I’m from western Pennsylvania, where we like to pile french fries and cole slaw on our steak sandwiches, a trend that originated in the 1930s with the Primanti Brothers sandwich shop in the Pittsburgh Strip District.  However, we were certainly not the first, nor the last people to do so.  The horseshoe sandwich, invented in Springfield, Illinois, has us beat by at least a few years.

According to the Junior League of Springfield’s Honest to Goodness,

The head chef at the old Leland Hotel is generally credited with inventing Springfield’s famous horseshoe sandwich in 1928.  The recipe has had endless variations over the years – everything from shrimp to turkey has been added and beer is a hotly contested ingredient.  But the original recipe called for ham and a fried egg.  The shape of the ham prompted the ‘horseshoe’ name, with the fries representing the nails and the heated steak platter an anvil.

Understandably, I was drawn to the concept.


Technically a 'Ponyshoe'

Technically a 'Ponyshoe'

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups light cream or half and half
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Melt butter in saucepan. Blend in flour and cook over low heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in salt, pepper, cream, cayenne, and cheese. Return to heat, stirring constantly to make a smooth thick sauce. Keep warm until sandwiches are assembled.

8 slices bread, toasted
Sliced or shaved ham, chicken, or turkey, or cooked ground beef patty
Cooked French fries

Place 2 slices of toast on serving plate, top with meat of your choice and cover with cheese sauce. Mound French fries on top. Serve immediately. A smaller sandwich, using only 1 slice of toast is a Ponyshoe.

I don’t need to tell you that the Horseshoes were tasty.  I mean, just look at them.  Of course they were tasty, albeit in that greasy, sit in your stomach like a brick way that is especially satisfying when it’s midnight and you’ve had a couple of beers.

I used to make my own French fries all the time (sometimes at midnight after I’d had a couple of beers), but over the years, gradually switched over to the packs of frozen ones just to avoid having to deal with disposal of the oil.  But making your own fries is quick and easy, and really fun.

french fries

The next recipe is quite possibly the best baked beans dish I’ve ever tasted.  If you took a casserole of them to a potluck, you would be everybody’s favorite, except maybe the vegetarians, who would be mad that you brought something they thought they could eat, but instead, you decided to load it up with bacon.

Don’t let that stop you from loading it up with bacon.

Prairie Schooner Baked Beans

Prairie Schooner Baked Beans

Prairie Schooner Baked Beans

12 to 16 servings

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound uncooked bacon, diced
2 medium yellow onions, sliced in rings
1 16-ounce can lima beans, drained
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained
1 16-ounce can giant butter beans, drained
2 16-ounce cans baked beans in molasses

Simmer brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, and garlic powder in saucepan over low heat for 20 minutes. Fry bacon until crisp; remove from pan. Saute onions in bacon grease until soft, but not browned. Remove from pan. Combine all beans, onions, and bacon in a 3-quart casserole. Pour sauce over and mix well. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Man, oh man, these are so good.  I wish I hadn’t halved the recipe.

And finally, for dessert we had Lizzie Cake, which the authors of Honest to Goodness describe saying, “This unusual cake will disappear quickly.”

Lizzie Cake

Lizzie Cake

Lizzie Cake

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 cup blueberries
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Cream butter, add sugar and beat. Add eggs and egg yolk. Mix well. Add four and lemon peel; mix. Pour batter into greased and floured 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle blueberries on top. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling on rack with blueberries on top. Melt chocolate. Invert cake. Spread with chocolate. Let cool and harden. Invert again so blueberries are on top. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Sadly, our Lizzie Cake did not have a chance to disappear quickly, as it was set upon by a vicious colony of ants as it sat on the counter overnight.  Though people say we don’t have seasons in Southern California, I find it fairly easy to tell the difference based on which critter is trying to infest our home.  Spiders in fall and winter, moths in spring, and ants in summertime.  I thought I had a few weeks to go before the annual onslaught, but the ants had other ideas, and easily infiltrated the aluminum foil I’d placed over the cake.  Little bastards.

That said, the piece of Lizzie Cake I did get to eat was indeed unusual, and not in a bad way.  It’s very moist, and the lemon and blueberries taste heavenly together.  The chocolate, less so.  If I was to make this cake again, I’d probably leave out the chocolate and whipped cream, triple the lemon zest, and serve it as a coffee cake for brunch.  It would make some fine brunch.

And so we leave the Midwest for the time being.  Next week, I’ll be heading to one of the regions of the country I’ve neglected thus far, the Southwest.  Though the Junior League of Albuquerque’s cookbook was tempting, El Paso’s won my heart.  I picked so many recipes to make that I will have to split it up over two meals, especially since one of them is mole, which looks time-consuming, hard, and potentially disastrous.  We shall see.