Philadelphia Cheese Steak

I had my first real cheese steak when I was 38 years old, and always had the impression that it was something better left to the professionals (For example, here I am in a Philadelphia pub enjoying a cheese steak).  About 2 years ago, I tried to make Philly Cheese Steaks according Chris Kimball’s 2006 recipe. He told me to cut the meat into cubes and then pound them thin with a meat pounder. The result was OK; 3-1/2 stars; but the meat seized up and ended up being too thick. Plus it didn’t always brown properly; varying from sandwich to sandwich. Today, I am happy to convey great success in home-made cheese steak technique.

Finally homemade cheese steak rivaling s trip to Philly

Today, I used Chris Kimball’s new technique which worked perfectly. His secret to making cheese steaks without a deli-slicer is to partially freeze the meat. Because the meat is firmer, you will have much more success in slicing paper-thin shavings with a sharp chef’s knife. (well I now see others have given this same advice too).

While delicious, I thought there was a slight lack of cheese flavor. Because provolone is often mentioned in “gourmet” versions, I made a second batch of Cheese Steaks a few days later using provolone cheese. In the end, Chris Kimball was correct. White American cheese is best, both in terms of texture and taste. Provolone was too subtle in flavor and became stringy when melted.

Comments:

  1. I toasted the bread at 400-degrees until it just began to turn golden. My family unanimously thought that it was toasted too far; it had became too hard. I then tried making a sandwich on an un-toasted roll; but the toasted roll was deemed to be unanimously better. After testing a few batches, I’d recommend toasting only for 6 to 7 minutes, and removing from oven before it becomes even lightly browned.
  2. The recommended amount of American Cheese (even though augmented by Parmesan) was a little too weak. I wanted more cheese flavor. I made a second batch of sandwiches using provolone, but they had even less cheese flavor.  So, I would recommend sticking to White American Cheese, but boosting the amount. I added two extra slices and boosted the Parmesan to 1/2 cup. BTW, the traditional cheese used in these sandwiches is Cheez Whiz.
  3. Chris Kimball says to the freeze meat on a plate or baking sheet. The first time I made these I used a plate, but because plates are not completely flat it was wobbly during the cutting process. The second time I made these I froze the 3″-wide strips directly on a wooden cutting board, and felt that it was much safer.
  4. Make sure that your chef’s knife is sharp before slicing. A sharp knife will make it much easier (and safer).
  5. My last bit of advice is to pile each slice into an unorganized mound as you cut the beef. Once I left the slices in even stacks, but they were extremely difficult to separate them after chopping.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $18 for 5 to 6 sandwiches.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 4:00 pm. Dinner Time:  6:00.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below, but the ingredient list has already increased the amount of cheese according to my recommendations above :

2-lb skirt steak
5 to 6 Italian sub rolls (about 8″)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (3/4 oz)
10 slices white American cheese (10 ounces)

  1. Slice your steak with grain into 3″ wide strips. Lay steak strips flat on a wooden cutting board and freeze for 1 hour, which will allow you to more effectively cut your meat into very thin slices.
  2. Adjust an oven rack to middle position and pre-heat for 20 minutes to 400-degrees.
  3. Use a sharp knife to slice/shave the steak against the grain, making your slices as thin as possible. As you cut the beef, put the shavings in an unorganized mound. Once I stacked the slices neatly, but they did not separate easily.  After slicing all your meat, put in a mound and chop about 20 times until coarsely chopped.
  4. Slice rolls and bake in a 400-degree oven for 6 to 7 minutes. Remove before they begin brown.
  5. Place a 12″ non-stick skillet over a high burner. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and pre-heat for 3 minutes until smoking.
  6. Cook the meat in two batches. Sprinkle half the meat evenly in pan. Allow to brown for 5 minutes without stirring. Stir and allow to finish cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Put cooked meat in a colander. Use paper towels to wipe the skillet clean and repeat this step using a second tablespoon of vegetable oil.
  7. After draining the moisture from the meat, return meat to skillet over burner set to medium heat. Season according to taste with (about 3/4 teaspoon) salt and pepper, and heat for 2 minutes until the meat is completely warmed.
  8. Turn down heat to low, and top meat evenly with the grated Parmesan. Evenly lay out slices of American cheese, realizing that there may be some overlap. Continue heating for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese has melted, then fold the melted cheese into the meat to combine. Diving the meat evenly and place on toasted rolls, then serve immediately.
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