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49ers vs. Eagles: Tackling the Philly Cheesesteak to understand the foe

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Somebody *burp* has to *belch* do this. It's a tough job.

The man looks like he enjoys him a cheesesteak. Don't we all?
The man looks like he enjoys him a cheesesteak. Don't we all?
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

I'm going to level with all of you ... the first two weeks of this segment have not gone as planned. I went deep, deep undercover to investigate the Chicago Bears and I did the same for the Arizona Cardinals. I've now had a deep dish pizza and a Sonoran hot dog, and though I feel both meals have granted me intimate knowledge of both teams, it hasn't translated to wins on the football field.

And everyone knows that's why we're here.

There's probably no other meal this season that can anger as many people as the one for the Philadelphia Eagles. Everybody and their mother (and the mother's opinions should be weighed heavily, as they're the ones passing it on to the children) has an opinion on what constitutes a proper Philly Cheesesteak. And it's that exact reason why I'm going to preempt everyone with a simple statement:

You're probably as wrong as me!

Here's the basics of what I think a Philly Cheesesteak is. It's cheese, it's steak, and it's onions -- grilled onions. There's differing cheeses and I think this was one of the most important aspects of the meal: which cheese to use? Provolone is a personal favorite of mine and I was delighted to find that it's generally recommended in most of the "big" recipes. The other one that kept coming up ... Cheez Wiz.

So I went out to the store and bought a $6 can of Cheez Wiz (SIX [SITE DECORUM] MOTHER [SITE DECORUM] DOLLARS DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH FOOCH PAYS ME I PROMISE YOU IT'S NOT ENOUGH TO BE SPENDING SIX DOLLARS ON CHEEZ WIZ OH MY GOD) because I'm doing this for the team, damn it.

We'll never acquire a good enough roll to please everyone so we went with something similar for the bread. We elected on one with provolone and one with Cheez Wiz. So it was to be done. It's here that I'll turn things over to Tabii, my fiancee and chef at Galletto Ristorante in Modesto, CA.

Everything after this point is her, until I say otherwise.

I was forced into using *shudder* Cheez Wiz on my sandwiches. For fear of them not being truly authentic ... although as I understand it, in order for them to be authentic I need a specific type of roll that is not really widely found outside of Philadelphia.

An Amoroso roll, according to the cheeseteak wiki, is what is used. I used a french bread hoagie roll. Also suggested was using slice rib-eye or top round steaks - easy! My local supermarket had a sale and I snagged a top round steak, about a pound and a half, for around $6.50.

In order to get the thin strips of meat out of this steak, I froze it. Well, I REALLY froze it. I had to thaw it out in the microwave a little for me to be able to slice it. The idea is to freeze the steak enough that it isn't pliable anymore, but your knife can still go through it. It really helps if you have a sharp knife.

I explored the websites of a few cheesesteak purveyors in Philedelphia to come up with what is the "basic" cheesesteak. It was chopped steak, with or without grilled onions, and a choice of a few different types of cheese - provolone, american or cheez wiz. So that's what I did. I made one with provolone, and one with cheez wiz.

I'm not gonna lie. I hated the idea of cheez wiz. I hate the texture, I hate the mouthfeel, I hate everything about fake cheese. I didn't hate the cheesesteak with the cheez wiz, but I will not be ordering it or eating that by choice again unless I have to be polite. I enjoyed the provolone far more. James did tell me that I didn't put enough provolone on the steak, which is fine -- I agreed.

Also, I don't know if this fits in with traditional grilled onions, but I tend to caramelize mine more than grill. I don't like much crispness left over. I like mine brown, tender and melt in your mouth.

Anyway, rambling aside - here's the recipe.This yielded four six-inch hoagie roll sized sandwiches

1.5 lbs top round or sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 sweet yellow onion, julienned 
4 slices of provolone cheese (since this wasn't enough, I'd suggest more, honestly)
1 can of your favorite brand of cheez wiz (i used easy cheese sharp cheddar)
4 toasted hoagie rolls
Add salt and pepper to taste

First, I julienned one yellow onion. I learned this from my dad and refined it in culinary school, but here's a good video and visual guide I found of how to julienne an onion. I used a nonstick pan glazed with some olive oil at mid-high heat to caramelize. I just dropped all the onions into a hot pan (well..don't literally drop. you will splash yourself and I have the burn scars to prove that), sprinkled the onions with salt, and tossed them periodically to keep them from getting too brown on one side.

Cheesesteak 06

I thinly sliced my steak while my cast iron pan heated up to high temperature. I used vegetable oil here instead of olive oil because olive oil has a very low smoke point and I tend to smoke out the house when I use my cast iron pan anyway.

Cheesesteak 02

Cheesesteak 03

I added my steak to the pan when the oil was hot (it starts to shimmer), liberally seasoned the meat with fresh ground black pepper and Himalayan pink sea salt (I only bought it because it's pink ...), and cooked it through. This does not take long. While the onions and steak cooked, I pre-heated my broiler and laid out my buns on a cookie sheet to toast. I stuck the buns in the oven (...yep) while I divided the steak into four portions in the pan, and added two slices of provolone each to two of the portions (the other two are saved for cheez wiz).

I turned off the heat on the cast iron and kept the steak in the pan. If you're like me, you left the rolls in for a little too long and they got extra brown. It's OK. They weren't blackened, so still edible. I spooned the meat into each bun, added some onions to it, and there we go! For the cheez wiz ones, I zig-zagged the wiz onto each bun after adding everthing else.

So there you have it... my cheesesteaks. Feel free to scold me for not doing everything correctly. I'll feel free to ignore you! Anyone who would like, please share your favorite BBQ sauce recipes... I don't have a "signature" one and would love to hear some input ... for next week!

Cheesesteak 04

Cheesesteak 05

Back to James

Like I told Tabii, I didn't think there was enough cheese. I'd always heard that the cheese had to cover every part of the steak. You had to simply trust that there was steak under there somewhere. Whatever the case, it was absolutely delicious and I feel as though I have eaten what is, in fact, a Philly Cheesesteak.

So what's this mean for the game? Well again, I'm not a little sure given what's happened the past two weeks. I feel I've let all of you down and I shoulder the blame. But maybe tackling something as famous as the Philly Cheesesteak will impress the football Gods. Or maybe it won't.

What We've Eaten Already/What's Next

Week 1: Nothing
Week 2: Deep Dish Pizza (Chicago Bears)
Week 3: Sonoran Hot Dog (Arizona Cardinals)
Week 4: Philly Cheesesteak
Week 5: Some sort of BBQ!? (Kansas City Chiefs)