How to Make a Genuine Healthy and Organic Philadelphia Cheesesteak

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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

Ingredients:

 

1 pound chip steak (this is steak that is sliced super-thin), beef or buffalo (I prefer buffalo!)

4 slices American cheese

Olive oil

Salt to taste

4 soft and squishy whole grain/whole wheat buns

Sliced sour dill pickles!

Directions:

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.

DEVOUR!

And now for the Secret Brass Rail Sauce

Ingredients:

 

1 jar of plain tomato sauce (nothing gourmet, please!)

1 onion

Directions:

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.

DEVOUR!

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.

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15 Responses to How to Make a Genuine Healthy and Organic Philadelphia Cheesesteak

  1. Brad June 10, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    You say you live outside of Philly, but your recipe is nowhere near authentic. First a true cheesesteak uses Cheese Whiz, not American Cheese. The Whiz is lightly applied to a long thin baguette like roll from Amorosa’s Bakery in Philadelphia. Those 2 ingrediants are requisite. Also, diced onions are frequently mixed in with the steak. That is what you would get at Pats, Jims, Genos, and Tony Lukes which are the premier steak places in Philly.

  2. Kristi C June 10, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    I’d rather die than eat Cheez Whiz! I’ll stick with Maria’s recipe. :)

    One question, Maria: When you say to add a whole onion to the tomato sauce, can you chop it up and leave it in your sauce? Won’t it have the same effect (other than the chunky texture)?

  3. J June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Provolone is also acceptable if you do not like wiz.
    I also do this with shaved pork from my local farmer. who doesn’t love a little swine wit?

  4. maria (farm country kitchen) June 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    First of all, cheese whiz is NOT organic!

    And yes, you can chop up the onion and leave it in your sauce. I just don’t care for it that way.

    By the way, it’s a very Philly tradition to argue about how things are done “right,” so Brad, I appreciate your authenticity. However, this blog is focused on how to get all the pleasures of authenticity and yummifulness without the toxic chemicals, refined white flours and crap that makes Americans sick, fat and generally crabby!

  5. K June 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    That sounds like an awesome recipe! Thanks for sharing. BTW, I am a South Philly Italian and have never EVER let cheese whiz touch one of my cheesesteaks, it’s so processed and gross!

    Also–Where do you get your buffalo steak?

  6. Judy June 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Ahhh…cheesesteaks at the Brass Rail…what memories. Thanks for sharing your recipe & the secret sauce. I just had a cheesesteak at the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia the other day & cheese whiz (ugh) wasn’t an option.

  7. maria (farm country kitchen) June 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    I get my buffalo chip steak from the Emmaus Farmers Market (Sundays 10 to 2). There is a Buffalo guy there and he is awesome. Sorry I can’t remember the name of his farm, though.

  8. Emily June 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    There’s also a buffalo guy at the new Bethlehem (PA) Farmer’s Market at the Steel Stacks center, Tuesdays 3-7 if you can’t make the Emmaus market (and live in the area!). I think he sells chip steak–he sells pretty much everything else!

  9. maria (farm country kitchen) June 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    I think it’s the same guy! He kind of looks like a cute Buffalo!

  10. fdg June 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    Bless you my friend!!! I grew up in Chester County, PA, and I can’t wait to make one of your cheese steaks!

  11. Bernadette June 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Cheesesteaks made from deer meat are also really delicious!

  12. nancy June 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Having grown up in Emmaus, I have the same found memories of the Brass Rail and going to eat at the parkway! And I have NEVER had a more delicious philly cheese steak–
    BTW-is cheez wiz even a food?? Eeeeuuuuwwww!!

  13. sonny honsickle June 13, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    My wife was recently traveling and I took my daughters to the very same Parkway for a Brass Rail picnic! We even saw a blue heron in the Little Lehigh looking for its presumably organic dinner, too. Small world! Do you add hot peppers to cheesesteak? I like to add them to the Brass Rail basic steak sandwich which is served without any cheese, but with the sauce. And don’t forget the pierogi!!

  14. mel July 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    I’m from Philly and I agree with Brad that those places all use cheese whiz!! I never understood that? Everyone gets it without question. I always tell them before I order I don’t want it. They mess it up sometimes because that’s their system, steak off grill, squirt cheese whiz. I’m surprised Philly natives don’t know about this? The famous places mentioned above use it, but most of the steak places outside of them don’t, just standard American cheese.. Yet they are the famous ones..

  15. Mel B. October 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    I agree with my fellow city dwellers. Perhaps this is best called a steak sandwich, not a cheesesteak. I never do whiz, but American or provolone. Most important is the bread. You can’t mess around here. Support a local, family owned business and use an Ammoroso roll. Otherwise, it’s not a cheesesteak. FYI, pats and genos are for tourists.

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