Classic American diner cuisine gone gourmet!
American bison is better known as buffalo. Buffalo is still considered to be wild game meat. Buffalo are not hunted anymore, but they are raised as free range herd animals. The flavor of buffalo is stronger than beef, milder than deer and very clean tasting. Buffalo are not raised on special feed or given any livestock drugs. The meat is very lean and a buffalo steak must be cooked rare to medium rare or the meat will become very tough.
I have not seen open face steak sandwiches on any American diner menus lately. An open face steak sandwich was once the grandest entree on a diner lunch menu for a long time! Open face sandwich means that the bread is under the meat and there is no top slice of bread on the sandwich. The last two places that I saw an open face steak sandwich on a menu was in Baltimore and Las Vegas.
I have never seen a restaurant offer an open face buffalo steak sandwich. An open face buffalo steak sandwich might possibly be found on a restaurant menu in a small town out west, but who knows.
Open face steak sandwiches were always served with a stack of onion rings on top of the steak. Gravy was optional, unless you ordered the steak sandwich with mashed potatoes. When a steak sandwich was ordered with mashed potatoes in a diner, for some odd reason the diner cook would pour gravy over the mashed potatoes and everything else on the plate. Diner food is not exactly 3 Star Michelin French cuisine!
Diner cooks are also known as "spoons." Years ago, the word "spoon" was slang for military cooks. When I first started cooking, I was trained by a navy "spoon" who used to cook for 15,000 people every meal at a naval base in San Diego. That is a lot of people to serve during one meal! That old navy cook showed me how to work quickly and efficiently.
Shortcuts, being organized and having everything ready to land on a plate before the first customer walked through the door is exactly how to do high volume cooking. American diners are high volume restaurants. When I was younger, diner managers always preferred to give the chief cook job to an ex military cook and preferably to a cook who served in the navy. Diner managers knew that ex military cooks could handle the high volume of customers, so they were preferred for the top cook job.
At a diner, simple open face steak sandwich entrees were usually ordered by small town "big wigs" or local VIP's. When cooks saw an order for an open face steak sandwich, they made sure that the sandwich was made perfectly!
Later in my career, I was cooking in a fine French cafe. The French chef liked old fashioned American diner food. I was the sous chef at the cafe and the French chef gave me the "green light" to serve a few American diner entrees as lunch specials. I ran an open face steak sandwich garnished with a stack of onion rings one day. I broke all the cafe's single day sales records by serving that open face steak sandwich special du jour! I went through 5 whole strip sirloin sections of beef that day. The sandwich steak was cut to 8 ounces. That is a huge amount of steaks for one lunch!
I never put the open face steak sandwich on the special board again after that day. There was no need to. Customers ordered that steak sandwich verbally "off of the menu," after that one very busy day! What a customer wants, is what a customer gets! As a cook, an open face steak sandwich is one of the easiest and quickest items to cook on a lunch menu.
Today's American bison steak version of an open face steak sandwich is an instant classic! This sandwich appeals to those who like wild game and those who prefer simple grand old fashioned presentations. If I am working as a diner cook in Las Vegas, while I am going to school, you can be sure that I will run this bison steak sandwich as a special du jour!
Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring.
Constantly stir, till the roux becomes a dark brown color.
Add 2 cups of beef broth.
Whisk the gravy to combine the roux.
Whisk occasionally, till the gravy comes to a gentle boil and it thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
Add 1/3 cup of sliced portobello mushrooms.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 1 pinch of thyme.
Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
Simmer and reduce the gravy, till it becomes a rich thin gravy consistency and till the mushrooms become tender.Keep the portobello gravy warm over low heat.
Mashed Chive Potatoes:
Boil 1 peeled russet potato in salted water, till the potato becomes soft and tender.
Drain the water off of the potato.
Keep the pot off of the heat.
Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
Add 1 tablespoon of cream.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 1 tablespoon of thin sliced fresh chives or dried chives.
