Open-Face Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

Last week I was browsing the new arrivals at my library when I came across Ellie Krieger’s most recent book, Comfort Food Fix. I think it actually came out late last year, and I’ve pretty much been meaning to request it ever since, but my memory stinks. I can’t even tell you how many times a day I am working on one thing and suddenly remember something I wanted to check online. 99 out of 100 times by the time I get over to my computer I’ve already forgotten what it was. It’s honestly that bad; I can’t even imagine what I’ll be like when I’m 80.

But anyway, I digress. I brought the book home and started flipping through it – I must have flagged 20 or more recipe on that first pass! As the title suggests, it’s basically a collection of comfort food classics, lightened up in typical Ellie fashion. In another month or two when cooler temps become the norm, it’s just the kind of food I’ll be craving.

Open-Face Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

Of course, I didn’t wait that long to get going on testing out a few of the recipes. These open-face Philly cheese steak sandwiches immediately went on this week’s menu. Even without a picture to entice me (I’m totally a visual person), these sandwiches were begging to be made. Thinly sliced steak sitting on a bed of sautéed onions (and peppers, if you’re into them – I’m not) topped with a melty, velvety cheese sauce. Oh, the cheese sauce… I’ve never had a cheese steak in Philly, so I have no idea how authentic this recipe is, but my word was it ever good. And so simple too! I didn’t even miss the other half of the roll serving these open-faced, though it definitely made them a little more messy to eat.

A few notes: Use a good cheese for the sauce. There are only 3 total ingredients so the flavor of the cheese really shines. If you want to add a little heat to your sandwich, dice a jalapeño and throw it in with the sauce. I did this for Shane and he loved it. Finally, make sure your pan is big enough to cook all the meat at once. If not, split it into 2 batches. I overcrowded the pan which led to the steak steaming a bit and not browning as much as I’d have liked (hence the sort of icky gray color in the photos). Live and learn :)

Open-Face Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
adapted from Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger

{Note: the top loin steak may also be labeled as New York strip steak. In order to slice the steak thinly, I find it helpful to briefly freeze it first (I think I popped mine in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes).}

1/2 cup cold 1% milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 lb boneless top loin steak, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced (use your favorite color, I omitted them)
2 whole wheat Italian rolls (each about 6 inches long), halved lengthwise

To make the cheese sauce: Whisk the milk and flour in a small saucepan until the flour is completely dissolved. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, still whisking, until the mixture has thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir until the cheese has melted. Simmer the sauce for another 2 minutes, or until it is thick and velvety. Remove the pan from the heat and press a piece of foil against the surface to keep warm and prevent a skin from forming.

Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Season the steak with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. When the oil shimmers, add the steak and cook until just barely cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the meat to a plate and cover with foil.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan (still set over medium-high heat), and throw in the onion and bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and the edges of the peppers have browned, about 12-14 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Once hot, place the halved rolls on a baking sheet and toast them under the broiler. To assemble each sandwich: top each halved roll with 1/4 of the onion-pepper mixture and 1/4 of the meat. Drizzle with the cheese sauce (if the sauce has cooled, you can gently reheat it over low heat to re-warm).

Makes 4 open-face sandwiches