In honor of Lee Trevino's win over Jack Nicklaus at Merion in 1971, we tried a Mexican inspired version.
For the meat, we added some ancho chile powder along with the salt and pepper. We stuck with onions but broke one of the rules by also mixing in some jalapenos for heat and poblanos for savory-ness. As for cheese, we went with some white queso.
The cooking method was virtually identical to the classic.
Now, you may be thinking of what I was thinking when making this. This is not different than a fajita or sliced beef taco and all we're doing is replacing the tortilla with an Italian roll. True. While this was a decent sandwich, the roll for some reason wasn't simpatico with these flavors. I definitely missed a nice soft warm tortilla. Maybe it's taste memory by association but this was not as good as the classic cheesesteak. The queso also did not have a strong enough flavor and generally not creamy enough when melted.
It looked good but overall may have been my least favorite of the variations. I'm sure we could work on it but it was time to move on.
KRAZY KOREAN KIMCHI SANDWICH
If you've spent anytime watching cooking contests like Top Chef or the various other incarnations, you'll notice that using Korean flavors with other cuisines is very successful and tasty. The typically salty, sour and spicy aspects of Korean cuisine seem to mix extremely well with many other ingredients and cuisines. These mixed dishes seem to have unusual success in competitions. So inspired, we tried to bring some of these stronger flavors to a cheese steak.
Now the one thing is that cheese and Korean flavors aren't traditionally a great mix so we kind of broke the rules again by making a spicy sour cream sauce (still dairy based anyway). We took half a cup of sour cream and mixed in some spicy Korean red pepper flakes (about 1 tsp) and juice from half a lime to give it some zing.
We used the same beef and marinated it in some soy sauce (2 tblsp), a bit of sugar (1 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tsp) per 1/2 pound of beef) and some ground black pepper. If you have some Korean red pepper paste, I also recommend a teaspoon or two here (Sriricha is a good substitute) and let marinate for at least 20 minute but up to an hour or two if possible.
If you are close to a Korean or Asian market, then some cabbage based kimchi is the way to go. Take a relatively generous amount (almost 1/2 a cup per sandwich) and chop into pieces. Without any kimchi, you can fake this step by slicing up some radishes (red or daikon) and/or some Savoy cabbage (total 1 cup) and let them sit for an hour to a day in a mixture of some rice wine vinegar (1/4cup) or white vinegar, some Korean pepper flakes (1 tbsp) or cayenne, salt (1 tblsp), sugar (1 tsp), 1 minced clove of garlic and some fish sauce (1 tsp - optional).
Add the kimchi directly to the meat in the pan just prior to assembling the sandwich.
Finally, for onions we switched to scallions cut up. One inch pieces would be fine.
The cooking method is virtually identical to the classic and the Mex. Like Whiz, the spicy sour cream is added at the very end after assembling the sandwich.
This was a pretty good sandwich but could have been spicier so do not be shy with the spicy items. The spiciness of the individual ingredients surprisingly dissipates when cooked and the entire sandwich is assembled. I highly recommend adding the hot bean paste (or Sriracha) to the beef as part of the marinade. All told, I expected this sandwich to be amazing but was only good. It was not quite creamy enough even with a generous dollop of spicy sour cream sauce.
While this sandwich could likely be improved upon with diced radishes, a mayonnaise layer and even some lettuce, it would then get away from the essence of the cheesesteak. Like we mentioned before, there are many amazing beef sandwiches. It was time to move on to another attempt.
Next, we tried to go a little highbrow by getting a bit fancier with the basic ingredients.