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.

 

 

 

Buffa-nero Chicken Nuggets with Lemon-Lime Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce

I have this running joke that I’m a hot sauce addict.

Thank God for science, because we can prove that eating the capsaicin in chili peppers results in the release of endorphins, giving hot sauce an addictive quality. So I guess it isn’t so much a joke as an actual fact.

But I’m living in the right time and place. Because nowadays, there’s more hot sauces to choose from than we know what to do with. I love discovering new brands in the grocery store, because each one has their own flavor profile and affinity to certain foods that I can tease out over time.

More often than not, I’ve found that hot sauces tend to fall into one of these buckets.

  • Cayenne Pepper-Based Hot Sauces
  • Green Hot Sauces (Jalapeno, Serrano, Poblano)
  • Very Hot Hot Sauces (Ghost Pepper, Scotch Bonnet, Habanero)
  • Smoky Hot Sauces (Chipotle)
  • Buffalo Wing Hot Sauces
  • Authentic Asian Hot Sauces
  • Authentic Mexican Hot Sauces

At any given time, you will find somewhere between fifteen and twenty hot sauce bottles on the door of my fridge.  There is a systematic approach to this madness. Some of the hot sauces are sparingly reserved for select foods – while others can go on just about anything.

Here’s a look into the best food & hot sauce combinations I’ve pinpointed in over a quarter lifetime of trial and error. Most are pretty obvious, but some are unexpectedly perfect when you take that bite. And because some of the hot sauces I’d like to call out by name are hard to come by – i.e. bought at an airport in Mexico, I’m just including the easy-to-find varieties you can buy almost anywhere.

  • Tabasco (Original) – Runny Eggs, Burritos, Raw Seafood, Potato Salad, Clam Chowder
  • Tabasco (Chipotle) – Steak, Chicken, Mixed Kebabs, Ribs, Rice Bowls, Roasted Nuts
  • Tabasco (Jalapeno) – Beans, Lentils, Bruschetta, Guacamole
  • Tabasco (Scorpion) – Ceviche, Honey-Mustard Sauce, Hearty Seafood, Tamales, Polenta, Onion Dip, Scotch Eggs
  • Crystal – Macaroni & Cheese, Fried Chicken, Hashbrowns, Sausages, Biscuits, Pot Pies, Gratins, Grits
  • Texas Pete’s (Original) – Mashed Potatoes, Pot Roast, Jambalaya
  • Cholula (Original) – Scrambled Eggs, French Fries, Grilled & Roasted Vegetables, BLTs, Tomato Soup
  • Cholula (Green Pepper) – Lamb, Hot Dogs, Cheeseburgers, Corn Salad, Avocados
  • Cholula (Chili Garlic) – Fried Rice, Chili, Roasted Chicken, In Salad Dressings, Hummus, Popcorn, Chicken Tenders
  • Sriracha – Salads, Soups, Pizza, Sushi, Hard Boiled Eggs, Slaws, Mixed into Ranch Dressing, Mixed into Ketchup
  • Tapatio – Mixed into Pico de Gallo, Enchiladas, Tacos
  • Valentina – Cocktails, Mixed into Queso, Refried Beans, Breakfast Burritos
  • Frank’s RedHot (Wings Sauce) – Buffalo Chicken Dip, Cobb Salad, Chicken-Fried Steak, Pasta Salad

What are some of your must-have combinations? Any hot sauces you swear by? If it’s as good as you say it is, I guess you’re giving me the go ahead to buy just one more bottle. Right?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes approximately 40 nuggets.

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups habanero hot sauce of your choosing
  • 1 habanero, minced
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 24 oz. vegetable or canola oil

