Achieving the hashed, browned meat found in restaurant versions requires two kitchen appliances not often found in a home kitchen: a meat slicer and a griddle. What’s more, many steak shops use prohibitively expensive rib eye.
We wanted a version as close to the real deal as possible that didn’t require a trip to Philly.
Without a meat slicer, we had three options that could potentially slice the meat as thin as we wanted: a mandoline, a food processor, or a steady hand and a sharp knife. The mandoline and food processor proved to be dead ends, either taking far too long or swiftly turning the meat into paste. We’d have to go with hand slicing.
Two simple tricks made having to shave so much meat by hand far less intimidating. First, we found the right cut of meat: easily sliceable, well-marbled, and reasonably priced skirt steak. Next, we froze the meat before slicing, which firmed it up and made it easier to cut cleanly. Slicing the skirt steak against its grain and coarsely chopping it before cooking made it readily break apart into chewy tender bits as it cooked.
With the meat and slicing technique settled, we moved on to finding a viable alternative to the griddle. The advantage of the roomy flattop is that the moisture evaporates almost instantly, allowing the meat to crisp up nicely. Unfortunately, with so little surface area and 2-inch walls, a 12-inch nonstick skillet allows the meat to stew in its own juices. But the fix wasn’t a hard one: We simply cooked the meat in two stages, letting each batch drain in a colander before returning it to the pan to mix with our choice of cheese-a combination of smooth-melting American and sharp grated Parmesan.