This is a post about something that isn’t at all what it claims to be. Does that even make sense? It’s a Philly Cheesesteak that’s not made in Philadelphia and doesn’t contain steak or (anything you can legally call) cheese.
So, yeah, it involves processed cheese food product. Sue me. Sometimes I feel the need to fall back on childhood favorites and flavors.
A couple of months ago, my husband mentioned that he wanted a “chicken Philly Cheesesteak” for dinner. First of all – how can it be a cheeseSTEAK if it’s made with chicken? Second of all – I’d been trying to avoid purchasing processed foods, and American “Cheese” and Cheez Whiz – two commonly used ingredients in traditional Philly Cheesesteaks – are among the most processed foods you can buy.
Anyway – I decided to give it a whirl. I grew up eating cheesesteaks made with beef (when I was little, my mom and I would go about once a month to this little hole-in-the-wall place that was near our house and get the mushroom cheesesteak. I’m sure it wasn’t authentic, given that it was in a suburban shopping center in Marietta, GA, but I have very fond memories of that place. I would watch the guy chopping away on the flat-top grill, mesmerized by the little piles of meat and cheese all lined up just so), so I wasn’t really sure how this chicken version was going to taste.
First, I began by softening a cup of thinly sliced onion and a cup of thinly sliced bell pepper in a tablespoon of oil. I let it cook down slowly, getting good and caramelized (I just got in a hurry and typed that last word “caramilized” and one of the spell checker’s suggestions for a replacement was militarized. Spell check is weird).
I removed the softened onions and peppers from the pan, and added about a pound of thinly sliced chicken breast meat (seasoned with salt and pepper) to the pan. I let it go until it was nice and browned on all sides. Then I removed the chicken from the pan.
To make individual sandwiches, I added between two and three ounces of chicken back to the pan, along with a little bit of the onion and pepper mixture. I used a pastry scraper (or a flat spatula) to chop the mixture into smaller pieces.
I covered that with a slice (or two) of cheese (yes, I’m using processed cheese – you can use provolone if it makes you feel better. Just know it doesn’t melt as nicely) and poured about a quarter cup of water into the pan. I covered this with a lid to let it steam and allowed the cheese to melt. Once the cheese started to melt, I uncovered the pan and used my pastry scraper/spatula to mix everything together – the little bit of water that’s left in the pan helped to make a nice sauce (plus it deglazed the pan nicely – adding all that good brown flavor to the mix).
I piled the whole thing into a whole-wheat roll and topped it with a few slices of fresh jalapeno. I like things spicy, so feel free to omit that last bit if you’re averse to heat. Served with a cold beer, it was mighty tasty.
So, you know, NOT a Philly cheesesteak per se, but something that mimics it pretty well. And my husband and kids thought it was pretty good, too.
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes
yields: 4-6 sandwiches
- 1 lb. chicken breast meat, thinly sliced into strips
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil (olive or grapeseed)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4-6 slices mild white cheese (Provolone or American are traditional)
- 4-6 whole wheat hoagie rolls
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat
- Add the oil and the sliced onions and peppers. Cook until softened and caramelized – about 10 minutes. Remove from pan.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook until browned on all sides and cooked through – about 8 minutes. Remove from pan.
- Add 2-3 ounces of cooked chicken and some of the onions and peppers back to the pan. Chop into smaller pieces using a flat spatula.
- Add a slice of cheese. Pour a little water in the pan and cover to steam.
- Remove lid and use spatula to mix everything together. If there’s still too much water in the pan, let it cook a bit longer to evaporate.
- Scoop it all into a split hoagie roll.
- Repeat with remaining chicken, onions, cheese and rolls.
Oh! One more thing – sometimes I saute a bunch of sliced cremini mushrooms along with my onions and peppers. Actually, I really prefer to do this – those mushrooms just add a depth of flavor that you don’t get otherwise. I just forgot to get any at the store the day I made these. I’ve been thinking you could do a vegetarian version just using mushrooms, onions and peppers – I don’t think I’d miss the meat.