My family and I have been fortunate enough to live in a few cities, all in different parts of the country, before settling down several years ago in Minneapolis. I say “fortunate,” because we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and others every time we’ve made a new home in a new place.
Of course, every move had its fair share of challenges. Leaving family, friends and all that has become familiar is always hard, but it also taught us how to make friends and explore new places. While you don’t have to move across the country to learn those skills, when you’ve landed in a place where you don’t know anyone and haven’t even found the nearest grocery store, you tend to hone them quickly.
It’s no surprise that one of the things we love exploring most is each new city’s food culture. Growing up in San Diego, we took great Mexican food for granted. When we moved to Seattle, we missed the Mexican food, but it wasn’t hard to learn to love the Pacific Northwest’s incredibly fresh seafood, such as salmon and Dungeness crab. Cleveland introduced us to Eastern European food and, if I do say so myself, taught me how to make a pretty mean pierogi.
When we moved to Philadelphia, one of the first things we did was ask our new neighbors where we could get a good cheesesteak. Boy, we had no idea what a can of worms we were opening. Turns out that unlike San Diego, where people tend to be a bit more relaxed about where to find their favorite carne asada burrito, in Philadelphia, if two people don’t agree on who makes the best cheesesteak in town, the debate can get, well, heated.
In fact, there are a lot of places in Philadelphia to get an excellent cheesesteak and a lot of different ways to make one. The common feature is generally thinly sliced steak, grilled on a flat top. If you want, you can ask for grilled onions and peppers in the sandwich. Sometimes mushrooms are an option. Of course, it’s not a cheesesteak without cheese. What kind of cheese is the best can be a controversial topic.
I was shocked when I took my first bite of the famous Philly sandwich to find the meat bathed in bright orange Cheez Whiz. I was sure I’d gone to the wrong place. How could anyone think Cheez Whiz was good? Turns out, a lot of people think it’s good, and, after my second and third bites, I was starting to get it. Warm meat and onions, bathed in what was essentially a cheese sauce, does have its appeal. Still, after trying several, my favorite cheesesteaks were covered in melted provolone cheese.
When we moved away from Philly, I took the love of cheesesteak with me, and so did my family. So, I came up with my own version that I can cook for my family whenever they want to feel nostalgic.
Mine has a bit more veggies and a little less beef than the traditional cheesesteak, and no Cheez Whiz. Instead, I make a lighter cheese sauce, using my favorite provolone, and serve it all stuffed inside a toasted roll. One bite and we remember why Philly loves this classic sandwich so much.
Even though we love living in Minneapolis, it’s nice to visit the places we’ve been, even if it’s just for dinner.
Note: More veggies and less meat, along with a light cheese sauce, make this version of the Philadelphia classic sandwich a little lighter, but just as delicious. Placing the steak in the freezer for 15-20 minutes makes it easier to thinly slice.
• 3/4 c. (1 percent) low-fat milk, divided
• 1 tbsp. flour
• 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
• 2 slices provolone
• 4 tsp. olive oil, divided
• 1 lb. flank steak, trimmed and thinly sliced
• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
• Black pepper to taste
• 1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 6 (3-ounce) hoagie rolls, toasted
Pour 1/2 cup milk into small saucepan over medium heat. Combine remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually stir flour mixture and 1/4 teaspoon salt into warm milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the provolone cheese to the milk mixture, one slice at a time, stirring until cheese melts after each addition. Set cheese sauce aside.
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add beef and sauté 2 minutes or until beef loses its pink color, stirring constantly. Remove beef from pan. Add remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet. Add onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper and sauté 3 minutes. Add the pepper and mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Return the beef to pan and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat.
Place the saucepan with the cheese sauce over medium heat for a minute, whisking constantly, to reheat.
Divide the beef mixture evenly among bottom halves of hoagie rolls. Drizzle sauce evenly over beef mixture; replace top halves. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 435 Fat 12 g Sodium 760 mg
Carbohydrates 50 g Saturated fat 4 g Calcium 275 mg
Protein 32 g Cholesterol 55 mg Dietary fiber 3 g
Diabetic exchanges: 5 vegetable, 3 bread/starch, 3 lean meat, ½ fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.