Philly Cheesesteak (According to a Local)

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the first thing about the authentic Philly cheesesteak experience.

My boyfriend, thankfully, is an expert in the topic having grown up not too far from downtown Philly in Wilmington, Delaware. And boy am I eager to learn.

He was insistent on a few things – namely that the beef must be sliced as thin as possible, and the cheese be gooey. Too much liquid would lead to soggy, undesirable buns. And the only rolls you are allowed to use are called Amoroso’s Rolls. Unable to get my hands on those rolls here in D.C., I settled for Portuguese rolls I found at the Whole Foods bakery. They have an airy, crisp crust and fluffy inside.

The exact response I received when I asked about a suitable substitute roll –

Well if it’s on an Amoroso Roll, you don’t need to worry about it getting soggy.

Alright. I get the point.

If you have a Taylor Gourmet in your vicinity, know that he ardently vouches for their Philly Cheesesteaks when he needs his fix.

To accompany the beef? Well, peppers are a no-no. Sautéed white onion, only. That, and no Cheeze Whiz – a misconception, apparently. Kraft Singles it is. And lots, lots of it.

But, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. So I added Worcestershire sauce and fresh garlic to this – I wanted their flavor profile here to up the savoriness factor.

My favorite part about this sandwich are the proportions. The sliced ribeye dominates, but the cheesy Kraft Singles glue the beef, onions and garlic together in a magical way. I couldn’t ask for a yummier, oozier sandwich.

How did he do, Philly cheesesteak aficionados? Is this as authentic as it gets? 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 2 sandwiches.

  • 2 hoagie rolls of your choosing
  • 3 / 4 pound boneless ribeye, sliced very thin
  • 1 / 2 medium onion, sliced thinly in half moons
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 Kraft American Single slices (yellow or white, but white is preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onions and sautee for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat until translucent. After 10 minutes, add the garlic and continue to sautee for an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the vegetables from the skillet and set aside for later. In the same pan, add the sliced beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Brown on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and almost all of the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Off the heat, add the Kraft Singles and the onion and garlic mixture, stirring until the Kraft Singles begin to melt into the beef and vegetables. This should only take 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Distribute the beef topping evenly on the rolls, smushing down to adhere the filling to the bread.
  5. Serve hot.

 

 

 

Overstuffed Olive & Pimento Grilled Cheese

I was big on dirty martinis from an early (note: legal) age.

This olive juice craze gave rise to many abandoned, juiceless jars of olives. I began to look for recipes to use up this massive surplus. In little time I was routinely making batches of – you guessed it – pimento cheese dip – that included the olives as well as the pimentos inside.

I have historically relied on Southern cooking tradition in assuming there are few acceptable ways to serve pimento cheese.

On crackers.

In a sandwich.

But even with its alleged limited applications, I would list pimento cheese as one of my top desert island foods. When you’d eat it with a spoon, that’s when you know.

The other reason to love pimento cheese so much? There’s barely any ingredients! So it’s an ideal whip-together-at-the-last-minute dish made of things you very likely have in your fridge right now.

So as a service to both you and I, I put my head to paper and came up with a list to get me ruminating on how I can justify eating more of it, for those occasions when I make it in alarmingly huge quantities.

  • Mixed into macaroni and cheese
  • Stuffed in enchiladas
  • Mixed into broccoli cheddar soup
  • Mixed into mashed potatoes
  • Topping fries
  • Mixed into a soufflé
  • Topping a burger
  • Mixed into risotto
  • On pizza
  • On a Philly cheesesteak
  • Mixed into cream cheese
  • Stuffed in chicken breasts
  • Mixed into grits
  • Rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried
  • Mixed into scrambled eggs
  • Mixed into pasta carbonara
  • Stuffed in homemade ravioli
  • Melted inside quesadillas

Let me know if you have, want to, or will give any of these a try. I’d love to hear what the results were!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

I like my grilled cheese to have much more “cheese” than “grilled.” You may see me dipping my sandwich into the cheese that oozes out from time to time. So if this recipe is a bit too cheesy for you, just halve the cheese quantities to make it a bit less melty and more manageable.

  • 2 slices white bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 oz. pimento-stuffed olives, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. On medium-low heat, heat one tablespoon butter in a skillet. Place one piece of the bread down, slathering with the entirety of the cheese mixture, being sure to cover the edges completely. Top with the second piece of bread, smush down, and cover the skillet with a lid to allow for the cheese to melt.
  2. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the sandwich, adding the additional tablespoon of butter to the pan. Cover and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the grilled cheese, cut diagonally, and serve oozing and hot.

Ramen on Empty Burger

We’ve watched food trends explode over the past few years. Ones that come to mind – the cupcake frenzy of 2008 singlehandedly instigated by Georgetown Cupcakes, toasts, matcha, kale and cronuts.

