I’d Rather Be In Philadelphia

Back in high school they used to make cheese steaks every couple of weeks. And since I was a growing boy, and had not yet stopped eating meat (that happened the summer after graduation) I loved me some of them. In fact, senior year I set what was then a school record- as far as I know, it may still stand- by eating 7 of them in one 25 minute lunch period. I’m not proud (though I was back then.) Like I said, I was growing.

It is safe to say that in the years since then I have eaten exactly zero cheesesteaks. And of that I am proud. But for some reason, confronted the other day with more of the marbled gorgeousness that is Washugyu (domestic Wagyu) beef, sliced thin for shabu-shabu, that’s where I went. A block of good cheddar in the fridge sealed the deal. I would not be denied.

So a local baguette, cut and opened up, went in the toaster. I made a little duck fat roux, then added soymilk, yogurt, sake, grated cheddar, the rest of the pimentón-adobo sauce, pepper, and a good dribble of white truffle oil to make one hell of a cheese sauce. I caramelized a couple of onions worth of slivers, and deglazed them with balsamic vinegar and shoyu. I ran outside and cut garlic chives and ramps, and steamed some cauliflower- because it also enjoys cheese sauce.

When all else was ready, I tossed the meat around a hot iron pan until it was just medium, then removed it straight onto the waiting bread. Then a drape of onions, then cheese, then chopped alliums. Now before everyone asks if I really made these because John Kerry was in town (he likes Swiss, remember?) let’s compare and contrast this version with the traditional. Normally one finds awful industrial meat, cooked beyond death, dredged from a vat of fetid crapulence, dumped in a flabby white bun, and covered in “cheese” that is so processed that the law requires the word “food” on the label. This was meltingly tender meat that tasted like a high-end steak (because it was) on a crusty baguette with a sharp cheddar sauce redolent of smoky peppers and truffles, and with sweet, creamy onions and a bright, garlicky garnish.

If that’s elitism, then I am fully OK with it. And now I can happily wait another 23 years for the next one.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookGoogle+Pin on Pinterestshare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUponEmail to someone



  1. Zoomie
    April 6

    Oh, thank you for posting this! My Beloved talks longingly of Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches but I’ve never been tempted to make at home what I’ve seen in the “restaurants” where it was on the menu. Now, I’m tempted.

  2. Heather
    April 6

    Oh thank god. Real food. At first I was afraid you’d put the cauliflower on the sandwich too, but the last photo quelled my fears.

  3. cookiecrumb
    April 6

    Philly Cheese Steak is not made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese?
    Yes, I’ve never had one.
    (But wouldn’t that be good? Truffles, too.)

  4. Chris Rywalt
    April 6

    Cream cheese isn’t from Philadelphia, either.

  5. Jen of A2eatwrite
    April 7

    I don’t know if I can agree with Heather on this one – soymilk? In a cheesesteak?

    Hmmm…. the photo looked authentic, though.

    Don’t you just love those things you can wait decades before having another?

  6. Stroudster
    April 7

    I hate you. Not really, but I’m starving and that looks G-d Damn Awesome! The Cheese-Steak is definitely my second favorite sandwich (The Reuben shall always remain king in my book). I made myself an 18 dollar one once… and it was certainly one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I can afford your version tho. I guess the steak would be the only hi cost.

  7. peter
    April 7

    Zoomie: He can thank me later.

    Blanche: Well, in your condition you could only eat the cauliflower, which explains your bitterness.

    CC: Well, in terms of the original, you have missed nothing.

    Chris: Where is it from?

    Jen: Well, we didn’t have any cow milk, and as a percentage of the whole it was negligible.

    Shroudster: It was $16 for .6 lbs: not too bad for 3 people. I like reubens too, which is why I’m going to make pastrami in the very near future. Check back…

  8. Zoomie
    April 7

    P.S. I like your title, too. WC Fields was such a cool guy!

  9. Chris Rywalt
    April 8

    You can read all you want about cream cheese on Wikipedia, but the short version is that modern cream cheese was invented by a guy in New York trying to make Neufchâtel. He called it “Philadelphia” because apparently Americans were so uncultured at that time, Philadelphia was considered classy.

    Of course now we know better.

    A true Philly cheesesteak, by the way, is made with ribeye which has been par-frozen and then run through a deli slicer. An unfortunate number of restaurants sell actual steak sandwiches with cheese as Philly cheesesteaks, but those are usually nasty.

    My wife insists, as a purist, that only Cheez Whiz goes on a Philly cheesesteak. However it is possible to get them, even at Pat’s, with something closer to real cheese on them, like sliced provolone. No one in their right mind would use anything involving soy milk.

  10. cook eat FRET
    April 11

    i balked at the soy milk too but i’m sure it got buried.

    still sounds amazingly unbelievable to me….

  11. Marc @ NoRecipes
    April 16

    I’m new to your blog but I’m loving it already. I was craving a sandwich earlier today but just couldn’t pinpoint what it was I wanted. After seeing this it’s clear to me. I have a pack of wagyu sitting in the freezer that’s coming out right now.

Comments are closed.