After leaving our daughter, Emma, behind in the dorms at Temple University for the first time, my husband and I ate a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich for lunch. We didn’t talk much while I ate, but I knew I would remember eating that sandwich for the rest of my life. It was the first time I felt the mix of pride and anguish that comes with leaving a family member behind to make a life for themselves.

And now, in the blink of an eye, Emma has finished her first year of college and heads home for the summer in just a few days.  To say I have missed her would be an understatement of epic proportion, but I think I did my best to maintain my composure as she took her bold first steps into adulthood. She conquered a brand new city, made a slew of hilarious friends and performed to the best of her academic ability. We are some seriously proud parents!

That being said, our family of four feels a little off kilter with her living halfway across the country. Heck, I only visited her twice during her freshman year. Now that the school year has come to an end, I am no longer hiding my desire to have her tucked into her very comfy bed in our cozy little bungalow as soon as possible. A mom can only take so much.

But here’s the thing…while Emma is looking forward to coming home for a little rest and recuperation, I imagine she feels pretty torn leaving her new city behind for the summer. She hasn’t even left Philly yet and I know she can’t wait to go back. 

The waning moments of her freshman year are proving to be precious and her exciting plans for her second year including moving into her very first apartment. I am coming to realize college students live between two worlds and I am not foolish to think this may be the first and last summer Emma comes home to Oak Park. A big part of her belongs to Philadelphia now.

It occurred to me coming home probably feels the same way to Emma as leaving her in Philly for the first time felt to me. And that calls for a cheesesteak!

The Temple Owls wear cherry and white and my cheesesteak features loads of creamy white provolone cheese and cherry red roasted peppers. A pile of quick cooked rib-eye, sweet caramelized onions and slather of garlic butter finish this decadent ode to the city of brotherly love.  I think this Cherry and White Cheesesteak will be the perfect way to say welcome home to my favorite girl and the ideal thing to whip up when I have to say goodbye to her all over again.

Emma’s Cherry and White Cheesesteak (makes 6 sandwiches)

For the Caramelized Onions:

  • 2 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

For the Meat:

  • 2 pounds very thin shaved ribeye
  • Your favorite steak seasoning blend

For the Garlic Butter:

  • 5 Tablespoons high quality salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 Large garlic cloves, minced

For Serving:

  • 2-3 red peppers, roasted and sliced (homemade or store-bought)
  • 9 slices mild provolone cheese, halved
  • 9 slices sharp provolone cheese, halved
  • 3 whole wheat demi baguettes, halved

Prepare the onions: Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the butter has melted add the sliced onions.  Season the onions with salt and pepper and stir well.  Reduce heat to medium-low and allow the onions to cook, stirring occasionally, for at least one hour. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the onions cooking evenly without burning.  After an hour the onions will have taken on a deep golden hue.  Stir in the sugar and vinegar and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  Cool the onions. carmelized onions can be made 4 days in advance and leftovers can be frozen for later use.

Prepare the meat: Heat a grill pan or heavy skillet over high heat until nearly smoking.  Cook the meat in batches. Pull a piece of the ribeye and season with a sprinkling of the steak seasoning.  Add the piece to the pan and repeat until the pan is covered with seasoned meat; do not over crowd. Allow the meat to cook undisturbed until browned on one side and nearly cooked through on the other.  Flip the meat and allow to cook briefly on the second side.  Gather all the meat in the pan into a pile and transfer to a plate for holding.  Repeat until all the meat is cooked.  Your smoke detector should go off while you are completing this process if you are doing it right!

Mix the Butter: Combine the salted butter and minced garlic in a small bowl and set aside until ready to assemble sandwiches.

Assemble the sandwiches: Cut each baguette horizontally, but not all the way through. Unfold the bread like a book and spread both sides with the garlic butter.  Place 3 halves of the mild provolone on one side and three halves of the sharp provolone on the other side.  Place a generous tablespoon of the caramelized onions on the bottom side of the sandwich.  Top with the cooked ribeye and some of the roasted red pepper.  Close the sandwich and wrap tighly in foil; repeat until you have 6 sandwiches. Sandwiches can be made one day ahead to this point and refrigerated. 

Serve the sandwiches:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Warm the foil wrapped sandwiches for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and meat is warmed through.

Join the discussion on social media!