I’m a dupe for social media shareables of searing-hot raclette cheese poured over some carb-packed vehicle. Raclette NYC does this right – so right. That, and Momofuku’s Milk Bar, which is – for better or for worse – two blocks from where I live. They dole out the most addictive and sedating cookies and cakes a human being will ever taste.

But of all the food trends I’ve seen come and go, my biggest regret is that I didn’t hop on the ramen burger train when I had the chance.

I had the intent while working part-time in New York to head to the celebrated birthing place of ramen burgers – Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. This never happened.

With no imminent plans to head to New York, I made this at home. I know I’m very late to the party here. I’m like Europeans screening U.S. blockbusters – always lagging behind.

But even though I’m obsessed with food, I’ve embraced my indifference to food trends – & I’m fully aware I’m just as uncool as I always knew I was. 😉

This recipe is fluid – approach it as a good use-up-your-pantry & freezer opportunity. I had frozen ground pork and scallions that I incorporated into the patty mixture to mirror the ingredients you’ll find in a bowl of ramen. The mayonnaise sauce is made from staple Asian condiments I always have stocked on the door of my fridge.

And if you’re familiar with the TV show Bob’s Burgers, I hope you might have picked up on my tribute to his pun-tastic daily burger specials in this recipe title. If you haven’t watched it – do.

I like to think I approach food the same way Bob does – content to cook the same ho-dum thing over and over again. All the while, Jimmy Pesto’s restaurant across the street grasps at the flashiest dish that will bring customers in. Bob refuses to sell out and play that game. He knows good food will always be good food.

You should also know – Thrillist did their homework & compiled a list of every single burger special featured on the show. You’re welcome.

This one’s for you, Bob! You just keep doing you!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 ramen burger.

  • 1 package ramen noodles
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 3 oz. ground pork
  • 3 oz. ground beef (80% lean to 20% fat)
  • 1 slice American cheese
  • 2 oz. microgreens
  • 2 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon wasabi
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 / 2 scallion stalk, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, discarding the seasoning packet. Strain the noodles. Once cooled, mix with the beaten egg, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper. Set aside.
  2. Combine the mayonnaise, wasabi, Sriracha, chili oil & sesame oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine the pork, beef, scallion, and pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Form into a round, large golf-sized ball and set aside.
  4. Pull the caps off the mushrooms and slice thinly. Sautee on low heat with the soy sauce, a dash of olive oil, and pinches of sugar, salt and pepper. Once browned, set aside.
  5. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Take 1 / 2 of each of the noodle mixture and place them inside two large patty-sized mason jar lids inside the pan. Smush the noodles down to compact them. Cook the noodle buns for 4 minutes on medium heat until golden brown. At this point, remove the lids as the ramen buns should be able to retain their shape. Flip the buns over and finish cooking, about 4 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside for plating.
  6. Heat a tablespoon of flavorless oil, like canola oil or vegetable oil, in the bottom of a cast iron skillet. Once heated, place the meat in the pan, smashing with the underside of the spatula until it’s as about 1 1 / 2 to 2 inches thick. Cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, then flip and brown until cooked through for another 8 to 10 minutes. Place a slice of American cheese on top of the patty and cook for an additional minute until the cheese is completely melted.
  7. Put 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture on each of the buns, topping one bun with the burger patty, then the sautéed mushrooms and the microgreens. Serve hot.

Cheeseburger à la Big Mac

I have a love connection with Big Macs from McDonalds.

Who doesn’t.

I rarely let myself indulge because I tend to feel sick afterward. And that was even before I watched Super Size Me. But I still crave them all the time.

Which has motivated me to find a way to recreate the same mouth-watering, sans-additive version that can be made at home, where you know full-well what foods and ingredients you are ingesting.

The key is to up the fat and salt factor as much as possible. Warning. This is not healthy. I repeat. Not healthy.

There is a fun, trendy ingredient I included as well. Black garlic. It elevates the standard Big Mac sauce into smokey, ferment-y & slightly funky sauce.  I wouldn’t use in place of fresh garlic, but since I’m big into funky foods, I will be experimenting more with it. It certainly worked here.

A cast-iron pan works just as well as a griddle that may be used at Micky D’s, especially a nicely, seasoned worn-in one that you barely (or never) wash with detergent soap.

I did not know this was a thing at first.

Lodge, a great brand that I buy from, has a guide on how to properly maintain your cast iron cookware. It involves just gentle scrubbing, rinsing with water, drying immediately afterward and applying a bit of whatever neutral cooking oil you have on hand to prevent rusting and discoloration.

In my case, my pan has built up so many layers of savory flavor that the foods I cook on it taste more complex and developed. Like a fine cheese or wine, it just gets better with time (in this case, usage).