F o r  t h e  L e m o n – L i m e  G o r g o n z o l a  D i p p i n g  S a u c e

  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 1 lime, juiced & zested
  • 4 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the chicken cubes in the buttermilk and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the dredge ingredients – the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter, and combine it with the hot sauce and minced habanero. Set aside.
  4. Combine the dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl, and allow to sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  5. To dredge the nuggets, remove the chicken from the buttermilk, roll in the flour, put back in the buttermilk and coat, and then roll in the flour a second time. Repeat for all chicken cubes, placing them in one layer on a large clean plate.
  6. In the meantime, heat the oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure there is about an inch of oil in the skillet, adding more if needed. Heat until you can feel the heat rising off the oil. To test if the oil is ready, put a pinch of flour into the hot oil and see if it begins to bubble and sizzle. If it’s too hot or too cool, adjust the heat.
  7. Once the oil is ready, place the nuggets in the oil with tongs, being sure not to crowd the meat. When you see the chicken is golden brown on the underside, flip the chicken to the other side to finish frying. Remove the cooked chicken and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
  8. Once all the chicken nuggets are cooked, toss them in a large bowl with the hot sauce mixture until all nuggets are completely coated with the sauce.
  9. Serve immediately alongside the dipping sauce.

Garlicky Spinach, Crab & Artichoke Dip

Your classic all-American dips, the ones you’ll see at any football party – onion, buffalo chicken, bean & cheese, bacon, ranch, spinach-artichoke, crab-artichoke – have been a socially acceptable excuse to eat what is typically just a hot, cheesy mayonnaise mixture. One of the many reasons I love the country we live in.

The spinach-artichoke or crab-artichoke dip you’ll find in restaurants everywhere is no exception. We inhale chipfuls of it under the guise of eating vegetables.

Sometimes I’ll make a skillet of dip for dinner. What else do you need? I get so full on it, the main course ends up being out of the question anyway.

And what’s the deal with the imitation crab meat? Why do I love it so much? I knew it was made of pollock, but I learned it’s essentially a manufactured paste formed into sticks and dyed red to mimic the appearance of those nice, long pieces of crab meat you’ll pull out of crab legs. I do have a serious love for processed meats, so it makes sense I’d have a love for processed seafood.

Imitation crab meat may imitate too well, because I prefer it over actual crab in this recipe. It makes it much more of a dip you would’ve eaten while you grew up. Plus, it’s cheaper.

So much garlic is required to help this dish reach its potential. I’m talking double the amount of garlic you think you’d need. Not a whole bulb, but a whopping eight to ten cloves. You’ll be surprised how the garlic still manages to linger in the background with all the other flavors in here.

The other musts? Citrus and Old Bay seasoning.

I love lemon, but I find lime doesn’t get as much action in savory cooking that isn’t Tex Mex, and it’s a match made in heaven with any seafood. So I added the juice and the zest of both in here.

And do I need to explain why I’m adding Old Bay? Because this is a crab dip, dummy! 😊

What is the best chip for this dip? That’s the million dollar question. But I think if this question were posed in an episode of Family Feud, pita chips would win out. It’s just the classic go-to for accompanying spinach artichoke dip – probably since cavemen roamed the earth.

Homemade pita chips are a cut above the store-bought pita chip brands. Here I bought a stack of packaged pita bread, cut the rounds into eights like a pizza, brushed the triangles with olive oil, and sprinkled them with salt & pepper. Then just broil until crisped.

Don’t worry about getting too full on this – if you’re not having a main course, that means you can eat the entire skillet for dinner! And no one can judge you for it. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  D i p

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 1 / 2 cup parm reg, shredded
  • 8 – 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 8 oz. quartered artichokes, in oil or water
  • 6 sticks imitation crab meat, chopped roughly
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1 / 4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

F o r  t h e  P i t a  C h i p s

  • 1 package pita bread
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *450 (you will later lower the temperature to *375).
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, and add the frozen spinach, artichokes, garlic, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee on medium-low heat for about five minutes.
  3. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, parm reg, imitation crab meat, juice and zest of one lemon and one lime, fresh parsley, Old Bay seasoning, a heavy pinch of salt and a heavy pinch of pepper. Combine & set aside.
  4. Cut the pita bread into eighths. Lay the triangles on a sheet pan, brushing both sides with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Broil in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Reset the temperature on the oven from *450 to *375.
  6. After five minutes of sautéing the vegetables, remove the mixture from the heat, adding it to the mayonnaise mixture. Combine.
  7. Pour the dip into a medium-sized skillet, evening out the surface. Put the dip in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until the dip is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Drizzle with olive oil for garnish. Serve alongside the pita chips.

Pizza Carbonara

You know food that tastes exactly like some other food?

