The key to this recipe is the authentic brick cheese from Widmer’s Cheese located just off Route 28 in Theresa, WI. It is an American original created by the Swiss-born John Jossi in 1877 in Wisconsin. This is not the nondescript white cheese labelled brick cheese in many supermarkets. Seek out this amazing cheese. The pungency increases with time, so sniff the package before buying to make sure the cheese has not over-ripened. Or just buy it from their website.
As described on the Widmer’s Cheese website, “As Mr. Jossi created it, Brick cheese is firmly in the tradition of the great washed rind cheeses of Europe. Its flavor is enhanced during ripping of the bacterium linens, the same pleasantly pungent bacterial action that contributes to the flavor of the classic French cheeses like Pont I’Eveque, St. Nectaire, Reblochon and Livarot.”
In this recipe, the pungency of the cheese is balanced with the smokiness of the meat and the sweet complexity of slow roasted tomatoes adapted from Alice Waters.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place in a low earthen ware pan (or similarly thick sided pan):
8 medium, vine-ripened tomatoes, with just top sliced off
1 large, sweet onion, peeled
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cracked black pepper
Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and place in oven for 3 hours or until the juices that run from the tomatoes begin to caramelize a deep brown color. Remove and let stand until slightly cooled. This can be prepared a day in advance. When cooled, rough chop the tomatoes and onion, place into a bowl and add all the liquid that has accumulated in the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat gas or charcoal grill to high heat.
2 1lb New York strip steaks (I recommend Grass-fed beef from Jeff-Leen Farms, through Kewaskum Meats, on Route 28)
Rub with ½ cup Old Word Seasoning from Penzey’s Spices (or similar smoky beef rub)
Grill approximately 4 minutes per side or until the meat is rare to medium rare, approximately 140 degrees. Let rest for an additional 4 minutes covered. After resting, trim the fat from the outside edge of the steaks and discard. Slice the cooked steaks across the grain in the thinnest possible slices. Cover to keep warm.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place 8 slices of a dark rye bread on a baking sheet, 1/2 inch thick is ideal (or make your own German-style rye bread here).
Top each slice with generous spoonful of the tomato mixture, followed by a healthy portion of sliced steak.
Top each sandwich with a 1/4 inch slice of the brick cheese. You will need approximately 1/2 pound.
Place the sandwiches into the oven for 4 minutes or just until the cheese begins to soften. Serve open-faced. Smaller portions can be prepared as an appetizer.