Philadelphia Cheese Steak Sandwich History:
Photo courtesy of Advance Food Company, Oklahoma City, OK
A cheese steak sandwich is not really a steak at all
it is a sandwich made with chipped steak, steak that has been frozen and sliced really
thin) and cooked on a grill top. The Philadelphia cheese steak is truly one of the most delightful and beloved foods
available in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is said by most Philadelphians that if a
restaurant offers something called a "Philly Cheese Steak" then it's not
authentic. Locals think in terms of steak sandwiches with or without
cheese. Without cheese, the sandwich is referred to as a steak. With cheese,
it is a cheese steak or "cheesesteak." Cheeze Whiz is the topping of
choice for serious steak connoisseurs. However, you can also use provolone cheese.
According to Philadelphians, you simply cannot make an authentic Philadelphia
Cheese Steak sandwich without an authentic Philadelphia roll. The rolls must be long and
thin, not fluffy or soft, but also not too hard. They also say that if you are more than
one hour from South Philly, you cannot make an authentic sandwich.
1930s - During the 1930s in the Italian immigrant section of South Philadelphia, brothers Harry Olivieri
(1916-2006) and Pat Olivieri sold hot dogs and sandwiches. Tired of hot dogs, Pat suggested that Harry go to a store and buy some beef. Harry brought it back, sliced it up and grilled
the beef with some onions. The brothers piled the meat on rolls and were about to dig in when a cab driver arrived for lunch, smelled the meat and onions
and demanded one of the sandwiches. Pat never got a bite because a cab driver drove by, smelled the sandwich, and asked how much? He didnt
know what to charge, so he charged a nickel. The cab driver supposedly said, Hey . . . forget about those hot dogs, you should sell
these. It was not until 20 years later that cheese was added to
the sandwich by a longtime employee, Joe Lorenzo, who was tired of the usual sandwich and added some cheese.
1940s -In 1940, the brothers opened Pat's King of
Steaks at 1237 East Passyunk Avenue. The business has been there ever since, open 24 hours a day. Cheez Whiz was added to the
steak and onions starting in the 1960s, and provolone, American cheese and pizza sauce later became options in the concoction along with various
condiments, and side dishes.
1970 - In 1970, Pat Olivieri quit for southern
California. A dispute over ownership broke out with Pat's lawyer son Herbert on one side and Harry and his children, Frankie and Maria, on the other. In
1974 Pat died, and later Frankie bought the business out.
Residents and tourists who come for paper-wrapped Philly cheese steaks and
sodas can study the wall of celebrity photos before taking seats at the
no-frills picnic tables. For the uninitiated, a sign explains the drill:
with or without onions; specify provolone, American or Cheez Whiz; have your
money ready; go to the back of the line if you make a mistake.
Philadelphia Cheese Steak Sandwich Recipe:
This is a very filling sandwich, great to make ahead of time and keep warm in the oven for a football party or any other time.
Yields: 2 servings
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 10 min
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, sliced as thin as possible and rings separated*
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
12 ounces chipped steak (very thin-sliced eye of round, rib eye, or sirloin tip roast
cut into 1-inch slices)**
Salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
Cheese Whiz or provolone cheese slices
1 (8-inch long) Italian loaf, hoagie roll, or French baguette
Dill pickle spears
* Learn how to made
Baked Caramelized Onions. This is a quick and easy way to caramelize a large amount of onions.
** Freeze steak before slicing.
With a sharp knife, slice the meat paper thin.
In a large frying pan over high heat, add
olive oil and heat so that a drop of water will sizzle when you drop it in
the oil; lower heat to medium. Add onions and mushrooms, stir and cook until
mushrooms darken and onions start to look transparent. Add steak slices and
cook for approximately 3 minutes or until meat is lightly browned. Add salt and pepper to
Heap cooked meat mixture in a long length-wise pile across
the frying pan, Lay cheese slices over meat until melted. If using Cheese Whiz, melt in
a double boiler or in the microwave.
Slice bread lengthwise. Using a spatula, scoop
1/2 the meat mixture and cheese and lay on bread with cheese on top. If using melted
Cheese Whiz, ladle it on top. If you're
using Cheez Whiz, don't use too much or it can overpower the sandwich's
Slice sandwich into 2 or 4 pieces, and serve with a dill pickle.
Each sandwich makes 2 servings.