Monday, November 14, 2016
Gourmet Philly Cheesesteak!
No matter what the economic conditions are, Philadelphia taverns always seem to make money. Local Philadelphia area taverns have a loyal local clientele base that expects good dining value and easy to recognize food.
Philly tavern cuisine tends to be conservative and the local clientele tends to shy away from eccentric trendy food items from other parts of the country. However, if a trendy new item is created with a traditional Philadelphia food favorite, then the tavern customers will be more likely to give it a try. What this means is, a chef simply cannot go wrong by offering a fancy gourmet style cheesesteak creation at a Philadelphia area tavern!
I have worked in the Philadelphia area a few times during my career. During the fall of 2015, I worked at a busy working class tavern near Philadelphia before heading back out west. This was the first time I cooked in the Philly area since the early 1980's and a few things had changed. Tradition still ran thick at this tavern, but the clientele actually preferred fancier versions of classic Philadelphia food items. When we offered something like a fancy cheesesteak creation on the daily special board, it outsold nearly everything else on the menu.
When something sells well, go with it! Fancy cheesesteak creations turned out to be money making items at that tavern. Every other day, the cooks seemed to invent another winner that the clientele liked. We sold everything from Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak to Teriyaki Beef Cheesesteak and soon the customers were requesting these items even when they were not offered on a special menu.
Once the fancy cheesesteak ball starts rolling, it is hard to stop. Making new cheesesteak flavors that turn out good enough to sell is fairly easy to do. Basically, the key to success is to fancy up a cheesesteak with items or flavors that the conservative tavern customers will easily recognize. A Reuben style cheesesteak definitely fits the bill!
Russian Salad Dressing:
This recipe yields 1 about cup. (Enough for 4 Reuben Cheese Steaks)
Russian Dressing is similar to Thousand Island Salad Dressing. Both of these dressings were originally a mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup. As time moved on, more ingredients were added.
Step 1: Place 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
Add 1/4 cup of organic ketchup.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of Russian Mustard (or Dijon Mustard).
Add 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce.
Step 2: Add 2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced green bell pepper.
Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped pitted green olives.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of Hungarian Paprika.
Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
Add sea salt and white pepper to taste. (About 2 pinches)
Step 4: Mix the ingredients together.
Place the Russian Dressing in a container.
Chill the dressing for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
Reuben Cheese Steak:
This recipe yields 1 foot-long Philly Steak Sandwich.
Some butcher shops offer fresh thin shaved Knuckle Roast for cheesesteaks. Knuckle Roast is part of the beef shoulder section and it is the best choice.
Frozen shaved beef for cheesesteaks is also available at most grocery stores. Some brands are better than others. Try to select one that looks like thin shaved beef, not one that looks like pressed fine chopped scraps.
The best bread for a cheesesteak is a foot-long Hoagie Roll that has a slightly chewy texture. Italian sub rolls are good too. A crusty baguette is not a good choice.
Step 1: Heat a cast iron griddle or wide sauté pan over medium heat.
Coat the griddle with 1/2 teaspoon of blended olive oil.
Step 2: Place 1 slice of smoked bacon on the griddle.
Cook the bacon till it is crispy golden brown.
Place the bacon on a cutting board.
Chop the bacon into small pieces and set it aside.
Step 3: Wipe the griddle surface clean and leave the griddle on medium heat.
Coat the griddle with 2 teaspoons of blended olive.
Step 4: Place 1/4 cup of thin sliced onion strips on the griddle.
Place 4 or 5 dill pickle chips on the griddle.
Place 7 ounces of paper thin sliced Beef Knuckle Roast on the griddle.
Use 2 large spatulas to tear and shred the beef and vegetables into small pieces.
Grill and toss the beef till it is thoroughly browned.
Step 5: Add 1/2 cup of rinsed sauerkraut.
Add the reserved chopped bacon.
Toss the ingredients together, till the sauerkraut is hot.
Step 6: Mound the beef and vegetable mixture across the center of the griddle.
Place 4 thin slices of Swiss Cheese (Emmentaler Cheese) on the mound of beef and vegetables. (About 1 1/2 to 2 ounces)
Step 7: Pour 1/4 cup of water over the cheesesteak mound.
Allow the water to steam and completely evaporate.
*The steam will melt the cheese.
Briefly toss the ingredients together, so the melted cheese coats most of the beef.
Step 8: Cut one side of a 12" long Hoagie Roll (or sub roll). (Do not cut all the way through the bread!)
Split the Hoagie Roll open.
Use a large spatula to mound the cheesesteak mixture on the open Hoagie Roll.
Step 9: Pour a generous amount of Russian Salad Dressing on the cheesesteak.
Cut the cheesesteak in half and place it on a plate.
Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs and pickles of your choice.
Voila! A Gourmet Philly Cheesesteak with a classic Reuben flavor!