So go with me on this one – live your best life and pig out. At least it’s “healthy” because you’re not eating the McDonald’s, right?

Here is a picture of my sweet puppy, Ina. Her favorite toy is her squeaky cheeseburger. I bet she wishes she could have one of these cheeseburgers, but she’ll have to stick with her puppy chow instead. For now. 😊

Ina

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 1 1 / 2 lbs. ground beef, 80% lean to 20% fat ratio
  • Sesame seed hamburger buns
  • 1 / 8 head iceberg lettuce, sliced to a chiffonade
  • 8 slices American Kraft Singles
  • 1 / 2 small white onion, minced finely
  • 1 jar kosher dill pickle chips
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

F o r  t h e  S p e c i a l  S a u c e

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 teaspoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 pickle chips, minced finely
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pickle juice
  • 2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

  • 1 clove black garlic, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Prepare the beef patties. Take portions of the ground beef, rolling each to the size of a large golf ball and place on a plate.
  2. Chiffonade the iceberg lettuce very finely. Mince the white onion. Prepare to have 2 pickle chips per cheeseburger. Unwrap the American Kraft Singles and have on hand nearby.
  3. For the special sauce, combine all ingredients and set in the fridge to chill. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt (or hot sauce 😊) if desired.
  4. Heat the cast iron skillet with one tablespoon of butter. Make sure the pan is searing hot, but not so hot that the butter begins to burn.
  5. Place as many halved buns as possible in the skillet and allow to soak up the butter and brown, probably 2 – 3 minutes per batch, making sure they do not burn. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of butter as necessary until all are toasted. Once toasted, remove the buns from the skillet to another plate.
  6. To cook the patties, add yet another tablespoon of butter. Once heated through, place two rounds of beef in the skillet, and flatten with all the strength you have with a metal spatula. Sprinkle both with 1 /4 teaspoon (a dash or so) of salt. The irregular shape will not matter. Just make sure the patty is as flat as possible, while still being thick enough to hold together.
  7. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the burgers. Place the cheese on top of each. Allow the cheese to melt completely so it oozes over the edges, cooking for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Once cooked, set aside to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  8. Continue to cook the patties in batches until all are done, adding a tablespoon of butter to the pan before each new batch. There should be two cheese-covered patties per cheeseburger.
  9. To arrange the cheeseburgers, spread 1 tablespoon of the special sauce on the bottom of the bun. Place two pickle chips on top. Then add the first cheese-covered patty, and then the second. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of minced white onion, then a thin layer of iceberg lettuce. Top with another 1 tablespoon of the special sauce.
  10. Smush the cheeseburgers down a bit so that the cheese and special sauce have a chance to ooze together and mingle.
  11. Serve immediately. You know you can’t wait any longer!

Scandinavian Breakfast Bagel

If you’re like me, over the course of your life you’ll cycle between getting queasy at the thought of eating anything before 3 PM, and waking up so hungry you shun all life responsibilities (I mean you, office job) until you have eaten.

This recipe is for those of you in the latter camp.

Since I’m a sweet food hater, my go-to in the morning is a super-savory bagel that’s way too heavy on cream cheese and piled high with something like $17 worth of smoked salmon.

To give you a sense of “too heavy,” I have unabashedly piled on a solid three vertical inches of cream cheese on a bagel before.

Smoked salmon and fish in general, being a big diet staple in the Nordic region, tends to go best with the flavors that have been mingled in dishes together there, well, since forever. What’s the saying? What grows (and lives) together, goes together.

I think of the characteristic lemon, dill & red onion combo, pickled everything, seafood, eggs, gamey meats, shellfish and lots of dairy. All the best foods, all the time.

This is how much the Swedes like seafood: they sell fish roe from a tube. I, obviously, will end up buying this.

With this being a bagel and all, there’s not much cooking involved, but it doesn’t make the outcome any less delicious. Get yourself as good a quality of bagel as you can. Do rye bagels exist? If so, they’d be perfect here.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 sandwich.

  • 1 bagel, flavor of your choosing (I went for poppyseed, onion or a grainy whole wheat)
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 oz. high-quality Nordic pickled herring from a can
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (or double that amount, if you’d like 😉)
  • 1 / 4 medium red onion, minced
  • 1 / 4  lemon, squeezed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

If you want to up the fishiness factor, spread a tablespoon of salmon roe on the bagel in addition to the other ingredients, before you press the two halves together.

D I R E C T I O N S

1. Cut the bagel in half. Toast, if desired, to your preference.
2. To make the cream cheese spread, combine the cream cheese, whole grain mustard, horseradish, dill and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a small bowl.
3.  Layer half of the cream cheese on both sides of the bagel. On one half, place the smoked salmon, then the minced red onion.
4. On the other half, place the pickled herring, and top with a squeeze of lemon. Press sandwich together.