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Cheese and steak: a union so natural, they’ve merged into one.
The result is the cheesesteak, also known as the Philly cheesesteak, in honor of its birthplace, though the culinary reach of the iconic sandwich extends far beyond the City of Brotherly Love.
At Fox Chapel Golf Club, just outside Pittsburgh, home to a newly renovated Golden Age design, executive chef Christopher Brown puts a cheesesteak on his menu on special occasions. His recipe relies on shaved ribeye, caramelized onions, king trumpet mushrooms and a melted, aged-provolone cheese sauce, piled onto a crusty hoagie roll.
The key, Brown says, is “keeping it simple.”
Here are Brown’s straightforward tips if you’re looking to marry steak and cheese at home.
1. The meat of the matter
Don’t stint on the quality of your beef. Ribeye is your best bet, Brown says, “for being well-marbled and tender when cooked.” In a pinch, you can also use flank steak, which is lean but tender when you slice it against the grain.
2. A cold cut
You want that meat in a nice, thin slice, which is harder than it sounds if you don’t have a good knife. To simplify the task, Brown suggests putting the beef in the freezer a few hours in advance. Letting it freeze up a little “makes it easier to shave down,” he says.
3. Season simply
No need for marinade or the Colonel’s seven herbs and spices. Stick to salt and pepper, which brings out the beefy flavors.
4. Say cheese
A traditional Philly cheesesteak is topped with melted provolone sauce, known colloquially as cheese whiz. But feel free to go the non-traditional route. Brown likes using the “Alpine Cheeses,” which he says are known as “signature melters.” They include Gruyere, Comté, Emmental, Challerhocker.
5. Get on a roll
The bread, Brown says, “is just as important as everything else in the sandwich — if not more.” At Fox Chapel, Brown uses a locally made Mancini Hoagie Roll. Whatever bread you use, Brown recommends toasting it lightly. Getting it warm on the inside and crusty on the outside helps “hold all the juices in the roll.”
6. Extras, extras!
In addition to caramelized onions, Brown’s go-to’s are shaved iceberg lettuce, homemade aioli and grilled mushrooms. But there are no hard-set rules, he says, so long as you’re using good ingredients. On the side, he notes, “you can’t go wrong with truffle parmesan fries with fresh herbs.” His only other mandate: “Make sure you enjoy a cheesesteak at least once a month.”