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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Take Out Fake Out - Primanti Brothers

"Jesse is a friend. 
Yeah, he's always been a good friend of mine."
- Jesse's Girl, Rick Springfield

No matter where I am or who I am with, when I hear that song I am transported back to Hickory Hall on the Pitt-Johnstown campus in the fall of 2004. Jesse indeed is a friend, and a very good one. We met up at Johnstown during our days at UPJ. The freshman dorms were T-shaped with two wings of girls usually for every one wing of guys. After my room was unpacked, my parents left. Being all alone and almost two hours from home, I did the only thing that I could think of - cry. Then, there was a knock at the door. With red, puffy eyes and Kleenex in hand, I opened the door to find two guys asking me if I wanted Werther's Originals because they did not want them and didn't want to throw them in the trash (slick, right?)  When they asked me to come down and hang out, I followed and met some of the guys that lived down the 230 wing of the building. 

Jesse was one of those guys. We became close very quickly and it was pretty much effortless. It is one of those things that you can never quite put into words, but you know it's there. Although we both admit there was something, we never really put a label on it. Through ups and downs and four years, we always kept in touch. On graduation day, I was saddened by the fact that he wasn't there. It just seemed like something was missing. Ok, so I secretly had a dream dating back to freshmen year that we'd get engaged at graduation and start our lives together...I'm a girl that has seen way too many rom-coms and read far too many romance novels.

Let's fast forward several years to present day. We now have children and families of our own, houses, and big people jobs. I can tell, just from his emails, that his little men are the light of his life. It is adorable to see the transition that he has made from party guy to family man. I am very proud of him and the wonderful family that he has created.  He does all that he can to provide for them - as any good man should. I am very proud to know him. We work ten minutes away from each other and always say that we are going to meet up for lunch. With in-services for me and busy schedules all around, we haven't met up yet - but I hope that one day in the near future, we do.

We always say that we will meet up at the Primanti Brothers. If you don't live in Pittsburgh, you have no idea what I am talking about. The concept behind Primanti Brothers restaurant is gross and genius at the same time. In a cozy, laid back atmosphere, you are served a sandwich that has everything on it - meat, cheese, cole slaw, and fries. Yes, the fries are on the sandwich and sometimes under the melted cheese. Don't knock it until you've tried it. These things are pure deliciousness when enjoyed with about 50 napkins per person...and a beer.  

Trying to really cut back on take out and money spent on fast food, I thought that I would try to recreate this behemoth of a sandwich at home. Primanti Brothers use an amish slaw. To keep it a bit healthier - I chose to bake my fries in the other rather than to fry them. If you're looking to go all out - try the authentic way that is also posted below. The assembly of these sandwiches is pretty simple - meat, cheese, heat in the oven until the cheese starts to melt. While the cheese is warm, add fries, slaw, tomato and the second piece of Italian bread. Yum!


For the slaw
  • 1 pound (about half of a medium-size head) green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the twice-fried potatoes
  • 6 to 8 large (4 to 5 pounds) russet potatoes, washed well
  • 8 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • Kosher salt
For the meat and cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds spicy, thinly sliced capicola ham
  • 8 thin slices provolone cheese (about 5 ounces)
For assembly
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 16 thin slices
  • 16 large slices of soft Italian bread (18 ounces total)


For the slaw: Combine the cabbage, sugar, salt and celery seed in a colander set over a medium bowl. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours; the cabbage will be wilted (about 4 cups total). Discard the draining liquid in the bowl; rinse and dry the bowl, then transfer the wilted cabbage to the bowl. Add the oil and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the twice-fried potatoes: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a few large baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Cut the (unpeeled) potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Submerge in the cold water. Rinse in subsequent changes of cold water to remove all visible starch, then drain in a colander and spread the potatoes on the paper towels, patting the potatoes dry.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, until the oil temperature reaches 320 degrees. Fry the potatoes in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally as they cook, until the fries are soft and cooked through but still pale. Allow enough time for the oil to return to 320 degrees between batches; use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the potatoes to the lined baking sheets. Increase the heat to high (or as needed) so that the temperature of the oil reaches 375 degrees. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Refresh the paper towels on the baking sheets as needed.

Cook the fries a second time, working in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 3 miinutes, until the fries are crisp and golden brown. Transfer to the lined baking sheets. Immediately season lightly with salt, then place in the oven to keep the fries warm.

For the meat and cheese: Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Have ready a large baking sheet. Separate the slices and add to the skillet, turning them as needed until the slices are warmed through. Transfer the slices to the baking sheet, creating equal portions. Top each with a slice of provolone cheese. Place in the oven just until the cheese has melted.

For assembly: Place the portions of cheese-topped meat on bread slices. Top with a large handful of the warm fries, then pile about 1/2 cup of the slaw on each portion. Garnish with 2 tomato slices for each portion; use the remaining pieces of bread to finish each sandwich. Serve warm. 

Source: Washington Post

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