Editor's Note: Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, the great minds behind the influential blog Ideas in Food, and the cookbooks Ideas in Food and Maximum Flavor, will be sharing their wisdom and clever cooking ideas here on Serious Eats, as they reinvent classic dishes with the aim of getting the most flavor out of them.
Alex went to Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and the steak bomb—a kind of hot cheesesteak-hero sandwich mashup popular in New England—is one of his lasting food memories from that time. There was a local place that would deliver them late at night and, in Alex's words, "They were a great idea in theory, and tasted good on the way down, but you always paid for them later."
The key to these sandwiches was the salami: They would split the rolls and line them with thinly sliced salami before adding the seared beef, onions, peppers, and cheese. They also had ketchup, mustard, and mayo somewhere in the mix. It was a juicy, gooey mess that seemed like just the thing after a night of partying.
For our version of the steak bomb, we wanted to create something insanely delicious that wouldn't leave us in a food coma (or with any other, um...regrets). We would use all of the original elements of the sandwich, but turn them into something you'd crave at any time of day, and not just after too many shots of Jaegermeister.
Instead of simply layering ingredients, we looked for ways to layer their flavors within the sandwich. This is a generous recipe, enough for a crowd, although we've been known to save the extra sandwiches and eat them straight out of the fridge at midnight (no comment on whether drinking is involved at that hour).
We began with the roll, which is what we'll describe today. We like a pretty straightforward soft bread for sandwich rolls—it needs to be flavorful without trying to steal the show. To that end we created a (relatively) quick-rising bread with a generous amount of instant yeast. We like to work with instant yeast because it's easier to use than active dry and it works very well. Just make sure your batch of yeast is fresh, since expiration dates do matter in this case. Old yeast leads to heavy bread. Trust us, we speak from unfortunate experience.
We added some milk to help create a crisp, brown crust and some oat flour to give it a soft, tender crumb. It's the perfect thing to soak up all those rich, meaty juices from the steak bomb and hold everything together in one delicious bite.
When we baked the rolls, we brushed them with rendered beef fat that we made from the scraps we got from trimming the sandwich meat. If you don't want to render your own beef fat, you can also use olive oil or melted butter to brush the rolls.
As an added level of flavor, we experimented with baking each roll on top of a slice of salami. The flavor of the meat infused the bread while developing a crispness that adds nice flavor and crunch to the final product. Especially if you're like us and tend to snack on at least one fresh roll while it's still warm from the oven.
In part two, we'll show you how we fill these babies up!