When you want a Philly cheesesteak, and you want a Hot Pocket, but you don’t want self-loathing, it’s time for a Philly cheesesteak pretzel pocket. Yes indeed, junky-looking food can also be a part of a sustainable food system.
It’s a cheesesteak! It’s a runza! It’s a pretzel! It’s all off these things, and you made it! At least, you should have, because even though it’s definitely not a 20-minute supper, it’s actually really easy.
Picture this: all the guys are coming over to watch the big game of sportball, and you break out a basket of dinner rolls, and they’re all like ‘WTF dude? Is this Lambert’s or something?’ Then somebody takes a bite and he’s all ‘DOOOD CHEESESTEAK’ and then everybody’s all ‘YEAH MAYN CHEESESTEAK DOOOOOOOD.’
This is how I talk when I’m watching sportball. I can’t speak for everyone.
I made a couple of batches of cheesesteak pockets to test it out, and had one bad experience. I wanted a pretzel crust for maximum craziness, so once the cheesesteak pockets were stuffed and sealed, I soaked them for a couple of minutes in a low-PH solution of baking soda dissolved in water. 1
I think I overdid it. Oh MAN, were they bitter; I ate one, then couldn’t do any more. You could hardly taste the cheesesteak.
I made the next batch with a much less concentrated basic solution, and was very happy with the result.
FOR THE NERDS
The campaign to develop local, sustainable cuisines in here in America needs a certain amount of ridiculousness. Craziness, weirdness, zaniness draws attention, draws attention to the cause, and encourages creativity.
The ‘stuff in a pocket of dough’ concept has been visited in every culture on the planet. 2 But in American culture, the most ubiquitous of stuffed dough objects is simultaneously the most potent image of immaturity and loneliness: the Hot Pocket.
Sad, poor college students eat Hot Pockets. Lonely computer programmers eat Hot Pockets. Harried mothers feed their wailing progeny Hot Pockets and begin the cycle all over again. 3
Stuffed dough pockets should not be a meme of social isolation and kitchen ineptitude! Their heritage is noble and diverse, and America will birth its own righteous example into the fray!
Because there’s nothing wrong with a Hot Pocket as a concept. Bread around a savory filling; what’s not to like? Well, maybe the essay’s worth of salts, sugars, and artificial preservatives that make processed foods cheap and standardized.
But what if we took something simple and from scratch, like Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread?
Then we wrap it around a mixture of grilled onions, bell peppers, and skirt steak. Including plenty of veggies turns this from just party food into a more balanced meal, with a much smaller environmental footprint.
Maybe we include some provolone or American cheese. 4
At the end, we have a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, but in a self-contained pocket of bread.
EAT IT, NERDS! IT’S PHILLY CHEESESTEAK PRETZEL POCKETS!
It’s like the lovechild of a Hot Pocket and a Philly Cheesesteak, and you made it.
Because you are a badass.
- 1 batch Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread dough, risen overnight (see notes), plus flour for dusting
- 1 lb skirt steak, sliced thin across the grain
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 green bell peppers, diced
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 slices provolone cheese
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the steak. Don’t crowd the meat; cook in batches if need be. Spread the steak over the skillet, let it cook for two or three minutes, then flip the pieces and let it go another couple of minutes. Not moving it around will develop the flavorful browning compounds. When cooked through, set it aside on a plate.
- Sauce the onions and peppers until they are just beginning to brown. Turn off the heat, add the steak back to the skillet, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Dust the bread dough liberally with flour and divide into six roughly equal portions. Roll each portion in flour, then around on the counter. Take a small bowl, dust the inside with flour, and put one of the dough balls into it. Press a piece of provolone cheese into the middle, then add a quarter cup of the steak filling. Press down until you are able to fold the dough on the sides up and around the filling, and pinch it closed. (See the link in the notes for pictures of this process. Do the same the the remaining five balls of dough.
- Bring the half cup of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Stir to dissolve.
- Arrange the pockets on a cookie sheet. Dip a pastry brush in the baking soda solution, and brush the surface of each pocket. If desired, sprinkle some coarse salt on the pockets.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until well browned.
- Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread - http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11376-no-knead-bread
- The Runza Pocket Process: http://vomitingchicken.com/5-secrets-best-runzas-can-make-no-matter/
- Pretzels get their characteristic taste from being brushed with a basic (vs. acidic) solution, often lye. The low ph promotes browning and gives a distinctive bitter flavor. ↩
- Potstickers, pasties, kolaches, runzas, and khinkali, just to name a few. ↩
- I’m not judging, I’m stating a reality. I have been all of these people. Except for the harried mother. ↩
- I know, I’m railing against processed foods and then I’m eating American cheese. It’s an addiction. ↩