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Recipe: Sort-of healthy steak sandwiches

You know, for a night that teetered dangerously on the abyss of Chinese take out, I have to pat myself on the back.

What began as another boring weeknight meat-and-vegetable dinner (“How does grilled flat iron steak and roasted asparagus sound, hon?”) turned into something genius, when Joe pondered thoughtfully on what else might be done and instead responded, “I have an idea. But it’s so good, I don’t know if you’re man enough. So I won’t say it. Okay, okay, I’ll say it, stop poking me. Philly cheesesteaks.”

Clearly, after all this time, he still doesn’t know who he’s dealing with. Cheesesteaks were the best idea he’d ever had, at least since that banana split last week.

Now, I hesitate to call my creation Philly cheesesteaks, because as the sole Philadelphian in my life would be quick to point out:

1) A real cheesesteak would never have goddamn red peppers on it.

2) There is no cheez whiz in sight, which immediately disqualifies it as a Philly cheesesteak. But, as I can’t stand cheez whiz, and will never order my cheesesteak “wit whiz,” I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that true cheesecakes can never be manufactured in my kitchen. (Side note, 5 minutes later: I just realized I have typed “cheesecakes” instead of cheesesteaks. Send for help now.)

Cheez whiz or not, the steak and cheese sandwiches engineered in our home tonight were nothing short of spectacular. And we created them on a nearly empty fridge. Give it a try! They were every bit as satisfying as the real thing, and I’m convinced they were far healthier.

Sans Whiz Steak and Cheese Sandwiches

Makes 4 sandwiches

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb flat iron steak, sliced very, very thinly into ~2″ pieces
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • –kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion, peeled and thinly julienned
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly julienned
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly julienned
  • 2 tbsp red wine (basically, whatever you’re drinking while you cook the sandwiches!)
  • 4 French rolls
  • –dijon mustard
  • 4-8 slices of Swiss cheese (depending on how cheesy you want these puppies)
  • Optional:
  • grated parmesan to make them cheesier
  • pickled Italian hot peppers or pickled jalapeños
  • hot sauce

Preheat your oven to 375°. Open up each roll so that it can lie flat, like a book. Place them on a medium sheet tray, and set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil until it’s nearly smoking. Throw in the meat, then season with the garlic powder, cayenne pepper, dried thyme and a good dose of kosher salt and pepper. Brown all of the meat, stirring as needed, then remove the meat to a separate bowl and set aside. If a large amount of liquid has accumulated in the pan, you can pour this out on top of the meat and into the bowl.

Place the sheet trays with the French rolls in the oven.

Add the onions and bell pepper to the pan, stirring over medium high heat until tender and very soft. Add in the red wine and stir to remove any fond from the bottom of the pan. Add the meat back in, stir to combine, and let cook for a couple minutes more. Somewhere in there, take a peek at the rolls, and remove from the oven if the insides are crisped and beginning to turn golden.

Slather dijon mustard (note: we used Maille, and it was wonderfully spicy) all over the inside of the rolls. Using tongs, pile the meat and veggie mixture on top of each roll. It’s okay if the roll is completely opened — actually, that’s what we want!

Next, top each pile of meat with the pickled hot peppers or jalapeños, if you’re using. Now’s also the time to sprinkle some parmesan on there if you’re being really naughty. Then, layer a slice or two of Swiss cheese over the top. Bake the whole thing until the cheese is good and melty.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with hot sauce, then fold the roll up and devour.

And if you get really desperate and have extra rolls and filling, but no Swiss cheese, you can also resort to using string cheese.

We’re out of control. Seriously. It may be time for an intervention.

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