My parents were both born in Pennsylvania. I remember visiting some of my cousins, who lived in the part of Northwest Philadelphia known as Germantown. It was, as I recall, a really lovely old neighborhood if a strange place for a very Irish family to reside. And one of the great treats when we visited was getting Philly Cheesesteaks. I’m still hooked and this is my version; Bam’s Almost Original Philly Cheesesteaks.
For decades there has been debate about what makes a truly authentic Philly Cheesesteak. Of course the meat is rarely questioned. Most devotees stand by extremely thinly shaved rib eye steak as the only meat that should be used. Since I don’t have a meat slicer it’s pretty hard to freeze rib eye then shave it. I don’t use it. That’s why this version is an almost original Philly Cheesesteak. Mea culpa.
Next on the great debates list is the cheese. Some people swear it’s not a real Philly Cheesesteak without Cheez Whiz. This is a product that, at one time, actually contained a little processed cheese food but now no longer has any cheese. If you’re a fan of Cheez Whiz, forgive me but I’m not putting anything on a potentially great sandwich that gained fame for squirting from a can. I use provolone. American is also a common cheese, although this too is a processed cheese food. And the rebels out there have been known to throw mozzarella or even Swiss on top.
The bread is also a topic for discussion although I honestly don’t know why. The only way to have anything even resembling a Philly Cheesesteak is to eat it on a proper sub roll. These, depending on your location may be called a hoagie, submarine, torpedo, or steak roll. As a nod to Philadelphia I’ll call it a hoagie roll.
Onions are sometimes questioned but it’s not even close to a Philly Cheesesteak without them. Unless you have some life-threatening allergy to them you must use onions! End of discussion.
Then there are the “add-ons” like bell peppers, jalapenos or other hot peppers, mushrooms, etc. I leave these to the individual. I use green bell peppers, usually mushrooms, and often a little jalapeno. The rest of the add-ons are, in my mind, sacrilegious. Items like mayonnaise, mustard, tomato, lettuce, on so on turn this sandwich from a Philly Cheesesteak to a steak sandwich with no roots.
So how do you make this fabulous, filling sandwich? It’s so easy it’s embarrassing.
First you need some form of uncooked steak that is sliced super thin. I’m cheating like mad today with a form of steak that probably will make some of you cringe. It’s called a “Sizzler” and is a beef patty (of some type) between very thin slices of rib eye. Close enough for me! My confession of the day is I love these things. They cook quickly, have enough fat to make it really juicy, and are great for making fast, tasty sandwiches on plain white bread with butter, salt, and pepper. The sound you’re hearing is Julia Child rolling in her grave.
You’re also going to need a good pile of thinly sliced onions and green peppers. I’m throwing in some jalapenos today per my husband’s request.
Start by heating one half of the griddle really hot. Leave the other end on a low heat to just keep the vegetables warm after cooking. slap some butter on the side of the griddle closest to you.. This is not health food, Kids! Then add the onions. Sprinkle them with some salt to help them caramelize. When they’re really translucent but haven’t yet caramelized, add the green peppers. This is also the time to add your jalapenos. Season everything well with salt and pepper.
When the onions have caramelized really well, shove all the vegetables to the back of the griddle to keep them warm.
Now add a little more butter to the front of the griddle (you can work it off after you eat) and put the meat on. You should be using really thin slices so they’ll cook quickly. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid to season!
Using a couple of spatulas, tear the meat apart and move it around. You want to shred that beef! When the meat is cooked (I like it when it’s just cooked) put your cheese on top, right there on the griddle.
This is when you need to move your vegetables to a bowl. You’ll need the room to toast your hoagie roll. Crank the heat up a bit on the back end of the griddle, butter the inside of your rolls and lay them, open-faced on the griddle. Keep an eye on them so you get them just the color you like.
As soon as the rolls are the perfect color slide them on a plate and get your spatulas ready. It’s time to get the steak and cheese on the bread. Using two spatulas, carefully lift the meat and cheese and place it on the roll.
Top this with your onions, peppers, jalapenos, and whatever else you’re using (don’t tell me; I’ll probably want to argue).
And there you have it! A sandwich that’s a meal and so good it makes me giggle.
Bam’s Almost Original Philly Cheesesteaks
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 1 medium green pepper, sliced thin
- 2 jalepenos, sliced thin (optional)
- 4 Sizzler® steaks or very thinly sliced rib eye steak
- 4 slices provolone cheese
- 2 Hoagie rolls
- Heat the front end of a griddle on high and the back end on low
- Butter the front end of the griddle
- Add onions to the hot end of the griddle and cook until very translucent but not yet caramelized
- Add peppers and jalepenos to the onions and cook until onions are caramelized
- Move vegetables to the low heat end of the griddle to keep warm
- Add a little butter to the high heat end of the griddle and put steak on that end
- Cook, pulling apart with two spatulas until meat is nearly cooked through
- Separate meat into 2 bun length piles
- Move vegetables to a bowl and turn burner to medium high
- Butter 2 hoagie rolls
- Place rolls on the back end of the griddle (the one where the vegetables were staying warm)
- Add 2 slices of cheese to each pile of meat
- Remove rolls to plates
- Carefully lift, using 2 spatulas, the meat and cheese to the rolls
- Top with the vegetables