6 January 2012

Betty Fussell and the White Dog Cafe's Philly Cheese Steak

White Dog Cafe's Philly Cheese Steak

Born in 1927 in California, Betty Fussell has made her home in New York's Greenwich Village for decades. She lectures at museums, universities, state fairs, corn festivals, historical societies and culinary groups. In 1999, her food memoir, My Kitchen Wars, traced her life from her childhood, through her marriage to her college sweetheart, her trials as an academic wife, her own academic career and the women's movement. She gained wider success when she found her essential subject...food. I for one am glad she did as she explores the culture of America.

Like many other hard-core foodies, Betty Fussell came to the food world by the back door. With a PhD in English Literature teaching Shakespeare and assorted classics,  decades of travel through foreign countries, raising two children, hundreds of cats, and an ex-husband are all a springboard for writing about food. Her life found a focus when she combined her typewriter with her kitchen.

Betty Fussell

Betty Fussell is a writer who is also a home cook, one who loves the sensuousness of words as much as the sensuality of food. As a writer, she sees food as a window into the culture of America. As a cook, she likes recipes that are simple, improvisatory, fresh, and tasty, something anyone could do with no more than a sharp knife, a skillet and a few good fresh ingredients. Betty is a passionate author who has written numerous articles and 11 books. She is best known for I Hear America Cooking and the epic The Story of Corn.

The recipe below is featured in Raising Steaks which she describes as "a spirited ride across America on the rail of our most iconic food. She says,
 "When we bite into a steak's charred crust and tender pink interior, we bite into contradictions that have branded our national identity from the start. We taste the colliding fantasies of British pastoralists in land wars between a wet weather East and desert West. We savour the ideas of wilderness and progress that clashed when we replaced buffalo and cattle, and then cowboys with industrial machines. We take in the contradictions of rugged individualism nd the corporate technology that we use to breed, feed, slaughter, package, and distribute the animals we turn into meat. And we participate - as do the ranchers and chefs, feedlot operators and rodeo stars, boot makers and scientists."
One of our simple pleasures in life is navigating the blogging community and participating where we can. Our group has now passed the halfway point on the list of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers. The past six months have flown by as we experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list." Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty and their order it has been an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters and those we admire. There have even a few bloggers on the list. We have checked out books from the library, borrowed cookbooks from friends, surfed the Internet and browsed our own cookbook collections seeking that one recipe that will highlight that weeks outstanding woman. This group is spearheaded by my favourite well-travelled blogger Mary of One Perfect Bite who back in June invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey throughout the year. It is still not too late to join in in 2012, so if you would like to learn new techniques and be creative in the kitchen please contact Mary.

What have we been up to with this weeks Game Changer...

Mary of One Perfect Bite - Yam Yeast Bread
Val of More Than Burnt Toast - White Dog Cafe's Philly Cheese Steak
Susan of The Spice Garden - Risi e Bisi
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed - Mexican Posole
Heather of Girlichef - Navajo Fry Bread with Honey Butter
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Fritos Corn Chips
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living - Beet and Red Grapefruit Salad
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - California Ambrosia
Sue of View from The Great Island - Green Bean Salad with Walnuts
Barbara of Moveable Feasts - Popcorn Stuffing
Nancy of Picadillo - Sam's Chili
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits - Mexican Chocolate Chili Cups
Veronica of My Catholic Kitchen - Grilled Corn
Annie  at Most Lovely Things - French Beans the French Way
Claudia of Journey of an Italian Cook - Italian String Bean Salad

 "A creamy gravy enriched with cheese give us Philadelphia's famed cheese steak, which has managed to retain its historic authenticity in places like Judy Wick's White Dog Café, using citified baguettes or hoagie rolls rather than country biscuits."

**White Dog Café's Philly Cheese Steak**
from Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef (2008)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
2 large Portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound trimmed flank steak, sliced as thinly as possible (preferably on a slicer)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated pepper-Jack cheese
2 soft-crusted long baguettes, or 4 Italian-style hoagie rolls

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Heat the oil in a large non-reactive sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and 1 teaspoon of the salt and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flank steak and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and sauté until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the cheese over top, cover the pan and set aside until the cheese melts, around 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the baguettes lengthwise. Place, cut side down on a baking sheet, and toast until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.

Fill the baguettes with the meat and cheese. Cut each into two portions. Serve immediately—with or without ketchup.

Serves 4

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. What an interesting post and a great recipe that I have always wanted to make. Thanks for the recipe. Those fried mushrooms and onions are right up my alley.

  2. This is BEYOND fantastic, Val. I can't wait to read that books since it's waiting for me on my night stand...but what I'd really love is that sandwich. It made my empty belly grumble furiously this morning!