I think of the chip aisle in the grocery store. The chip flavors I’m seeing are becoming simultaneously more preposterous and totally relevant by the day. My favorites at the moment that I would like to mention by name include Lay’s Dill Pickle Potato Chips and Flamin’ Hot Potato Chips.

But let’s take a look back, with a debt of gratitude to a food reporter over at Springfield, Massachusetts’ The Republican who tasked himself with the enviable job of ranking Lay’s promotional test flavors last year. Some of my favorites I was delighted to see were Bacon Mac & Cheese, Cappuccino, New York Reuben and Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese. Nice.

I would have paid some serious money to sit in those focus groups.

Just like Lay’s claimed to replicate the flavor of these foods, I 100% money back guarantee this pizza will taste exactly like pasta carbonara. Which isn’t too much of a stretch, because you’ll just replacing one starch with another. But the delivery method is undeniably irresistible.

Plus, this pizza covers all the primary food groups.

Carb vehicle? Check.

Cheese? Check.

More cheese? Check.

Garlic? Of course.

Egg yolks? Check.

Bacon? Check.

Butter? Don’t worry, we’ve sneaked some in there as well. Check.

I heard a comment mid-bite that this would be a great breakfast pizza, and the thought had never occurred to me. I might be giving an eggs benedict pizza a try – too far out of left field? I’ll keep brainstorming. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 large pizza.

  • Pizza dough, recipe below
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced 1 / 4 inch thick
  • 4 oz. Parmigiana Reggiano, shaved
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 strips cooked bacon, chopped roughly
  • 1 / 4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter or truffle butter

F o r  t h e  D o u g h

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a pizza baking sheet.
  9. Sautee the garlic in the olive oil for 4 to 5 minutes on medium heat, until the oil is infused with the garlic flavor, being careful not to burn the garlic. Off the heat, add the butter or truffle butter.
  10. With a brush, coat the pizza dough with a thin layer of the oil, being sure to cover the edges. Next, add the sliced mozzarella placing pieces evenly across the dough. Then add a layer of chopped bacon.
  11. Put the pizza in the oven, baking for about 15 minutes, until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling hot.
  12. Remove the pizza from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes. Garnish the entire pie with the shaved parm reg and the black peppercorns. Place the egg yolks evenly across the pizza, and serve immediately.

Smoky Jalapeno Cheddar Soup

Another rainy day, another bowl of bubbling hot spicy soup. There’s not much else to do when it’s pouring out, and who doesn’t love an excuse to stay at home and cook all day?

I bought too many jalapenos and wanted to find a way to make them the centerpiece of a soup. So here we are – with jalapeno two ways – fresh and smoked.

Smoked jalapenos, if you’re not already familiar, are called chipotle peppers. You can find them canned in their sauce in any grocery store.

Chipotle, as it so happens, is also the namesake of my favorite fast food restaurant. As in, “If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you eat?” – my answer would be Chipotle.  No really – I ate Chipotle 4 to 5 days a week in high school for two years.

The flavor of chipotle is smoky, incredibly hot, and very addictive. I keep bags of it frozen in my freezer. Throw it in anything Tex-Mex – it’s like the Tex-Mex equivalent of barbecue sauce, incredibly versatile.

Your start to this soup is a roux, much like any chowder. It creates a thicker, stewy feel to the soup. I bet chicken and beans would be great in here as well if you wanted to bulk it up a bit, but I’m happiest when I get the full flavor of the cheese and the spices.

What’s your favorite go-to rainy day soup?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 / 3 quart whole milk
  • 1 1 / 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 / 2 small onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper sauce (from the can)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, add the flour, stirring for a couple minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the milk, whisking until there’s no visible clumps of flour. Continue to cook on medium heat until it thickens and the mixture coats a spoon.
  2. Add the onion, jalapenos, garlic, chipotle peppers, chipotle pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Cook on simmer for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the cheese, and stir until completely incorporated. Serve, garnishing with additional jalapeno slices and a drizzle of extra chipotle pepper sauce, if desired.

Brie Wheel Fondue with Wacky Dippables

Who doesn’t remember their first trip to The Melting Pot?

