Hey everyone! Let’s talk about Cheesesteak.
I have been listening to a really great podcast lately called The Sporkful, which you can listen to on iTunes here.. The shows host Dan Pashman is, I’m almost positive, my long lost best friend. His show’s tagline “it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters” is exactly how I would describe my life. I hate that word foodie. I’m not always out for adventure, trying new things, eating deconstructed lasagna or whatever else these weird “foodies” do but I love to eat. I have always been curious about food. Why does it matter how many eggs you put in a cake? Why does turkey taste better after it’s brined? Why is vanilla the “classic” flavor of ice cream? It’s these kind of topics that keep me awake at night and I wish I was joking but I love everything about food and learning about it.
I started his podcast at the first episode that was available to me in iTunes which I’m almost positive wasn’t the first episode every but I’m almost to the newest episode so I have let it consume my life to say the least!
You don’t have to send out a search warrant or anything friends, don’t worry about me. The episode on the Cheesesteak though really got me pondering..I have never been to Philadelphia but I love Cheese Whiz and I really have to try one of these sandwiches so I set out on a quest to make the perfect cheesesteak…mine would be “one cheesesteak, whiz-wit”. I will explain in a brief second what all of that means.
The cheesesteak is rumored to be invented by Pat and Harry Olivieri. The exact story behind it’s creation is largely debated but it goes that Pat had a hot dog cart and one day decided to make a steak sandwich by grilling up finely chopped beef and grilled onions and putting it on an italian roll. While Pat was eating the sandwich a cab driver drove by and told Pat he was interested in what he was eating and requested the sandwich. After eating it the cab driver told Olivieri that he should stop selling hot dogs and focus on that sandwich. They worked on the sandwich and not long after the hot dog stand in South Philadelphia grew so large that they had to open an actual restaurant called “Pat’s King of Steaks” which still is serving sandwiches today. The sandwich was originally prepared without cheese but provolone was actually the first cheese to be added to the sandwich. Cheez Whiz which was originally on the market in 1952 soon became the most popular cheese at Pat’s because it was extremely quick to slather on the sandwich which busy Philadelphia residents appreciated.
The way you order a cheesesteak is very important and apparently the guys at Pat’s take it pretty serious. You are expected to get up to the window and order quickly and effectively. You would walk up to the window and if you wanted a cheesesteak with cheez whiz and onions you would say “One whiz-wit”. If you wanted one with American cheese and no onions you would say “one american, wit-out”. It’s rumored that if you don’t order quickly they will send you to the back of the line so be ready! The “wit and wit-out” plays on the accents of local philly residents.
In 1966 Philadelphia soon gained another cheesesteak restaurant..right across the street called Geno’s Steaks. The two cheesesteak shops apparently both make pretty great cheesesteaks but I don’t know about you but with airfare prices the way they are lately I unfortunately don’t have time to head east to Philly so after listening to Dan’s podcast and reminiscing about how much I love Cheez Whiz I set out to create my own philly cheesesteak.
I knew I had to have beef that was similar to what I have seen in the pictures. Pat’s does not chop their beef but Geno’s does. I ‘m not big on sandwiches similar to the French Dip so I knew I wanted it to be more chopped up. I was browsing the meat aisle at the grocery store and came across “extra thin carne picada” which I have used for beef tacos before and knew it would be perfect. The search for the perfect bun was a lot harder. We don’t have any great bakeries where I live so I had to settle for some soft french rolls from Wal-Mart and they were not as long as I wanted them to be but I thought the huge sub roll would be too soft.
I came up with my recipe as follows.
Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches
1 lb Carne Picada sliced thin (super thinly sliced rib-eye is perfect for this)
1 large sweet onion, chopped into long thin strips
1 jar cheez whiz
Some type of sub roll
- Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a pan until it’s super hot!
- Sauté the onions until they are almost caramelized. They should be transparent and very soft.
- While the onions are sautéing, place the beef in a bowl and pour about 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce and sprinkle greek season liberally on the meat. Note: I don’t know if they season their meet in Philly..I love seasoning so I seasoned.
- Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.
- Place meat in the pan in small batches, do not overcrowd. The beef will cook quickly!
- Cut open sub roll and spread with butter. Toast buns in a skillet.
- Heat cheez whiz. (I did this quickly in a tupperware in the microwave)
- Once you have each component ready, holding the sub roll open in your hand, pile the beef onto the roll, using a thin spatula, spread the cheez whiz on the sides of the meat and top the meat with the onions.
I know this recipe may be hard to follow. I have thought of making a video next time I make these..let me know if that’s something you’d like to see!
My husband and I really enjoyed these sandwiches and they have become a must make. I made oven steak fries on the side and they were great.
I have a few ribeyes laying around that my parents gave me from their last quarter beef they bought so I may try to slice my own meat next time but it was really easy to buy the already “chopped up” meat!
I love taking these “culinary adventures” in my own home. I want to know what other places you have tried so I can try to recreate those recipes. Let me know in the comments below!