Two Philly Classics at Home

at home in philly

We made the trip into Philly territory last weekend and being so close to the city gave us a craving for two of our favorite city foods, soft pretzels and cheese steaks. The fact that our alma mater was playing ODU for a spot in the CAA tournament was just one more reason to make these classics at home and watch the game.

shiny and golden

DaddyO has made this recipe more than a couple times. This was his first attempt a year ago. They were good then but seemed even better this time. Here is the recipe that produces a chewy tasty snack every time.

Homemade Soft Pretzels
(Alton Brown)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

served with dip

The pretzels are just as delicious with a little mustard squeezed on top, but we thought we'd take it to the next level and make a little cheese dip to go along with them while we watched the game. The recipe (from Epicurious) is so simple you'll be making this for all sorts of other dishes!

Cheese Sauce
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 cup beer
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely grated Colby cheese or orange cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Rub the bottom and side of a heavy saucepan with the cut garlic. Place the garlic clove in the pan, add the beer, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, place the cheese and cornstarch in a bowl and toss to mix. Sprinkle the cheese into the boiling beer, stirring it with a wooden spoon. Let the sauce come back to a boil; it will thicken.

Reduce the heat slightly, stir in the mustard, and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce simmer gently until smooth and rich-tasting, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring steadily with the wooden spoon. The purist can fish out and discard the garlic clove; otherwise, one lucky person will get to eat it.

now that's a cheese steak

As many know, there is a standing rivalry between cheese steak vendors in Philly. Pat's and Gino's are most famous but my personal favorite is Jim's on South Street. Instead of trekking into the city and deciding on a place we all would like, DaddyO decided to try his hand at this civic icon for the first time and, although a little nervous he'd make a silly imitation, we all agreed his cheese steak rivaled those bought in the city. The importance of buying true Amoroso's buns cannot be stressed enough here. They are what make a cheese steak a cheese steak!

Philly Cheese Steak
(Alton Brown)

  • 1 trimmed chain section from a beef tenderloin, approximately 6 to 8 ounces*
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, julienned
  • 2 hoagie rolls
  • 2 ounces grated Mimolette cheese

Cook's Note: *Add any leftovers scraps from other parts of the tenderloin that you like

Remove the beef from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat a grill pan over high heat.

Lightly pound the chain with a smooth meat mallet until it is even thickness throughout. Toss the meat with 1 teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Once the grill pan is hot, place the chain on the pan and cook on both sides until cooked through, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side. If necessary, cut the chain in half or thirds to fit on the pan. Remove the chain from the grill and wrap in aluminum foil. Allow to rest while the onions are cooking.

Add remaining teaspoon of oil to grill pan and saute the onions on the grill until they are tender and beginning to brown, approximately 7 to 10 minutes.

Slice the beef into small strips and divide evenly among the hoagie rolls. Pour any juice from the meat onto the hoagie as well. Top the meat with the cheese, followed by the onions. Wrap the sandwiches in aluminum foil for 10 minutes and serve.

but where's the cheese whiz?

The Drexel Dragons won the game as we noshed on our Philly favorites. Now we just have to figure out what to make for the next game!

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