MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- We have two tips for you today. One is a grand old meat-and-potatoes restaurant where the steaks are super- thick and butter-knife tender.
The other is a jiffy mix for cookies that are see-through thin and brittle-crisp. We found these two contrasting (but complementary) delights on a recent trip through Minneapolis.
First, the beef: It is at Murray's Restaurant, now run by Patrick and Tim Murray, son and grandson of Art and Marie Murray who opened the Red Feather Restaurant in north Minneapolis in 1933 and became locally famous for their giant steaks. Thirteen years later, the Murrays moved their business downtown, and it has since become a beacon for meat eaters throughout the Midwest. They serve all the usual shapes and sizes of steak at Murray's, most of them simply cooked but seasoned with a special blend of spices, ranging up to the top-of-the-line cuts that include a nearly 2-pound strip steak (for two) and a behemoth known as the "golden butter-knife steak," costing more than $100, serving four hungry carnivores.
What we like about Murray's, in addition to the meat, is how old-fashioned luxurious it is. It is a dining room that is supremely comfortable -- and the dinner they serve is guaranteed to satisfy anyone who likes a well-mixed cocktail followed by a juicy slab of beef. Our recipe for au gratin potatoes, a unimprovable classic as served at Murray's, follows.
Now, on to those wondrous cookies we also found in Minneapolis. They are known as Lacey Susans, and the motto that accompanies the bag of cookie mix says, "Cookies can never be too rich or too thin." We were clued into them by Sue Zelickson of WCCO's "Food Finds" show, who gave us a bag of mix to take home and try. She invented Lacey Susans more than 20 years ago, but only recently decided to package the formula and sell it through a firm called Canterbury Cuisine, which sends all the cookie profits to the National Down Syndrome Congress.
Lacey Susans are chocolate chip cookies, of the kind sometimes known as Florentines, and they are so thin that you can literally see through them, with each chocolate chip standing up three or four times higher than the brittle-thin cookie itself.
The ingredients are 1 bag of mix, 1 stick of butter and 1 egg: Blend them all together, drop the dough in little blobs onto a
cookie sheet and bake. That's all there is to it! No one would ever believe cookies so fine and fancy came from a bag. To order some mix, call or write: Canterbury Cuisine, Box 2271, Redmond, Wash. 98073-2271; (800) 733-6663.
Au gratin potatoes
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk, warmed
4 egg yolks, beaten
2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
8 cold boiled potatoes
1/2 cup buttered bread crumbs
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-square ovenproof dish or baking pan.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Sprinkle in flour and stir constantly 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in milk and continue stirring until mixture thickens. Bring to simmer but do not boil. Remove from heat and cool to tepid. Season with salt and peppers to taste. Beating constantly, beat in egg yolks, then cheese.
Slice potatoes about 1/4 inch thick and layer them in the prepared baking pan, alternating with the sauce, making sure the top layer is sauce. Sprinkle this with the crumbs and bake 10 to 12 minutes, until bubbling hot.
Murray's, 26 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55402; (612) 339-0909.