Philly Cheesesteaks (p.2)

The U.S. Open Returns to the Philadelphia Area! The Clubhouse Kitchen Performed Exhaustive Testing to Bring You Our Best Philly Cheesesteak Recipes For Home

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Basic Prep And The Classic Versions

 

INGREDIENTS AND PREP

 

The Philly Cheesesteak comes together quick and is best still warm (if not hot) so it is important to have everything ready to go. This is key. Get everything ready before you turn on the heat. The beef and onions will cook fast and the cheese melts quickly.

 

  1. Have your sliced beef ready to go and seasoned with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. The amount of beef will depend on the size of the rolls you have. About 1/3 of a pound is not a bad guideline for an average 8-10" roll but more is fine too. Use your judgment depending on how big and full you want the cheesesteak.
  2. Chop the onions and have them in a bowl ready to go. White or Spanish onions are good. We tried sweet Vidalias but they are a bit too mild and get lost in the sandwich. The size of the onion pieces is often a personal preference; but you want to be able to taste the onion so not too small. Somewhere between the size of an M&M and a Chiclet is a pretty good guideline.
  3. Have the sliced provolone or American cheese ready. If your using Cheez Whiz, you can warm over a double boiler on the stove but in these modern times, a quick zap in the microwave (about 30-45 seconds depending on the power and how much you are using) will do the trick. You will not damage the delicate sensibilities of the Cheez Whiz. The general consensus is that a bit runnier is better so if you find it too thick even after warming, just add a little water (a tablespoon or two) and stir it in to thin out the Whiz a little. We did this and it works fine.
  4. Have the bun sliced ... but not all the way through! It is important to have the top and bottom halves connected/hinged. Otherwise, it is too easy for all the gooey goodness to leak out.
  5. Some neutral oil like safflower (canola or vegetable is fine). Use a tablespoon or two for the beef and onions. The oil is not only important to assist in frying up the onions a bit, but it also keeps the entire concoction moist (I've been trying to avoid using the word greasy, but who's kidding who, it's the best when it is at least a bit greasy).
  6. Salt and pepper for both the beef and the onions. You can season as they hit the pan and during or just prior. 

We used a cast iron pan, which holds heat better than most other pans, but a hot griddle or any other large surface frying pan is fine. You will also want a stiff spatula (metal if possible unless you are using a non-stick pan) and even a second one to help you pull/cut the beef in the pan if you like the meat shredded a bit smaller than the slices. Two spatulas are also helpful when you are scooping the meat and onions onto the roll.

 

beef and onions on hot skillet
beef and onions on hot skillet
provolone layed on beef/onions and warming bun
provolone layed on beef/onions and warming bun

 

GO TIME!

 

Once you are ready, there is not much to it but to pay attention. It will happen pretty fast. Get the skillet or griddle pretty hot (past medium) and add a tablespoon or two of the oil. Lay the slices of beef flat. The beef will cook in only a couple of minutes so put the onions in at the same time. If you have several guests, it is better to use several pans and it is even possible to lightly fry up some of the onions in advance. The beef will be ready to flip in 90 seconds or less depending on your heat.

 

Once you've flipped the beef once, it is essentially cooked (depending on the thickness) so isa good time to warm the roll in the same pan. Again, if you are making a lot at once, you may have to simply warm the rolls in the oven or separate pan.

 

There is one advantage to warming the roll in the pan you are cooking the beef and onions. Just like a White Castle slider, you can get the roll a bit moist from the steam of the onions and beef. This is also a point of personal preference because in reality, there will be no danger of the sandwich being dry with the melted cheese if you use fresh bread. Even so, it is a nice trick.

 

The picture above shows the cheese being added on the beef while still in the pan. This will melt the cheese faster although many places in Philadelphia actually put the sliced cheese on the bread and put the hot beef on top (or vice versa). I like to give the cheese a head start in the pan to make it extra gooey. As for the warm Cheez Whiz, it will be added after the beef is put on the roll with a spoon (you won't need an 18" narrow spatula like you see at the Philly joints -- they are making hundreds and dipping into a big can of Whiz).

Classic Provalone 'wit'
Classic Provalone 'wit'
Classic 'Whiz wit'
Classic 'Whiz wit'

 

There you have it. Delicious, hearty and easy. If you're like me, you haven't had Cheez Whiz since you were a kid. It is has a surprising amount of spicy kick to it. In the context of this sandwich, the Whiz was good (yes, that last clause is as fun to type as it is to say out loud).

 

Now, like we like to do in the Clubhouse Kitchen, we tried a few variations on the following pages.

 

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