America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan and as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland.
True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.
So how did we come by the cheesesteak? Here is how the legend goes:
During the 1930s in the Italian immigrant section of South Philadelphia, brothers Harry 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 and smelled the meat and onions. Pat never got a bite because the cab driver asked how much? Pat didn’t know what to charge, so he charged a nickel. The cab driver supposedly said, Heyforget about those hot dogs, you should sell these. It was not until 20 years later that cheese was added to the sandwich by longtime employee, Joe Lorenzo, who was tired of the usual preparation and added some 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.
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 along with various condiments and side dishes.
In 1970, Pat Olivieri retired and moved to 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.
The reason the cheesesteak really blossomed was because of Pat himself. He was a larger-than-life figure who visited local theaters and concert halls, bringing steak sandwiches to the stars, then luring them back to his shop and taking pictures of them eating. He spread the word about his sandwich all over the world via these celebrities and they made him into a star.
Here is how I make this sandwich at home.
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 extra-large onion diced
1 pound ribeye steak fat removed, very thinly sliced and each slice cut in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-inch long) Italian loaf, 2 hoagie rolls or 2 baguettes, heated
4-6 slices Provolone or American cheese or both
Hot peppers or ketchup, optional
Heat a stove-top griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the diced onions. Cook onions for 2 to 3 minutes until they are just beginning to brown.
Add the sliced meat and more oil if needed. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, using a spatula to continually move the steak around and break it up into smaller pieces. Cook until all of the pink is gone. Sprinkle the meat and onion mixture generously with salt and pepper.
Separate meat into two piles for each cheesesteak sandwich. Place 2-3 slices of cheese on each pile of steak and let them melt slightly.
Invert a warm hoagie roll on top of each pile. Allow to heat for 1 minute.
Use a long spatula to scoop the cheesesteak and roll off the griddle/frying pan. Flip the sandwich over onto a serving plate and add your favorite optional toppings, and serve.