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.