Blue Steaks

Whoever first had the idea of combining blue cheese with chopped beef must be memorialized in a museum of culinary arts somewhere. If not, he or she should be. The combination is wonderful. I first had this steak at a small supper club near Eagle River, Wisconsin in the summer of 1961. I made my first blue steaks about three weeks later when I went home to visit my family.

The steaks were not a great success. My father, though born and raised in Wisconsin, didn’t like cheese, my mother thought that all hamburger should be fried until it withered in defeat and back then my sisters didn’t like anything I cooked. But if I do say so myself those blue steaks were almost as good as the one I had at the supper club, so I kept making them.

There are many recipes for hamburgers garnished with a blue cheese sauce and a few with blue cheese fillings that include ingredients such as garlic, onion, sour cream and various spices. I have eaten such, and they are often quite tasty, but in this instance I think that simpler is better. I like to make these large enough to serve as a steak, six to eight ounces. Could we call them diet blue burgers?

INGREDIENTS

Extra lean ground beef
Blue or gorgonzola cheese
Steak seasoning

PROCEDURE

Size the steaks according to appetite. For each steak, make two thin patties of meat. Put a layer of blue cheese in the center of one patty, top with the other patty, seal the edges well and sprinkle lightly with steak seasoning or salt and pepper. Grill over charcoal to the desired doneness; for medium to medium well, grill three to four minutes on one side, turn over and grill another three to four minutes. Serve with a garden salad, baked potato, and fresh green peas for an elegant, inexpensive dinner.

NOTE

Let diners add more seasoning or steak sauce if they wish. One nice thing about this steak is that you can vary the amount of cheese to suit individual tastes. For an eight ounce steak, I use about two tablespoons.

When it is cold and nasty outside, I fry these delicacies in a hot cast iron skillet coated lightly with cooking spray. They still taste pretty good.

Grandma Rang’s Apple Cream Pie

In the winter our basement smelled of apples.  Every fall we would head to Bayfield to buy them:  Eating apples, pie apples, apples for sauce, crabapples for pickling and those we called “keeping apples.”  Those were the apples that perfumed our basement from December through March each year.  Cortlands I am sure and maybe Northern Spies.  My mother liked Jonathans and Wealthies for pies and McIntoshes which made beautiful pink applesauce.

I loved them all, especially when I could pick them off the trees, which we could do at some smaller orchards.  Apples that you pick yourself seem to taste better.  That may explain why I stop to pick apples from trees growing along roadsides, sometimes to the consternation of my wife who thinks that one should not park just anywhere.  Most of them don’t taste very good, but I still am expecting to discover the next great apple.

My earliest memories of our apple trips are from the early 1950’s after we moved to the country.  We would get up early in the morning, pack a picnic lunch and head north on highway 63.  In the trunk would be a pile of gunny sacks ready to be filled with apples.

It was always an exciting day that included stops at several orchards and a picnic along Lake Superior.  The farm families who sold the apples were good marketers, ready to answer questions and offer slices of new varieties that sometimes ended up in the trunk along with the old favorites.

The picnics were sometimes exciting too.  I remember one when our 1948 Plymouth was stuffed with apples.  The trunk was full, the rear window ledge was full, even my lap was full.  When we got to the park along the lake, my sisters and I headed for the beach while Dad scouted for wood and Mom set the picnic table.

When we went back to get permission to go swimming (denied, as I recall), Dad was busy whittling spoons.  He suggested that if I didn’t want to eat my beans from the communal can I could find some birch bark for plates.  So my sisters and I spread out through the woods and found bark that we could peel from the birches scattered along the shore without hurting the trees.  Bean juice tends to run off birch bark plates, but you can soak it up with your hot dog bun if you are quick.

When we got home, we emptied the sacks into bushel baskets and stored them in the basement.  In the following weeks we ate hundreds of apples for snacks, and Mom turned apples into sauce, jelly, pickles and all kinds of wonderful baked goods.  Some of those apples lasted through the winter, which meant we could enjoy Grandma Rang’s Apple Cream Pie for nearly half the year.

Grandma Rang immigrated with her family to the United States from Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.  She almost certainly learned this recipe from her mother, which may explain why it is similar to Dutch apple pie recipes.  All I know for certain is that my mother learned to make it from Grandma and that we all loved it.  It is still my favorite apple pie.

Even better, it is absurdly easy to make.  The most difficult part is peeling the apples.

INGREDIENTS:

1 nine inch unbaked pie shell
Enough apples to fill the crust
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 T flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup cream or half and half

PROCEDURE:

Wash, peel and core the apples.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice enough half quarter apples to make a tight layer on the bottom of the crust.  Then fill the crust to heaping with sliced apples.

Mix the sugar, salt, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Stir in enough cream or half and half to make a mixture like a thick gravy.  Drizzle it evenly over the apples.  Bake the pie for about an hour, or until some of the apple slices are slightly browned on the tips.

Note:  If the apples seem to be especially juicy, add an extra teaspoon of flour.