This delicious, hot and filling sandwich is, like the Hoagie (SUB), something created originally in the Philadelphia PA regional area. It is now common elsewhere in the USA, and that is the problem … The common cheese steak served almost all places outside of the Philadelphia regional area is deficient in most respects. This recipe is intended to correct that problem, at least in your kitchen.
Do note that this recipe is not a recipe for a true Philadelphia Cheese Steak, which has a Velveeta® type of cheese or Cheez Whiz® as one of the primary ingredients. That sandwich, while very good, does not measure up in taste to the variation described below. Of course, that is my personal opinion, and that of countless thousands of other people who prefer white American cheese for this specific sandwich.
To begin, the proper bread for a cheese steak is the same type of bread used for the perfect sub. It is a very fresh soft 18" long roll, somewhat elliptical in cross section shape, flat on the bottom, and about three to four inches across. Few bakeries outside the Philadelphia regional area have the right dough recipe and/or the right baking procedure. If you are lucky you will find something close in your area.
The beef used for the cheese steak must be very lean and shaved thinly, as in 1/16th of an inch thick or less, prior to grilling. Top round roast is a good choice, though sirloin is even better. Most sub and steak shops purchase commercial frozen shaved beef, and that is too bad as it is less than perfect compared to freshly shaved raw beef. I use my meat slicer to process a few pounds of raw top round roast into shaved beef. Then I vacuum seal 8 oz. packets of the beef and freeze it for later use.
A very hot lightly oiled grill (soybean oil) is used to convert the raw beef into a soft rapidly cooked beef, which maintains its moisture and thus tenderness. A pound and a half of the raw unfrozen room temperature shaved beef should be cooked to amply fill the 18" long roll. The pile of raw beef is turned over often with a large spatula during the first few minutes of grilling to assure even grilling, with a total grilling time of 4 to 5 minutes.
During the last few minutes of grilling, after the beef is no longer raw, it is shaped as it will be when it is in the roll. It is then lightly seasoned with salt and black pepper. An ample number of thinly sliced American cheese slices are melted on top of the beef, such that the surface is 90% covered at least one layer thick … and two layers is much better. The cheese mostly melts onto the beef simply from the heat from the beef and the grill, in the last minute or two of grilling.
While the beef is first grilling, a cup and a half of raw diced onions are sautéed in a small amount of the same type of cooking oil until they are translucent, even slightly browned at the edges. They are turned over frequently while sautéing. Similarly, a cup or cup and a half of drained canned mushrooms are sautéed on the grill in a small amount of the cooking oil. Do not use fresh mushrooms.
Typically an opened roll has some of the soft interior dough removed to make room for the other ingredients. The interior is then sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil, or, some people ask for mayonnaise (but not me). The melted cheese covered beef is the first ingredient to be added at that point, using the very large spatula to coax it intact from the grill into the opened roll.
The fried onions and mushrooms are then added on top of the cheese and beef. The roll is forced closed and the sandwich wrapped in multiple layers of off-white delicatessen wrapping paper. The sandwich is cut in half diagonally after the first few wraps of paper that keep it from unintentionally opening.
Now that is one delicious sandwich. People have widely different opinions about whether or not to add any other seasonings. I like a bit of ketchup inside mine. Some folks will want hot grilled peppers and they will ask for those when placing their order. Still others want no additional seasonings at all. It is all a matter of personal choice. In the Chicago area a local favorite used instead of mushrooms and onions is hot giardiniera condiment, and the recipe for that mixture is in this section of Food Nirvana.
Now you have it … The proper way to make the perfect cheese steak, with fried onions and mushrooms.