PHILLY CHEESE STEAKS ON THE GRILL

Pat's or Geno's? A simple question, but it's been known to spark hours of fiery polemic. I'm talking, of course, about that glory of Philadelphia gastronomy, the cheese steak. The City of otherwise Brotherly Love is fiercely divided on who makes the best: Pat's or Geno's. Both are located in lively South Philly, and both are perennially packed with hordes of loyal customers. Local legend has it that the cheese steak sandwich was invented in 1930 by Pat Olivieri of Pat's King of Steaks restaurant, where the meat (thinly sliced rib eye) and onions were flash fried on a griddle (the melted cheese would have to wait until 1948). I've always maintained that if something tastes great griddled or panfried, it probably tastes even better grilled. So here's a not strictly traditional, but eminently satisfying, cheese steak you can serve sizzling hot off the grill. I can't think of a better sandwich for Super Bowl Sunday.

TIPS: Tradition calls for the steak to be sliced paper-thin, a technique that speeds up the cooking and tenderizes the meat. I'm using slightly thicker steaks here, which are more practical for grilling. (The easiest way to cut the steaks is on a meat slicer-ask your butcher to do it.) For even more flavor, the mushrooms, bell peppers, and onion are grilled too.

Ingredients:

  • 8 large button mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the steaks
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 green or red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless rib eye steaks, cut into 4 slices each about 12 inch thick
  • Garlic salt
  • 4 slices aged Provolone cheese (4 to 6 ounces)
  • 4 hoagie rolls or long, soft Italian rolls
  • Mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and/or the condiment of your choice
You'll also need:
  • 6 to 8 small (6-inch) bamboo skewers or wooden toothpicks
Trim the ends off the mushroom stems. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel (don't rinse them or they'll become soggy). Skewer the onion slices crosswise with skewers or toothpicks to hold them together during grilling. Lightly brush the mushrooms and onion slices with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season them generously with coarse salt and black pepper.

1. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

2. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the bell peppers on the hot grate and grill until charred on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side (16 to 24 minutes in all). After about 8 minutes, add the mushrooms and onion slices and grill until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side (6 to 8 minutes in all). Transfer the grilled bell peppers, mushrooms, and onion slices to a cutting board and let cool. Let the fire continue to burn in the grill. Peel, core, seed, and thinly slice the bell peppers. Thinly slice the mushrooms. Unskewer the onion slices. Place the vegetables in a bowl, add the vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and stir to mix. Season with coarse salt and black pepper to taste; the mixture should be highly seasoned.

3. Generously brush the steak slices with olive oil and season with garlic salt and black pepper. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the steak slices on the hot grate and grill until cooked to taste, 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Place the Provolone slices on top of the steaks after turning them over, then cover the grill to melt the cheese.

4. Place the steak slices and melted cheese on hoagie rolls you've generously slathered with mayonnaise or other condiments. Mound the vegetable mixture on top of the steak and cheese. Serve the cheese steaks at once.

Serves 4

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