Whisk the potato mixture, till the potatoes become smooth and creamy.
Place the mashed chive potatoes into a star tipped pastry bag.
Keep the pastry bag of mashed chive potatoes warm on a stove top.
Beer Batter Vidalia Onion Rings Recipe:
Onion rings are the traditional marquis signature garnish on an open face steak sandwich at diner restaurants. Make enough onion rings to create a tall stack of onion rings on the steak. The onion rings are what gives an open face steak sandwich such great eye appeal!
Vidalia onions are sweet onions. The nice flavor of vidalia onions will be noticed in the beer battered onion rings.
Pour a 12 ounce can of lager beer into a mixing bowl.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
Add 2 pinches of turmeric.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Add a little bit of flour at a time, while whisking, till it becomes a medium batter consistency. The beer batter should be as thick as old fashioned buttermilk pancake batter.
Cut 1/2" to 3/4" thick slices of vidalia onion.
Separate the onion rings.
Note: Save the onion center and smaller rings for another recipe. The larger onion rings are what is preferred for making fried onion rings. About 6 to 10 onion rings are enough for a garnish.
Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
Note: Why 360º instead of 350º? The extra 10º helps the oil temperature recovery time, when cold food is added to the hot oil. That is one thing that I learned from that old experienced navy cook early in my career. Heating the oil higher than 360º will scorch and burn the oil faster!
Dredge the large vidalia onion slices in flour.
Place 2 to 3 onion rings at a time into the beer batter.
Coat the onion rings evenly with the beer batter.
Only fry 2 to 3 onion rings at a time.
Drop one beer battered onion ring in the hot fryer oil at a time, so the onion rings do not stick together.
Fry the onions rings, till they become a light golden brown color and till the coating becomes crisp.
Place the fried onion rings on wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
Fry a total of about 6 to 10 beer battered onion rings.
After the grease is drained off of the onion rings, place the onion rings on a baking pan that is lined with parchment paper.
Keep the beer batter onion rings warm on a stove top.
Open Face American Bison Steak Sandwich:
Brush a half of a baguette or sub sandwich roll with melted unsalted butter. (A piece of bread that is the same shape and size as the steak is best. I used a half of a whole wheat sub roll for the steak in the pictures. Trim the crust, so the bread sits flat on a plate.)
Grill the bread on a griddle or large saute pan over medium/medium low heat, till it becomes toasted golden brown.
Keep it warm on a stove top.
Heat a cast iron ribbed grill or a char grill to a medium/medium high temperature.
Brush an 8 ounce bison sirloin strip steak with a little bit of melted butter.
Season the bison steak with sea salt and black pepper.
Grill the bison steak on both sides, till it is cooked rare to medium rare. (Be sure to make cross-check grill marks on the bison steak!)
Place the bison steak on a wire screen roasting rack and let it rest for 1 minute.
Open Face American Bison Steak Sandwich with Portobello Gravy, Mashed Chive Potatoes and Beer Batter Vidalia Onion Rings:
Set the grilled bison steak on top of the grilled bread on a plate.
Pipe the mashed chive potatoes on the plate with the pastry bag next to the bison steak.
Generously spoon the portabella gravy over the middle of the bison steak and over the mashed chive potatoes.
Pierce a trimmed whole green onion lengthwise with a long bamboo skewer.
Poke the skewered green onion into the steak and bread vertically.
Place the beer batter onion rings over the green onion skewer, so that they are loosely stacked high on top of each other. (The green onion skewer garnish will hold the onion rings in place.)
Serve with buttered corn on the cob or a vegetable of your choice.
Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig.
Viola! A yummy simple American bison steak diner style open face sandwich! This is a classic simple way to serve a bison steak! Bison meat is not cheap to purchase, so be sure not to overcook the bison steak! Buttered corn on the cob is the perfect accompanying vegetable for this entree. This is a nice gourmet diner style entree! Delicious! ... Shawna