Sometimes when I travel, everything goes so smoothly that it feels like a miracle of modern transportation. Other times, everything goes so horribly wrong that I have to cry and comfort myself with an airport cheesesteak, which makes me cry even more because mine at home are so much better. Such was the case recently. So I decided to share my finely honed and utterly simple cheesesteak recipe with all of you.
The original cheesesteak, as served in the city of brotherly love, does NOT have sauce on it. But I grew up about an hour outside of Philly, where the height of cheesesteak-ness was found at the Brass Rail, which did have sauce. One of my favorite childhood moments was when we would all pile into the station wagon, get Brass Rail to go, and then head down to the Little Lehigh Parkway for a summer picnic. In fact, a Brass Rail steak sandwich was one of the last things my mother ate before she died (I bought it for her because I knew she would eat it). The Brass Rail sauce is a notoriously secret recipe in these parts, but I have deconstructed it and figured it out. So, I will share both my cheesesteak and sauce recipes with you.
Genuine Philadelphia Cheesesteak (Healthy and Organic)
Yields 4 cheesesteaks
1 pound chip steak (this is steak that is sliced super-thin), beef or buffalo (I prefer buffalo!)
4 slices American cheese
Salt to taste
4 soft and squishy whole grain/whole wheat buns
Sliced sour dill pickles!
1. Sauté the chip steak in the olive oil in a pan until it’s all well-done and slightly browned. Add salt to taste.
2. Place a slice of American cheese on each bun.
3. Place the meat on top of the cheese.
4. Put 3 to 4 round sliced sour dill pickles on top of each sandwich. If you like your cheesesteak spicy, add a handful of pickled hot peppers.
And now for the Secret Brass Rail Sauce…
1 jar of plain tomato sauce (nothing gourmet, please!)
1. In a saucepan, empty the jar of tomato sauce. Add a WHOLE ONION (with the skin off).
2. Heat and cook for about 15 minutes until the sauce has absorbed some of the onion flavor.
3. Apply sauce to above cheesesteak sandwiches.
You can get fancy if you want and add sautéed onions or mushrooms. But that is a level of complication that is not really necessary. You can make this meal in 15 minutes and your whole family will feel full and happy.
Classic accompaniments from the Brass Rail are three deep-fried pierogi. One day, I’ll make those from scratch, too.
And just a reminder, you can find organic versions of every single one of the ingredients I use.