Like I said yesterday, it’s either a cheesesteak or it’s not. Anyone who calls it “Philly style” is either lying or just wrong. No one from Philly would ever call it that, so anyone who does say it doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
I don’t tell people they’re wrong “because I said so” very often. So give me this one, okay? I know cheesesteaks. And this one is closer to “right” than 99% of the ones I’ve tasted outside of Philly. And the next time will be even closer.
1½ pounds shaved sirloin steak
1 medium onion
white American cheese (or Provolone)
olive pomace oil
crusty Italian bread
A steak sandwich starts with steak.
Not shredded, compressed, re-formed “beef sandwich steaks”. Definitely not — and yes, someone in California served me this once — roast beef.
Ask the butcher to shave it for you. Extremely thin slices across the grain are the secret to tenderness. Also, the more surface area there is the more room there is for the Maillard reaction to work its magic.
Before you start cooking, peel and slice the onion.
Salt the steak before putting it in a pan, then on the other side once it’s in the pan. (High heat, a little olive pomace oil before you put the steak in.) Cook enough for one sandwich at a time.
With the edge of a metal spatula, chop the steak into smaller pieces as it starts to cook.
When the steak is browned on the first side, flip it over and add the onions. Add a few tablespoons of water to release those lovely brown bits from the pan.
Keep chopping the steak with the spatula and flipping it to make sure it’s all well browned, and the onion is browned and softened. As soon as the onions are done — if the steak was sliced thin enough it should be done before the onions — scoop everything into a pile about twice as wide as the roll you’re going to put it on.
If there’s too much there for one sandwich push the extra to the side. Unless you’re working in a restaurant you don’t have to worry about the exact amount in one sandwich.
Turn the heat down low. Put two slices of cheese on top of the steak. Slice the roll in half, leaving a hinge on the back side. Place the open roll on top of the steak and cheese.
Leave the roll on top for about 30 seconds to a minute. The steam will melt the cheese and soften the roll. Then, with a long spatula, scoop as much of the steak up as you can with a single lift. Fill the roll with the rest of the steak.
There are plenty of toppings you could add, from ketchup to sweet peppers to pizza sauce. But if you’ve used good ingredients and prepared it well, it’s ready to go right now.
And that’s it.
Want more like this? For more recipes like this, that you can hold right in your hands, and write on, take notes, tear pages out if you want (Gosh, you're tough on books, aren't you?) you might be interested in How To Cook Like Your Grandmother, 2nd edition, Illustrated. Or to learn your way around the kitchen, check out Starting From Scratch: The Owner's Manual for Your Kitchen.