One of America’s Favorites – Cheesesteak Sandwich

January 11, 2021 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A cheesesteak sandwich with Cheez Whiz

A cheesesteak (also known as a Philadelphia cheesesteak, Philly cheesesteak, cheesesteak sandwich, cheese steak, or steak and cheese) is a sandwich made from thinly sliced pieces of beefsteak and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll. A popular regional fast food, it has its roots in the U.S. city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The cheesesteak was developed in the early 20th century “by combining frizzled beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread”, according to a 1987 exhibition catalog published by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930s. The exact story behind its creation is debated, but in some accounts, Pat and Harry Olivieri originally owned a hot dog stand, and on one occasion, decided to make a new sandwich using chopped beef and grilled onions. While Pat was eating the sandwich, a cab driver stopped by and was interested in it, so he requested one for himself. After eating it, the cab driver suggested that Olivieri quit making hot dogs and instead focus on the new sandwich. They began selling this variation of steak sandwiches at their hot dog stand near South Philadelphia’s Italian Market. They became so popular that Pat opened up his own restaurant which still operates today as Pat’s King of Steaks. The sandwich was originally prepared without cheese; Olivieri said provolone cheese was first added by Joe “Cocky Joe” Lorenza, a manager at the Ridge Avenue location.

Cheesesteaks have become popular at restaurants and food carts throughout the city with many locations being independently owned, family-run businesses. Variations of cheesesteaks are now common in several fast food chains. Versions of the sandwich can also be found at high-end restaurants. Many establishments outside of Philadelphia refer to the sandwich as a “Philly cheesesteak”.

Description
Meat

A cheesesteak from Pat’s King of Steaks with Cheez Whiz and onions

The meat traditionally used is thinly sliced rib-eye or top round, although other cuts of beef are also used. On a lightly oiled griddle at medium temperature, the steak slices are quickly browned and then scrambled into smaller pieces with a flat spatula. Slices of cheese are then placed over the meat, letting it melt, and then the roll is placed on top of the cheese. The mixture is then scooped up with a spatula and pressed into the roll, which is then cut in half.

Common additions include sautéed onions, ketchup, hot sauce, salt, and black pepper.

Bread

In Philadelphia, cheesesteaks are invariably served on hoagie rolls. Among several brands, perhaps the most famous are Amoroso rolls; these rolls are long, soft, and slightly salted. One source writes that “a proper cheesesteak consists of provolone or Cheez Whiz slathered on an Amoroso roll and stuffed with thinly shaved grilled meat,” while a reader’s letter to an Indianapolis magazine, lamenting the unavailability of good cheesesteaks, wrote that “the mention of the Amoroso roll brought tears to my eyes.” After commenting on the debates over types of cheese and “chopped steak or sliced”, Risk and Insurance magazine declared “The only thing nearly everybody can agree on is that it all has to be piled onto a fresh, locally baked Amoroso roll.”

Cheese

American cheese, Cheez Whiz, and provolone are the most commonly used cheeses or cheese products put on to the Philly cheesesteak.

White American cheese, along with provolone cheese, are the favorites due to their mild flavor and medium consistency. Some establishments melt the American cheese to achieve the creamy consistency, while others place slices over the meat, letting them melt slightly under the heat. Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan says “Provolone is for aficionados, extra-sharp for the most discriminating among them.” Geno’s owner, Joey Vento, said, “We always recommend the provolone. That’s the real cheese.”

Cheez Whiz, first marketed in 1952, was not yet available for the original 1930 version, but has spread in popularity. A 1986 New York Times article called Cheez Whiz “the sine qua non of cheesesteak connoisseurs.” In a 1985 interview, Pat Olivieri’s nephew Frank Olivieri said that he uses “the processed cheese spread familiar to millions of parents who prize speed and ease in fixing the children’s lunch for the same reason, because it is fast.” Cheez Whiz is “overwhelmingly the favorite” at Pat’s, outselling runner-up American by a ratio of eight or ten to one, while Geno’s claims to go through eight to ten cases of Cheez Whiz a day.

In 2003, while running for President of the United States, John Kerry made what was considered a major faux pas when campaigning in Philadelphia and went to Pat’s King of Steaks and ordered a cheesesteak with Swiss.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Chicken Fried Steak

August 26, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Chicken fried steak smothered in cream gravy with sides of mashed potatoes, fried okra and a dinner roll.

Chicken fried steak, also known as country-fried steak, is an American breaded cutlet dish consisting of a piece of beefsteak (tenderized cube steak) coated with seasoned flour and pan-fried. It is sometimes associated with the Southern cuisine of the United States. It can also be made from the breast of a chicken, hence “Chicken” and it can be different from country fried steak.

Chicken fried steak resembles the Austrian dish wiener schnitzel and the Italian–South American dish milanesa, which is a tenderized veal or pork cutlet, coated with flour, eggs, chicken stock cube, and bread crumbs, and then fried. It is also similar to the recipe for Scottish collops.

The precise origins of the dish are unclear, but many sources attribute its development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the 19th century, who brought recipes for wiener schnitzel from Europe to the USA. Lamesa, the seat of Dawson County on the Texas South Plains, claims to be the birthplace of chicken fried steak, and hosts an annual celebration accordingly.

The Virginia Housewife, published in 1838 by Mary Randolph, has a recipe for veal cutlets that is one of the earliest recipes for a food like chicken fried steak. The recipe for what we now know as chicken fried steak was included in many regional cookbooks by the late 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest attestation of the term “chicken-fried steak” is from a restaurant advertisement in the 19 June 1914 edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper.

A 1943 American cookbook recipe for wiener schnitzel includes a white salt and pepper cream gravy.

Chicken fried steak is among numerous popular dishes which make up the official state meal of Oklahoma, added to the list in 1988.

Chicken fried steak is prepared by taking a thin cut of beefsteak and tenderizing it by pounding, cubing, or forking. It is then immersed in egg batter and dredged in flour to which salt, pepper, and often other seasonings have been added (called breading). Chicken fried steak is typically deep-fried and served with a cream gravy, while country fried steak is typically fried in a skillet and served with a brown gravy. The frying medium has traditionally been shortening, but butter and lard have sometimes been used instead. Health concerns have led many cooks to replace the shortening with vegetable oil.

Chicken fried steak with chipotle cream gravy

When there are problems with the breading separating from the meat while cooking, it can be very useful to first dredge the meat in the flour mixture, then the egg, and then the flour mixture again, and then let it sit for a half hour or more before cooking.

The cuts of steak used for chicken fried steak are usually the less expensive, less desirable ones, such as cube steak, chuck, round steak, and occasionally flank steak. The method may be used for chopped or ground beef, but it is not called chicken fried steak. Chicken fried steak is usually served for lunch or dinner topped with cream gravy and with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and biscuits or Texas toast served on the side. In the Midwest, it is also common to serve chicken fried steak for breakfast, along with toast and hash browns.

The steak can be served on a hamburger bun with cream gravy as a “chicken fried steak sandwich”. It can also be cubed and stuffed in a baked potato with the gravy and cheese.

Alternatively, the tenderized steak may be cut into strips, breaded, deep fried, and served for breakfast with eggs and toast or for other meals in a basket with fries and cream gravy. Either is then known as “finger steaks”.

Typically, in Texas and surrounding states, chicken fried steak is fried in a thick layer of oil in a pan and served with traditional peppered milk gravy.

Regionally, chicken fried steak may be known as country fried steak. While some recipes and restaurants will use a traditional peppered milk gravy on country fried steak, a variant using a brown, beef stock based gravy with onions is common, and is the primary difference between the two dishes in regions where both are served.

 

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