We had a fairly frugal family outing to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens tropical dome on the near east side of Madison. (Entry to the dome is cheap: $2 per person, children 5 and under free every day and admission is free on Saturdays and Wednesdays 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The outdoor gardens are free as well and as beautiful in the winter as they are in summer.
We ran a few errands first and then had lunch at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner just up the street from the gardens. A True Frugal Outing would not have included a lunch eaten in a restaurant, but it is pretty miserably winter here in the Northern Temperate Zone. A picnic was totally out of the question.
I was torn between ordering a patty melt or a mountain of meatloaf and real mashed potatoes with crispy fried onions on top. On a winter day, though, who could resist the solid comfort of meat, mashed potatoes, and gravy? Not me. I decided that I could easily make a patty melt at home. Here it is!I started out by baking some wheat bread in my trusty bread machine. It only takes a few minutes to load up the ingredients and is hands off until it is time to turn onto a cooling rack. I used sharp cheddar for the “melt” part of this sandwich. (Please don’t sully your sandwich with processed cheese.) The onions took the longest to prepare. I used a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil in a heavy pan and 3 large onion cut in rings and sprinkled with garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper to my taste. I cooked the onion mixture over medium low heat for about 45-60 minutes, stirring from time to time until the onion where transparent and starting to turn golden brown. (Add any leftover onions to scrambled eggs!)
I fried four quarter pound beef patties sprinkled with steak seasoning in my biggest George Foreman grill. After removing them and wiping the grill clean with paper towels, I added lightly buttered bread and started layering ingredients.
First the onions,next the meat patty,then the cheese, and finally the second piece of lightly buttered homemade bread.This is sinful food that should only be indulged in at great intervals–like maybe once a week! (Just kidding!)
The only sandwich that exceeds the patty melt in sheer indulgence is the unrestrained decadence of a properly constructed Ruben–homemade rye bread, Wisconsin Swiss cheese, home cooked corned beef sliced thick, home cured kraut, and yes, again, homemade Thousand Island dressing. Oh baby! I think I’m going to have to dig that corned beef out of the deep freeze and make a boiled dinner very soon! Begonia