  3. OMG, that's what I call a sandwich! I've been drooling over pictures of Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches since far too long. I really have to make that dish soon.



  4. I haven't had a sandwich like this in ages! It looks so fantastic, I could eat it for breakfast!

  5. I thought today's post was outstanding, Val. That sandwich looks wonderful and demands to be tried. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  6. That is the best looking Philly I have seen! Great job!

  7. I have had this sandwich at the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia and can attest to just how delicious it is!!
    Thanks for the memory.


  8. It's interesting to see how many of these pioneers lived int The Village at one point in their lives.

  9. Seven days of Delicious DalsSeven days of Rajasthan Cuisine

  10. Betty was an interesting game changer...as next week's will be.
    Love the recipe you chose, Val, and darn, I wish I was having it for lunch!

  11. Val,

    I really don't eat a lot of meat or cheese, but this sandwich looks like something I could really enjoy biting into.

  12. I can't imagine a finer lunch ... draw a cold beer up next to that Philly Steak Bomb and chow down! Yum! My husband, who is leaning over my shoulder, agrees!

    What a great choice for posting, Val! Happy New Year!

  13. I have never had a Philly cheese steak. I don't know how that happened. Especially as a New Yorker who often went to Philly. Now with you and Betty - I can make my own - and will. Grand posting of an extraordinary woman.

  14. I love hearing about these cooking stars! This is certainly worthy of accolades! Looks delicious

  15. I love how Fussell really dove into history and culture through food. I've never had a real authentic Philly cheesesteak, but yours is making me think I need to!

  16. Great writeup on Betty Fussell and what a sandwich this is!

  17. Wow! A Philly cheese steak! It looks fantastic and wonderfully delicious! What a great choice!

  18. Hey Bellini, your Philly Cheese Steak is a Recipe Guessing Game on Knapkins. Think your friends can win? www.knapkins.com/guess_games/1113?source=blog

  19. I love a Philly cheeseteak sandwich, but I love even more this post! Betty Fussell must have been one intriguing woman. (I have to teach Shakespeare this spring; maybe Betty's muse will help me there and with my blog writing!)

  20. I think I like this post the best so far regarding these 50 women, because that quote on steak says it all. It's the best and the worst of American food life. I'm glad there is this trend back to grass fed, and humane raising of animals. I'm glad there are home cooks who have and are making a difference. That includes you. I might join this thing. It's so fascinating.

  21. This really has been a fascinating excercise Angela. We have act learned so much, not just about each of these individual women and their lives but new techniques. We have been forced to think outside of the box and recreate magic in our own kitchens.

  22. Hello Val,

    Your Philly Cheese cake sandwich looks delicious! I learned even more about Betty Fussell reading your post today...she's an amazing woman with a pretty amazing background. So glad I joined this group!

  23. omg, a good philly cheesesteak is just about the best thing on earth!

  24. rich experiences make for good cooking and writing skills - i wouldnt cook like i do now if i did not have my family

    btw, i could do with that sandwich right now - esp those onions

  25. I think a steak sandwich should be on the short list for 'comfort food'. Nice job, Val.

  26. this recipe made my mouth water, I loved thanks for sharing such a great sandwich.. :)

  27. Now that is what I call a perfect sandwich.


  28. I'm enjoying your series very much, Val. I love a good sandwich and a Philly cheese steak is at the top of my list. Betty is a gifted writer no doubt.

  29. Oh Val you just made my belly growl! This looks terrific, I can feel the juices running down my chin now! LOL!

  30. I never thought of cheese steaks the way that Betty Fussell described it, but she is so right. Your sandwich looks terrific.

  31. Look absolutely delicious Valli:)

  32. i love philly cheese steaks, but i'll only really enjoy them if the cheese involved is pepper jack. true story. :)

  33. This looks so good Val! YUM!

    Happy New Year to you!

  34. Now that is my kind of sandwich!

  35. Great job Val. I was fascinated with this post. I have to admit I thought I knew so much about the food community, but I have never heard of Betty. Thanks for such an enlighting post.

  36. Such a fascinating perspective on what we eat. I need to look more into her writing!

    I love this cheesesteak! I've never been fond of the tradition cheez whiz-topped original - too fake. I love a steak topped with real, home-cooked ingredients.

  37. WOW! Now this is my kind of sandwich - the kind where I just can dig in with no regrets. Lovely!

  38. That's definitely MY kinda sandwich!! I love everything about it. Total comfort food :)

  39. What a great recipe. I have so behing in commenting, been so sick for over a wk. Getting better now. Like your daughter's blog. Will be following it. Happy New Year!

  40. I am catching up to commenting. I enjoy a phylly sandwich any time and I think you nailed this one.

  41. That is one really nice looking cheesesteak!


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