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.

Diner-Style Deviled Ham Hash

In this next post of my “no-no” mystery meat recipe series, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite canned meats – Underwood Deviled Ham.

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If you haven’t had it already, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Not for me of course – I loved it from day one. But it’s as American as red, white and blue. If you didn’t eat it growing up, my gut tells me you might – with an emphasis on the word might – not like trying it for the first time as an adult.

My boyfriend wasn’t a fan. He said he wouldn’t feed it to the dog.

You have to give this a try. For anyone who is familiar with this delectable max-processed delicacy, or still reading even after this cautious introduction, you’ll soon realize this is the breakfast hash that was missing in your life.

Deviled ham has a similar flavor to Spam, or any sodium-heavy canned meat product you’ll find in the grocery store. I used to eat it straight from the can. The most typical way to serve it is between two slices of mayo-smeared white bread topped with iceberg lettuce – right where it belongs.

I’ll usually keep a few cans of Hormel’s Corned Beef Hash in my pantry. This recipe is a home-cooked variation of the canned hash, using fresh potatoes and swapping out the corned beef for the deviled ham.

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The ham and potatoes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Alongside a couple of sunny side up eggs, this is just what the doctor ordered when you’re craving a greasy, filling diner-style breakfast.

I went to town and back on this. I probably met my sodium quota for the month. I don’t know about you – but if this hash gives me yet another excuse to eat deviled ham, my GP and I are completely on board with that.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 can Underwood Deviled Ham
  • 1 / 3 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onion, potato, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, cooking on medium heat until the potatoes are near golden and crisp and the onions are near translucent.
  2. Once the hash is almost done, add the deviled ham. Continue to cook the hash so the ham has a chance to crisp up.
  3. Plate the hash and serve hot, with a couple of sunny side up eggs and hot sauce, if desired.

 

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.

Hot Dogs with Horseradish & Half Sour Slaw

We’ve been opting to cook outside the kitchen and grill on the roof of my apartment complex – and much more lately with the end of summer calling.

Hot dogs have always been my go-to beloved grilling meat. To be specific, Oscar Meier Weiners. This is not a time to be health-conscious folks – it’s a time to enjoy yourself and savor that sulfite-packed meat product you know you want so badly.

Hot dogs are typically not too filling either, so you can fit lots of other grilled meats in your belly. And don’t forget all the best side dishes – my favorites are the classic potato salad, pasta salad and corn on the cob.

(For a spicy, delicious twist on potato salad, try Hankerings’ Spicy Dill Pickle Potato Salad.)

Chicago-style hot dogs throw a speared pickle on top, along with the other musts: sweet relish, white onion, tomatoes, celery salt and peppers.

Now I love the pickle spear concept – I really do. But it can be unwieldy and makes the bun a bit soggy. A slaw creates a much more approachable bite to get through. It’s also a refreshing, cold counterpoint to the grilled dog.

This slaw pulls together the mustard and pickle elements, and the dash of mayo brings yummy richness to the sauce. Horseradish adds some heat. The cabbage does its job adding a much-needed crunch factor. It’s also a super-cinch to make, and flexible depending on the flavors you’d like to amplify, or add.

One steadfast recommendation is to seek out half sour pickles, which can usually be found at your local deli or the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Their flavor is so underrated and incredibly delicious in this recipe.

If you’re a pickle fanatic like me, you’ll enjoy this topping more than you can imagine – and if you have extra, it’d be perfect to add to burgers. Or in my case, great for sneaking bites of on its own!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  H o t  D o g s

  • 2 Oscar Meier Weiner hot dogs
  • 2 hot dog buns (If you can find them, brioche hot dog buns are delicious)

F o r  t h e  H o r s e r a d i s h  &  H a l f – S o u r  S l a w

  • 1 large half-sour pickle, cut into one inch shreds
  • 1 / 3 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. To make the slaw, combine all the slaw ingredients and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the mixture is chilled through.
  2. Turn on the grill, setting it to your preferred temperature.
  3. Slice shallow slits down the hot dogs to allow the more of the surface of hot dog to get crispy.
  4. Put the hot dogs on the grill, cooking until the casing is blistered and lightly blackened. Toast the buns as well, if preferred.
  5. Put the hot dogs in the buns, topping each hot dog with half the slaw. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired. Serve immediately.

Hankerings’ (Not-So-Secret) Ranch Dressing Recipe

If someone were to ask me, “what’s the best salad dressing you ever had?” – I’d actually have an answer for them.

I was sitting at a local bar in New Jersey’s Long Beach Island called the Black Whale, where I was told that I “had to order the house salad.”

For reasons I’m sure you can understand, I had my doubts that this salad would be any good.

The house salad ended up being a house salad. But the house-made ranch dressing they served with it blew my mind.  It came in a glass bottle that the bartenders kept within arm’s reach in the ice machine.

I should’ve known then – when they gave me enough ranch dressing to last a family of four six months – that there was a reason they bring an entire carafe of dressing for a small plate of leaves. Within a matter of minutes, the salad heap was dwindling, but I was still pouring.

I couldn’t have enough of this dressing.

I asked the waitress to see if the chef could do me a huge solid and share the recipe with me.

She came back without a recipe, letting me know the secret was a whole lot of garlic – but not just one type of garlic. There’s fresh and roasted garlic.

So after some drawn-out, nitpicky trial and error, I have created a dressing that tastes nearly identical to what I had at the Black Whale. And I’m very happy about it.

As a self-proclaimed neutral with a capital “N” on salads, it doesn’t mean I can’t still love the dressing we pour over them.

I’ll be posting several more salad dressing recipes in the coming weeks – be sure to check back & see what new concoctions I’ve managed to whip up. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 1 / 2 pints.

  • 1 / 2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 / 3 cup whole milk
  • 1 / 4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 garlic bulb + 2 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *400.
  2. Cut the garlic bulb in half, rub with olive oil, and place in foil on a sheet pan or the oven rack. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, until the garlic flesh is browned but not burnt.
  3. Once cooled, squeeze out the garlic cloves from half the bulb, discarding the skins. Since you already put in all the work, save the remaining half of the roasted garlic.
  4. Put the roasted garlic and all the remaining ingredients in a food processor, whirring until all the herbs & garlic cloves are completely emulsified.
  5. Set in the fridge for as long as possible so the flavors can mingle with each other. The dressing will last 7 to 10 days in the fridge.