I recently saw a sandwich on Instagram that sparked my interest. It was an “Irish Philly” cheesesteak, created by Billy Zureikat that was his winning submission in a sandwich contest a few years back. Here’s Billy’s Instagram —I’ve also displayed the reel on this page for you to check out.
If you’re not familiar with Billy, two years ago yesterday, he was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy 2L. Instead of closing off and feeling sorry for his own situation, Billy turned his focus to raising awareness about Muscular Dystrophy. Please read more about Billy’s journey on Instagram.
Billy is now an Illinois Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and, for the past two years, he has been hustling around Chicago setting up exciting food collaborations to raise funds for MDA. For those of us who follow him, Billy is an inspiration and today I’m proud to write about a sandwich he created.
If you have the means:
Donate to Billy’s Fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
I reached out to Billy to ask if he would mind if I recreated his award-winning Irish Philly sandwich and write about it for this sandwich blog and he responded by sharing his recipe with me which am sharing with you down below.
Billy also sent me some beautiful photos of his sandwich.
I’m going to make Billy’s Irish Philly.
First, we need a bread roll that’s a bit chewy to stand up to the meat and cheesy goodness that we’re putting inside. Billy used Turano brand rolls in his version of this sandwich recipe, but since I typically make my own bread, I’ll be switching things up just a tad using my newest sub roll recipe.
Sourdough sub roll
My three-and-a-half-year-old sourdough starter, Jimmy Starter Jr, has been resting in my fridge for a couple of months and I felt it was time to wake him back up. So, I decided to convert my easy sub sandwich roll to use the sourdough starter as a portion of the flour and water in the recipe.
There’s still a little instant yeast in the recipe to ensure that we’re not waiting all day for these rolls to rise, but it’s a minimal amount of yeast, allowing the sourdough flavor to work its way into the bread.
Below is what this dough looks like throughout its rising and baking process. For most of my test batches, I did use a silicone sub roll baking form that I got from Amazon. But that sub roll form is not required. I wrote the recipe instructions for NOT using this form. I just wanted to use it for consistency reasons for the photographs. These rolls still taste the same even if they aren’t perfectly consistent. The dough rises and bakes the same with or without a silicone baking form.
This roll works very well with a cheesesteak, so I figured this was as good a time as any to put it to work.
Nerdy sourdough stuff
If you’re wondering how someone would convert a normal yeast bread recipe to a sourdough recipe, it’s very easy to do but requires a tiny bit of math. Most sourdough starter instructions out on the internet teach you how to maintain a starter at 100% hydration. This means that you are using the same amount by weight of flour as water. So, if you’re feeding your starter, you would add something like 100 grams of flour and then match that with 100 grams of water.
This means that the weight of the sourdough starter you add to the recipe can be multiplied by 0.5 (halved) and that number will tell you how much flour and water to hold back on in the original recipe.
For example, in this recipe, I add 200 grams of sourdough starter.
200 * 0.5 = 100
That means I can subtract 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water from my non-sourdough recipe. This is easy math and in theory, should work most of the time.
End of the nerdy sourdough stuff
This conversion works well in this recipe, and you end up with a soft, but still chewy roll with more flavor than your typical sub roll.
What does “whiz wit” mean?
One of the bits of Philadelphia cheesesteak ordering jargon that you might want to know is what “whiz” and “wit” mean. “Whiz” means you want Cheez Whiz instead of sliced white American cheese or some other cheese like provolone and “wit” is slang for the “with” in “with onions.”
This sandwich has onions in the griddling process, so it’s wit and we’re making a cheese sauce based on Irish cheddar, Guinness stout, and Cheez Whiz so this Irish Philly is being prepared whiz wit.
According to folks on the internet, the phrase “whiz wit” has become sort of touristy, so use it on your next trip to Philadelphia at your own risk!
How to make corned beef
First off, there’s 0% corn in this recipe. So far.
I’ve made corned beef for this blog at least twice. Once was a normal corned beef and the other corned beef recipe involved cherry cola. Both were very good. The corned beef process usually requires a long, wet brine and then the beef is cooked, while submerged in liquid which is a process known as braising.
For my recipe, the brining process takes at least five days and does require a couple of ingredients that you might not have in your pantry.
Corned beef requires that the brisket it is made from spends multiple days submerged in a brine that is heavy on salt, sugar, and many different seasonings.
Before you add the brined brisket into the braising process you should thoroughly rinse off the outside of the beef. The meat at this point will be very heavy on the salt due to five days soaking in a brine so a good, thorough rinse will help a lot to remove some of that salt. You can rest assured that the multiple-day brining process will have fully soaked into the meat so a rinse will not remove the flavor you worked so hard to achieve.
I did slice most of this corned beef in my deli slicer, but the first 10 or so slices were by hand with a big, sharp knife. The deli slicer just makes things a bit more consistent and a little quicker for me. The takeaway here is that if you’re patient, you can do it with just a knife.
Corned beef recipe
This is the same corned beef ingredients and directions from my 2022 Reuben post, I just removed all the other Reuben parts and exposed instructions for just the beef.
