Philly Cheese Steak. The thought alone makes me salivate as this beefy/cheesy sandwich is one of my top favorites. A sandwich with perfectly cooked tender beef coupled with a delicious cheese that coats the mouth and adds that je ne sai quai.
The beef of choice for a Philly is the rib eye, but in todays recipe I’ll show you how to make an excellent cheesesteak using whatever cut of beef you can get your hands on. The trick to maximum tenderness is in the preparation. We start by slicing our partially frozen beef against the grain very thinly. If you happen to have a meat slicer now would be a good time to use it. If you don’t a sharp knife and a skillful hand will work just fine. Just remember, the thinner the better. Once the beef has been sliced I personally like to chop it up into small pieces. This is optional but I find that it delivers a better mouth feel and increases tenderness, Finally we will be velveting our beef. Velveting your meat lock in the juices and really tenderizes the meat. This is the same technique used by Chinese restaurants to get their cheaper cuts of beef to taste like a super tender premium cut. This is a fairly straight forward process that only requires baking soda, water, and about 8 minutes. There is only 1 rule when it comes to velveting your beef, DON’T OVER DO THE BAKING SODA!!! More is not better in this circumstance so stick to the recipe. If you find that the beef is not as tender as you like it you can let it sit in the solution a little longer (thicker cuts require a little more time).
You can’t have a cheesesteak without the cheese and the type of cheese is completely up to you. Cheeze Whiz is a popular choice of cheese to use and if you choose to use cheeze whiz you can omit this entire section about cheese preparation. Personally I’m not a big fan of cheeze whiz but I really do like the idea of what it does for a cheese steak. So what we are going to do is create a “Cheeze Whiz” type of sauce using provolone cheese. This is actually quite easy and the secret ingredient is something called sodium citrate.
Sodium citrate is a white powder that acts as an emulsion stabilizer. When added to cheese it keeps the fats and proteins bound together so you end up with a beautiful cheese sauce and not a grainy cheesy mess. I generally add 1 cup of liquid, 1 teaspoon of sodium citrate, and 1 pound of cheese (it doesn’t matter what variety of cheese you use). Try to stay away from pre shredded cheese with a corn starch coating. This seems to mess with the process.
Wit or wit-out? That is the question. Thankfully you get to decide. I prefer onions on my cheesesteak so I guess I’m in the “wit” group. I’ve seen this served with bell peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers, pickled vegetables, spinach, you name it.
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Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich
- Begin by thinly slicing your semi-frozen beef against the grain
- once sliced, chop all of your beef with a sharp knife
- Dissolve the baking soda into a cup of water and pour solution over the beef
- Let it marinate for 8 minutes
- Rinse baking soda solution off of beef and pat dry.
- in a skillet with a little oil begin to sautee your diced onion. As soon as it starts to take on a little color add the chopped/thinly sliced beef and cook on a medium/high heat till browned. Add the salt and pepper and remove from heat.
For the Cheese
- Grate your cheese
- In a pot add the milk and the sodium citrate. Bring to a simmer stirring constantly.
- Add the grated cheese and continue stirring. If your cheese doesn't look like it's turning into a sauce within 5 minutes add a little more sodium citrate (1/4 tsp at a time)
- Once your cheese sauce has been made remove from the heat and set to the side. This will thicken as it cools. To thin it back out just place back on the heat.
To assemble the sandwich
- Warm your bun in the oven
- Spread a layer of cheese sauce on your bun, top with lots of beef/onion mix, then drizzle more cheese over the top.
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