We didn’t have plans for Sunday. Mrs. NH was kind enough to brave freezing temperatures to go for a quick supermarket trip while the girls and I puttered around the house and watched vacation home movies on my newly reconditioned Windows Media Center. Of course in the Not Hemingway household, a day without plans usually leads to cooking of some sort. This Sunday was no exception. Over the course of the afternoon we churned out a hearty Italian vegetable soup, chicken salad, homemade soft sandwich buns and cheesesteak sandwiches.
We’ve made cheesesteaks before but have always been at the mercy of awful Czech supermarket rolls. Czech bread is an absolute abomination. The problem is, there is a wide selection of shapes and sizes of buns and rolls at the supermarkets but all taste pretty terrible. The sandwich buns are always awful, dried, grainy affairs. To add insult to injury, they have a picture of the American flag on the bag. Not cool, peeps. Not cool.
On Sunday I took matters into my own hands and made the sandwich buns that I had been threatening to make for years. I followed this recipe that I found online and was quite pleased with the results. The finished bun was firm and dense but fluffy – just firm enough to hold up to our gooey cheesesteaks and I can only imagine they would be a fine match to a juicy burger.
For the cheesesteaks I halved and sliced two large onions and caramelized them over low heat. After they finished I set them aside and threw a little over a pound of super-thinly-sliced sirloin, trimmed of the majority of fat. I’ve been making these sandwiches ever since we moved here and have learned a few things along the way. There’s no need to freeze your beef to get thin slices – just make sure you knife is sharp. Also, get your pan as hot as it will go before throwing in your beef. As it hits the pan it gives off lots of liquid. If your pan is hot that evaporates and your beef gets a nice brown crust. If the beef is cooked slowly, it boils in its own juices and that ends up in tough and spongy meat. Not good. Last but not least, make your sandwiches like they do in Philly. Mrs. NH and I frequented Pat’s every chance we got and we always ordered our steaks “wit’ Wiz.” That’s with Cheese Whiz for any of the uninitiated. It’s an everyman twist on some real comfort food. Adding provolone just seems to high falutin’ now.
Paired with the new buns, the steaks were out of this world. With no tough bun to contend with, I really appreciated the tenderness of the steak, the sweetness of the onions and the salty, tangy punch of the Whiz. We paired our sandwiches with some sweet potato fries and a couple bottles of Delirium Tremens. Now that’s a Sunday dinner. Thanks for the memories, Passyunk!