Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Rock Crawling Over a Sandwich.

 Moab’s annual Jeep Safari will be April 1 – April 9, and this year two more trails have been added.  This time the safari will be traveling deeper into San Juan County as Hole in the Rock and Hotel Rock will be explored.  Usually, the guided trails do not go further than the Cameo Cliffs, but that does not keep free wheeling jeepers from exploring the county.  So, with the guided tours heading through the towns of Monticello and Blanding, this would be a good way to get some attention towards the local restaurants and shops.  Get out there with advertising props, and entice those jeepers to come on in, instead of rushing back to Moab.  Just a suggestion of course.

I know one meal that entices my hubby is a patty melt and cheese fries, and we do not even have to be out exploring in the jeep.  Unfortunately, finding a restaurant that serves them up is slim to none (hint, hint), and I hate seeing the disappointment on his face.  Solution?  You guessed it, learn to make them myself. 

My hubby, Roy, LOVES patty melts!!!

The origin of the patty melt is debated whether it was created in the 1940s or 1950s, but the credit goes to the same restaurant owner, Tiny Naylor.  Tiny Naylor owned a chain of Biffs Drive-Ins and Tiny Naylor Coffee Shop restaurants in California, and added the patty melt to the menus.  Now, one thing you have to remember, the patty melt is not ever to be referred to as a hamburger; it is a sandwich.  Why?  Even though it is based upon the American classic, a cheeseburger, it is not served on a bun, cold or toasted, but cooked like a grilled cheese sandwich.  The traditional recipe has a ground beef patty topped with either American, Swiss or cheddar cheese and grilled onions on rye bread, pan fried in butter.  When I make mine, it is in a cast iron skillet which ensures even cooking, good flavor and a crisp texture to the rye bread.  I also amp up the flavor of the grilled onions with a little balsamic vinegar.


The Classic Patty Melt (my way)


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 two tablespoons 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 two 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.

Now you know I have to play with my food, so instead of ground beef patties, how about some thinly sliced London broil? 


London Broil Melt


 2 slices of sandwich bread, toasted

3 slices sharp Cheddar cheese (Sargento is the best!)

 8 thin slices of rare London Broil

1/2 cup sautéed mushroom/onion mix


(This is a layering preparation.)

Preheat oven to 350F; line small baking pan with aluminum foil.


Toasted Bread

Cheese Slice

4 London Broil Slices

Cheese Slice

4 London Broil Slices

Spread out 1/2 cup of vegetable mixture

Cheese Slice

Toasted Bread

Place entire sandwich inside baking pan; place in oven for five minutes to allow cheese to melt thoroughly.  Remove sandwich to plate, cut in half and enjoy.

Makes one sandwich.

These sandwiches can get to be rather thick, so pretend your mouth is a jeep, open wide, and rock crawl all over it.  Tilting your head back and forth is optional.

Now wait, not done yet, those cheese fries have to be a side dish.  Did you think I would leave you hanging?

When Roy and I lived in Pennsylvania, one restaurant we enjoyed eating at was the Lone Star Cafe.  It was a chain restaurant, but had great steaks, giant 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 did not 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 was not always available at the supermarkets, so I learned to make my own by mixing regular Ranch dressing, not the buttermilk type, with Cholula sauce.


Copycat Recipe for Lone Star Cheese Fries


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-quart 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.

Have fun jeepers, and make sure to dine in San Juan County restaurants!

Mary Cokenour