We ordered the traditional fondue with the garlic & white wine and a separate pot with Wisconsin cheddar & beer. I remember undercooking the beef, on purpose, by an unsafe margin. That, and being so full that I felt sick for the next three days.

I’m going to eat like a goldfish if you put a pot of boiling cheese in front of me – I will eat until I explode.

But all that aside, I loved it. I recognize that as an American food chain, the dippers are going to have to appeal to just about everyone. Enter the beef, chicken, shrimp, slices of bread, pasta, crackers, broccoli, asparagus and mushrooms. And don’t forget – you can get the ahi tuna and lobster platter for an extra $7.50!

This is dandy for a family with picky eaters, and me for that matter – but I wanted to do something unconventional here. Which was essentially an exercise in me imagining all the foods I want to, but haven’t yet smothered in cheese.

The dippers I made here are the weird cousins of the family, but each has an element that balances out the heaviness of the cheese – the char of the peppers, sharpness of the pickled shallots, crunch of the ramen noodles, acidic tang from the chips, and the hot dogs and corned beef are there because… I mean, doesn’t that sound good?

And the cheddar-fried green tomatoes are just overkill, and I know it.

A wheel of brie (or in this case, cube) is the perfect, money-saving solution for those of us who are fondue pot-less – because it comes in its own pot!

I don’t know about you, but I love wheels of cheese. I’m looking into serving pasta like they do at Cacio e Pepe in New York, where they mix the oozy pasta inside a cheese wheel.

I’d also wear a cheese wheel as a hat.

I hope you have a “fun”-due time making this – now eat up! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S  &  D I R E C T I O N S

Serves 2 – 4 as an hors d’oeuvre or light dinner.

F o r  t h e  F o n d u e

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 wheel brie
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut into the brie wheel (or cube) around the edges, leaving the outside rind and being sure you don’t cut through the bottom of the wheel (this will ensure the melted cheese doesn’t escape).
  2. With a spoon, remove the cheese and put into a microwave-safe bowl, being sure to discard the top of the rind. This will not melt well. Fold in the minced garlic.
  3. Heat the cheese in the microwave for 1 minute and thirty seconds on high heat, immediately pouring the cheese into the brie mold. Plate the fondue wheel in the center of a large platter, circling with the dippers.
  4. Serve while the cheese is bubbling hot!

F o r  t h e  W a c k y  D i p p a b l e s

  • Charred Shishito Peppers, recipe below
  • Pickled Shallots, recipe below
  • Cheddar-Fried Green Tomatoes, recipe below
  • Corned beef, cubed
  • Cooked hot dogs, cut into pieces
  • Uncooked ramen noodles, broken into chunks
  • Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips, recipe below

F o r  t h e  C h a r r e d  S h i s h i t o  P e p p e r s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 bunch Shishito peppers

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the Shishito peppers in a very hot skillet. Allow peppers to char, turning a few times in the pan. The entire process should take 5 to 7 minutes.

F o r  t h e  P i c k l e d  S h a l l o t s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 10 small shallots
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Peel the skins of the shallots, removing the ends. Cut the shallots in half and put in a bowl.
  2. Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Pour over the shallots, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

F o r  t h e  C h e d d a r – F r i e d  G r e e n  T o m a t o e s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large green heirloom tomato
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 / 4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper and put in a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  2. Shred the cheese and put in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the tomato. Set aside.
  4. In a line, dip the tomatoes in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the cheese mixture, being sure to press down the cheese so it sticks to the tomato on both sides.
  5. Add olive oil to a non-stick pan, and sautee the cheesy tomatoes on medium heat until the cheese begins to brown. With a metal spatula, flip the tomato, letting the cheese brown on the other side.
  6. Remove from the pan and cut each tomato in half.

F o r  t h e  S a l t  &  V i n e g a r  P o t a t o  C h i p s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large Yukon gold potato
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 4 cups canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Slice the potato with a mandoline, placing the slices in a large bowl with the vinegar. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the canola or vegetable oil in a large shallow pan. To test the oil, put a slice of the potato in the oil. When it bubbles and starts to fry, add the rest of the potato slices.
  3. Fry on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the chips are golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels, and sprinkle immediately with salt.