Saturday, February 9, 2008

February 9: Totally Inauthentic Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Regional specialties ignite a firestorm of contempt in purists when they encounter someone who doesn't adhere to their strict standards. Want to infuriate a Texan? Serve them chili made with ground beef, tomatoes, and, worst of all, beans. Loathing in a Kentuckian? Screw up a Kentucky Hot Brown.

Philadelphians can be a little touchy about their local specialty, the Philly Cheesesteak. Did I say a little? Let me rephrase that. I'm guessing that homicides have been committed over less than this sandwich.

A true Philly consists of the following: thinly sliced ribeye steak and onions grilled on a griddle and served on a soft white roll with a glob of Cheez Whiz. Let me say that I have never tasted this exact concoction outside of the city limits of Philadelphia. Mostly what I've had is some kind of chopped, formed meat pressed into slices and fried with onions, sometimes peppers, and cheese, usually provolone.

I like something somewhere in between. Ribeye is expensive, somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 a pound, and it's too good to waste, in my opinion. Eye of round roast is economically feasable. Also, it's a lean, somewhat tough roast, well-suited to being thinly sliced and quickly fried, but still with good meaty flavor and texture.

And even for the sake of authenticity, I can barely stomach Cheez Whiz. One bite, and I'm eating my grandmother's boiled broccoli, drenched in the stuff. Blah. I like a good, strong, serious cheese, like aged provolone if you can find it, or smoked provolone, which is available almost everywhere now.

A Philadelphian would probably take a baseball bat to my car for serving this sandwich. I think it's so good it's almost worth it. It does require a food processor and a little prep time, but nothing outrageous. Forgive me, Philadelphia: I think this is even better than the real thing. This makes enough for six.

Totally Inauthentic Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

1 2-pound eye of round roast
1 white onion, peeled, both ends trimmed, cut in half through the ends, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick half-rounds
salt and pepper to taste
6 slices cheese (cheddar, provolone, or American)
6 hoagie rolls or 6-inch lengths of French bread
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Cut the roast into pieces that will fit in the feed tube of your food processor. Put on a plate and place in the freezer until the roast is partially frozen, about 1 hour.

Fit the food processor with the slicing disk and process the meat.

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about six minutes. Add the sliced beef to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally with tongs, until completely browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat to low, put the slices of cheese over the meat and cover the pan until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.

Divide the meat between the rolls. Serve immediately.

1 comment:

merseydotes said...

Slicing partially frozen meat with the food processor = brilliant.

(I got a food processor for Christmas and am still getting to know the myriad ways it can make my life easier.)