign on the door saying it was closed for business. Talk about a shocker!
Poor Roy, I think he was the most disappointed of both of us, so I decided to come up with a copycat recipe. Took me a while to get it right, but I did it; and making the sauce was super easy. While shopping for groceries, I discovered that Hidden Valley Ranch had a Southwestern Ranch dressing. I purchased a bottle and discovered it was exactly what was served with the cheese fries. However, it wasn't always available at the supermarkets, so I learned to make my own by mixing regular Ranch dressing, not the buttermilk type, with Cholula sauce.
peanut or canola oil
1 (16 oz) bag seasoned steak fries, frozen
1 (8 oz) bag shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese mix
1 cup real bacon pieces
Hidden Valley Ranch Southwestern Ranch Dressing, or mix Regular Ranch Dressing (not Buttermilk) with Cholula sauce till desired flavor and heat is achieved.
Fill a large skillet halfway with peanut oil, heat on high till a drop of cold water sizzles in pan. Fry the frozen fries one third of a bag at a time; use a slotted spoon to put the fries into the hot oil. Caution: the oil will sizzle and pop from the cold fries. Let cook for 4 minutes, drain on paper towels and repeat till all the fries are done.
Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 qt baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Layer one third of the fries into the dish, spread one third of the cheese and bacon pieces over them; repeat two more times. Bake for 15 minutes; serve with sauce while hot.
Makes 4 servings.
But I'm not finished yet, another one of Roy's joys is the Patty Melt; a diner classic that is rarely found in diners anymore. This is a grill top special - grilled onions, hamburger, rye bread with melted Swiss cheese. I make mine in a cast iron skillet which ensures even cooking, good flavor and a crisp texture to the rye bread.
1 large onion, cut into slivers
2 Tbsp butter
dash of salt and pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 (1/4 lb each)hamburger patties (80% lean)
8 slices marbled Rye bread
4 Tbsp butter, softened
8 slices Swiss cheese
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in skillet on medium-high heat; add onions, salt, pepper and vinegar; mix and let cook for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring. Once the onions are browned, remove to small bowl and add the patties into the same skillet; cook each side for 6 minutes. Remove to plate to rest.
Liberally smear softened butter onto one side of each slice of Rye bread; place butter side down in skillet. Depending on size of skillet, you may have to do each sandwich individually. Place a slice of Swiss cheese on each slice of bread; let cook for 2 minutes. On one slice of bread, place a hamburger patty and a layer of onions. Flip over the other slice of bread on top of the other, press down with a spatula for one minute. Flip sandwich over in skillet, press down with spatula again for an additional minute. Remove to plate, slice sandwich in half and serve.
Makes 4 sandwiches.
So there you go Roy; a meal just for you cause I love you so very much.