~Philadelphia-Style Cheesesteak Pizza a la Melanie~
I haven't decided if this post is going to be a rant or not. I'll just keep writing and see where I end up. As a well-seasoned woman who spent quite a bit of her young-adult life in Philadelphia, from my perspective, the iconic Philly cheesesteak neither needs nor deserves a "new twist" on it. That said, conceptually, I clearly see how it could be morphed into a pizza IF one plays by some long-standing, well-defined Philly cheesesteak rules (which apparently, many misguided pizza lovers are too lazy to research). Ok, I suppose I'm headed in the direction of a rant:
A Philly cheesesteak is always made with high-quality, nicely-marbled, thinly-sliced, rib-eye steak. For example: this rib-eye would be cut lengthwise into 4-5 thin steaks. The sliced meat is quickly cooked on a large lightly-greased flat-top griddle. As the meat cooks it gets rough chopped into bits and pieces.
That said, "I get it", pizza toppings are associated with "easy", so, for a 2nd choice but acceptable substitution, head for 2 boxes of user-friendly, 100% beef Steak-umms. Don't roll your eyes -- salty deli-beef gets funky-greasy in the oven and belongs on no earthly pizza.
#2. Thou shalt not use broccoli or Alfredo sauce to top cheesesteak pizza.
Each cheesesteak sandwich is made-to-order. You decide what you want from a short list of options. Vegetable options are limited to: sauteed (not raw) onions, peppers and/or mushrooms, which get tossed into the sauteing meat. "Steak sauce" in Philly lingo means "a tomato product similar to pizza sauce", and, if you want it, it gets judiciously mixed into the sauteed meat/veggie mixture. As for cheese, which melts over the top of the sandwich, the options are provolone or Cheez Whiz ( and occasionally American cheese). I use them both when making cheesesteak pizza. To make 2, 12" pizzas purchase 1 jar Cheez Whiz and 1 pound sliced provolone.
Alfredo sauce in place of "steak sauce" and/or any of the traditional cheesy choices? Seriously dude -- take a "time out" from pizza making.
#3. Thou shalt not use a pretzel crust to make cheesesteak pizza.
In Philadelphia, cheesesteaks are placed on an Amoroso or Italian Vilotti-Pisanelli roll, with the Amoroso being the most famous. They are long, 10"-12", thinnish and medium-textured -- neither fluffy nor soft, and decidedly not hard. A cheesesteak is an all-Italian sandwich invented by two Italian-American guys who value the right roll for a sandwich as much as they do the right crust for a pizza.
While Philadelphia is famous for its soft pretzels, using a pretzel crust instead of a traditional crust to make a cheesesteak pizza is not only an abomination, it shows lack of respect for the iconic cheesesteak. While you're at it, put some ballpark mustard on your bastardized pizza too. In the name of brotherly love, don't embarrass yourself like that -- even a Boboli would be better.
Now that the facts are on the tailgate table, let's make a cheesesteak pizza to be proud of.
Use your favorite pizza dough recipe and pat it out to form 2, 12"-round pizza crusts. There are a few pizza crust recipes here on KE, but, for my cheesesteak pizza, I use my recipe for ~ Nobody's Pizza - For the Somebody in All of Us ~. I choose it because it is resemblant of "the crispy chew" of a loaf of superb Italian bread. I make and rise this dough in the bread machine too, which frees up my hands and time to make the meat and veggie topping while the machine is working its magic for 58 minutes. Just click into Categories 2, 12 or 25 to get this easy recipe.
Part Two: Making the Meat and Veggie Toppings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 teaspoons dried oregano for seasoning meat + 1/2 teaspoon for seasoning veggies
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning both meat and veggies
2 cups halved and very thinly-sliced yellow or sweet onion (6 ounces)
1 cup 1/4" julienne of green bell pepper, julienne strips cut in half (4 ounces)
1 cup 1/4" julienne of red bell pepper, julienne strips cut in half (4 ounces)
1 cup stemmed, cleaned and thinly-sliced white button mushroom caps (3 ounces)
~ Step 1. In a 12" skillet melt butter into oil over low heat. Stir in oregano and pepper flakes. Add Steak-umms strips and lightly season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to saute, stirring almost constantly, until steak is just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the "chipped" meat to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool.
~ Step 2. Add the veggies to remaining meat juices in the hot skillet and lightly season with 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, salt and pepper. Saute, stirring almost constantly, until veggies are softened, but still a bit colorful and a bit crunchy, about 3 more minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the veggies to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool.
Part Three: Topping and Baking the Pizza
1 pound sliced provolone cheese, about 24 slices, keep 12 slices (8 ounces in slices) and grate the rest (8 ounces = 2 cups grated)
1-1 1/2 cups pizza sauce, preferably homemade (Note: I find store-bought pizza sauces to be too thick and too sweet. I use ~ My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~. It is typical of the sauce you find in a Philly cheesesteak. Click into Categories 8, 12 or 22 to get the recipe.)
1 15-ounce jar Cheez Whiz, you will only use about 1/2 of the jar
all of the meat & veggie topping, from above recipe
4-6 tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
~Step 1. Once the crusts are in the pans, add the toppings, in the following order, to each one: 6 slices provolone cheese; a generous 1/2 cup pizza sauce; 1 cup grated provolone; 1/2 teaspoonful dollops of Cheeze Whiz (use half the jar between both pieces and refrigerate the rest); 1/2 of the meat topping; 1/2 of the veggie topping; 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Allow the assembled pizzas to rest, uncovered, about 45-60 minutes. This rest will allow the dough to rise up around the toppings.
One-at-a-time place pan of pizza on stone and bake for 9 minutes. Open the oven door and, with the aid of a spatula, lift a corner of the pie up, and, using your other hand (and a pot holder or oven mitt), tilt the pan to slide the pie off the pan and onto the stone. Close the door and bake the pizza an addition 8-9 minutes. Using a pizza peel, transfer pizza from stone to cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes prior to slicing and serving. Remember to return the oven to 365 degrees before baking the second pizza.
It's a tough job but ya gotta do it -- wait the 10 minutes prior to eating it.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet w/lid, preferably nonstick; 2, 12" pizza pans; pizza stone; large thin spatula; pizza peel; cooling rack
Cook's Note: Cheesesteak pizza is a fun recipe to keep in your recipe box for the tailgate season. Everyone really does enjoy eating it. If it is the sandwiches you'd rather serve, click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe for ~ Philadelphia's Famous Cheesesteaks a la Melanie ~. PS: It's full of cheesesteak history and cheesesteak eating etiquette too!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)