I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Philly Cheesesteaks

I had some left over Italian beef so I decided to make one of my other favorite sandwiches - the Philly cheesesteak. If you haven't had a Philly cheesesteak in Philly, then you probably don't know what you are missing. A lot of restaurants offer Philly cheesesteaks, but honestly its not the same thing.

Here is exhibit A

Notice the hoagie bun, the sauteed (carmelized) onions, the thinly cut steak and the cheez whiz. This one has mushrooms on it as well. It doesn't look anything like the cheesesteaks at Applebee's does it?

Here is exhibit B

This one has white cheese, onions and meat. When I first started getting cheesesteaks I was a medical student. I always got mine with white cheese, but gradually I have started preferring the Cheez Whiz. I used to get my steaks from a place in Chicago that was right up the block from where I lived called Philly's Best. I have had cheesesteaks in Philly and they are the same steaks. I couldn't detect a difference. There are a few secrets I learned from my pilgrimages to Philly and by eating at Philly's Best and getting to know the owner over 4 years.

1) Use good steak. Some places use thinly sliced ribeye. I like to use leftover Italian beef because I can use a nice cheap cut of meat and it turns out just as tender as if I used a piece of steak.
2) Don't just saute the onion, slice it thin and carmelize it. To do that you heat a pan up to medium/low heat. Drop in a little canola oil and put your sliced onions in. Stir them occasionally. The onions will sweat off a lot of the moisture and turn caramel colored over about 10-15 minutes. One of the side benefits is that the onions loose their bite and actually become sweet.
3) Cook the steak on the griddle (or cast iron skillet for those of us who are professional-stove-challenged) with a little oil until it is just about done, then add in a good dose of onions. Stir it up a little so that everything is combined, then squirt a little water on.
4) Immediately after squirting the water, put the bun over the meat and onions. The bun will be sliced open first and placed face down. Let everything cook for a couple minutes. Scoop the bun and the meat/onions onto a plate and top with either Cheez Whiz (my preference) or sliced processed white American cheese, only the very cheapest. If you use Whiz it will already be melted. If you use sliced cheese it will melt fairly quickly, especially if you wrap the whole mess up in a little tin foil. I do that if I am making more than one steak and I want to serve them to everyone hot.

The bun cooking on top of the meat/onions is very important. The steam from the meat and onions permeates the bun with flavor and softens it so that it is unbelievably tasty.

I think the above photo was taken when Kerry was trying to show that he was a man of the people and ate regular people food occasionally when he wasn't flying around the country in his wife's fleet of jets or on a yacht somewhere. I for one question that what he is eating is even a cheesesteak. I would put it more in the category of submarine sandwich. Compare what he is eating to exhibits A and B above. I rest my case.