Here’s the recipe for the corned beef I used in this sandwich, but you could buy yours at the deli or butcher if you want to skip this five-plus day process.
Guinness Irish cheddar cheez whiz
This sandwich needs a cheesy sauce. Billy came up with one.
The base of this cheese sauce is shredded, white Irish cheddar cheese, and Guinness stout with a bit of cheez whiz added for good measure.
I think it’s best to make this sauce in advance because the cheese sauce will thicken after cooling. When you are done adding all the cheese and Cheez and other ingredients and the sauce is hot, it’s very liquidy which will not be the best for your cheesesteak. But if you let it cool to room temperature it will thicken a lot more and is much easier to spread or add to the sandwich. It’s not going to cool down your sandwich, but it will just be much easier to work with.
All your meat and onions are flaming hot at this point and the thicker cheese sauce will quickly start to become thin again, so starting the sandwich-making process with the cheese sauce at a cool temperature was important in my experience.
In other words, you can make this cheese sauce well in advance of sandwich time which makes the sandwich cooking and assembly process a whole lot easier. Billy’s recipe makes a lot of cheese sauce too, so you can keep it in the fridge for a week or so and apply it to your next nacho night or add a spoonful to your morning eggs or even put a small portion into a bowl, add some salsa to it, heat it all up and pull out the tortilla chips for dip time.
I have never made true fermented sauerkraut. Someday I will, but it’s not this day. In my Reuben sandwich blog post from last year, I made a quick kraut that was a perfect substitute if you want to try that. It doesn’t have any fermentation in the process, so it’s sort of a faux kraut, but it’s quick and easy to make.
Here’s a link to the quick kraut recipe I’ve made in the past. It’s from Michael Voltaggio, who you might recognize from his appearances on Top Chef. This is a microwave recipe from a Top Chef all-star, so you know you can trust it and should take note.
For this sandwich, since I had a limited window of time between the start of this sandwich process and now, I opted to buy kraut.
I’ve written about griddling meat and cheese for sandwiches several times. I suggest if you do not have a griddle and you’re interested in making cheesesteaks, chopped cheese or even smash burgers that you look into buying a cast iron Lodge brand griddle. They’re usually priced between 35 and 60 bucks and Lodge brand cast iron will last you a lifetime if you take care of it.
You can go for a much more expensive steel or carbon steel griddle, but this cast iron variety works great for me and it’s great for pancakes and anytime you need to make more than 2 grilled cheese sandwiches at once.
You can make this sandwich in a regular pan as well, just be careful with the chopping part if you are using a non-stick pan. Don’t scratch it up.
Billy’s Irish Philly cheesesteak griddling process goes like this: add the diced onions to a skillet or griddle with a little bit of vegetable oil and griddle them for 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the corned beef and start chopping it up and mixing it in with the hot, softening onions. Cook the beef until it starts to darken a little. Add cheese sauce and mix that into the hot beef and onions. Top the meat, cheese, and onions with an open roll to allow it to soften from the steam and now you’re ready to build the final sandwich.
There are two times when you add cheese while making this sandwich. You add it during the cooking process and shuffle it into the meat and onions and then you can add more when the sandwich is constructed. So don’t worry if the first bit of cheese sort of cooks off a little and is no longer visible when you stuff the meat into the bread. You’ll have plenty of time for more cheese before serving.
First, check out photos of Billy’s Irish Philly sandwiches that I made at my house. Once you get your hands on the corned beef and have the cheese sauce prepped, this is a quick sandwich to put together.
Ingredients:Guinness Irish cheddar whiz
- 3 1⁄2 cups shredded Irish cheddar cheese (300 grams)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 can evaporated milk (12 ounce)
- 1⁄2 cup Guinness stout
- 1 cup Cheez Whiz
- 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- pinch ground white pepper
- 1⁄4 small white onion
- 5 ounces corned beef (view recipe)
- Guinness Irish cheddar whiz (from above)
- 1 soft hero/French/hoagie roll
- 1⁄2 cup sauerkraut
Guinness Irish cheddar whiz: sprinkle and coat your shredded cheddar cheese with the cornstarch and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat add evaporated milk and Guinness and bring to a simmer.
Add shredded cheddar a small amount at a time until melted. Then add whiz, stirring to incorporate.
Season with garlic powder, mustard powder, salt, and white pepper to taste.
Store in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to a week.
Sandwich cooking and assembly: saute diced onions in olive oil with a pinch of salt until caramelized (about 5 mins) set aside. Stack corned beef and cut into long strips.
On a griddle or cast iron pan, heat 1 teaspoon of cooking oil and add your beef and cook untouched for about a minute. Begin to chop your beef with a flat spatula or bench scraper, add onions and mix chop to combine.
Add a few tablespoons of your cheese sauce and chop together with the meat and onions.
Open your bread roll and place atop your meat mixture to steam for 30 seconds. Scoop up everything and tuck into bread.
Top with more Irish cheddar whiz and sauerkraut.
Wrap sandwich in parchment for a better effect.
Check back next week for 100% less beef content!
We’ve had three beef-focused sandwiches in a row. Next week will be the time to change that.