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Food Porn. | November 4, 2010



Caution: the following post is NSFW (Not Safe For Waistlines).
Read through the pages of Anthony Bourdain’s many food tomes, and you’ll notice frequent references to the relationship between food and sex. Similarities in the chemical and physiological changes in the body before a good meal or a good romp.
Enter food porn: the only pornography more shame-inducing than watching the real thing. Indeed the human animal is drawn to that which is taboo. Traditional porn showcases pleasures of the flesh (or so I’m told… … …), always stalwarts in the Pantheon of sinful deeds. Furthermore, in an American society resting on the slumping shoulders of heavyset and unhealthy citizens, the concept of ogling fatty treats with a lustful eye seems just as forbidden. Thus- I surmise- the notion of “food porn” has arisen.

Need an example? Take the Philly Cheese Steak. Who knew that Pat Olivieri’s innocent act of replacing a hot dog with some griddled beef in depression-era South Philadelphia would be the impetus for the ULTIMATE in dreadfully unhealthy, sinfully delicious junk foods? Indeed, the philly is a treat that’s life-saving at 3 AM with a belly full of beer, yet surely the harbinger of death only a few hours later.
Yep, phillies are the sandwich-equivalent to a double order of Waffle House hashbrowns- scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, topped, diced, capped, peppered, and ranched (Bonus points to whomever can identify the toppings in the comment field. College kids from the South are not eligible).
Now, despite the proliferation of food porn on this site, I try (with little success) to keep a trim figure. I don’t answer the Philadelphia Cheese Steak’s sirens’ song frequently. So, when I am lured in by its sultry promise of eventual gastrointestinal discomfort, I make sure to do it right:

Bread: Any salty Philly folk (and they’re pretty much all salty) will say that the bread is critical. I usually decide not to mess around and source Italian rolls from a Northeastern bakery, like J.J. Cassone or Amoroso’s. It takes a little more work to find perfect rolls, but when that soft, chewy bun starts soaking up flavorful grease, you’ll relish in your persistence. Warning to bakery zealots: these two companies ship the rolls frozen (they thaw up quite nicely). If you just can’t handle that, find a local baker who can make some decent Italian rolls. Just don’t come crying to me when a Philadelphia native dresses you down with a rant about bread geography.

Meat: It’s called a Cheese Steak, not a “Cheese Roast Beef” or a “Cheese Hamburger Meat”. So get steak. I prefer Ribeye, because it’s got a lot of flavor (read: fat), and it’s what the silverbacks like Tony Luke use. You can get a butcher to take a partially frozen ribeye and shave it down for you. Thinly shaved meat allows you to take clean bites, and it cooks quickly, so it retains all that juiciness (that will eventually soak into the bread…hey now). I’ve also used top round, and I’ve had success with the chain meat off a whole tenderloin (the stuff from step 2 in this video). Just make sure there’s some fat in there. Otherwise, go eat a celery stalk, Denise Austin.

Cheese: the more processed, the better. Traditionally (according to Pat’s King of Steaks), the proper slather is Cheez Whiz. I just put the whole can on the griddle and let that stuff turn into a molten cauldron of goodness. If you can’t stomach the thought of eating something that processed, use some White American. Provolone can also be employed if you’re a real sissy. The takeaway here is: if you’re in the mood for a cheese steak, have very little regard for what is going into your body.
Veggies: just to keep things healthy. The traditional roughage is grilled onions. Foks sometimes get fancy and throw in green peppers and/or mushrooms. Both tasty, but not traditional (they often make it onto my sammich so I feel like I’m getting a balanced meal). Beyond that, I’ve seen cherry peppers, tomatoes, and even broccoli rabe. Just don’t get too cute. The veggies will serve the purposes of flavor and texture ONLY. Their healthful properties will be swaddled in a cocoon of LDL.
In the end, we’re left with a disgustingly wonderful treat that is worthy of shameful adoration. Pair with beer, or a “cheeseburger” wine (like Garnacha, Zinfandel, or Aussie Shiraz). Throw in some Teddy Pendergrass, add a few strips of bacon, and you’ve got something that’ll really make you feel flush:

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