How to make the best steak sandwich ever…


This recipe isn’t included in our free meal plans, but it’s too awesome not to share…

I love it when the various bits of the flotsam and jetsam that bob randomly about  in my head occasionally drift together into something useful.

Here’s an example:

The Flotsam

Sparks-of-HopeSeveral weeks ago, we had the privilege of teaching some classes and hosting some special dinners for the awesome kids at the Sparks of Hope summer camps.

The regular meals were provided by the kitchen staff of the camp (best camp food I’ve ever had, btw), and one night, they grilled steaks.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, when the guy manning the giant bin-o-steaks asked me if I wanted medium-well, or well done, I had to fight not to shudder visibly, or possibly burst into tears, over such an atrocity being committed to a lovely bit of beef. But I was polite, I took one of the little brown hockey pucks and shuffled dispiritedly back to my table, where I sat and stared at it with an overwhelming sense on underwhelmation. (Yes, I made that word up…)

But, I had to be polite, right?

I had to set a good example for the kids, right?

So, I tried it…and instantly suffered one of the “paradigm shifts” that everyone is always yapping on about.

The steak was obviously well done, solidly brown all the way through, but it was also juicy, tender, and full of flavor…a condition I would have bet my favorite saute pan was not possible in an “overcooked” steak like the one I was eating.

Seriously, it was really, REALLY good!

Obviously, there was a secret here that I had to weasel from someone.

Chef Cris and I tracked the grill-master down, and he was kind enough to share his trick…we didn’t have to pull a knife or ‘nuthing…but I’m not going to tell you what it is quite yet (don’t panic, all will be revealed in the recipe…)

The Jetsam

At our new country digs, the nearest “grocery” stores are about 10 miles from our farm, and we pass them nearly every day. coming and going.

All on the same crossroad, sit a Fred Meyer, a Safeway, and a Dollar Tree.

Now I do most of my shopping at the local produce co-op about a mile further down Main Street, but I often pick up the rest of my odds and ends at one of these three. Dollar Store, in particular, is a great source for a lot of the gear and disposables we us in our MY KITCHEN classes.

Outside of the Dollar Tree hangs a big banner, proudly announcing “Rib Eye Steaks, $1 each!

Dollar Store Rib Eye SteaksThis banner has been bothering me for some time.

Like an itch between the shoulder blades that only becomes harder to ignore the harder you try to ignore it. Rib-eyes? At Dollar Tree? For a dollar? It became something of a sick obsession for me, I had to see them for myself.

I had to cook one of these “Dollar Tree Steaks” and find out what they were all about.

What I found was a 3.5oz, one-half inch thick frozen cross section of a rib-eye steak, each packaged individually, and each bearing a disconcerting resemblance to a Dr. Scholls sneaker insert.


Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that steaks this thin are nearly impossible to cook properly. To get the proteins to caramelize on the outside, you have to cook them far too long for the thickness, and then they toughen up, so…your options are tasteless and tender, or a delicious flap of shoe-leather.

I was disappointed, but not dissuaded. I threw a few of the frozen cow planks into my basket, and headed for the door.

Once home, I tossed them into the freezer, and promptly forgot about them.


So, the swirling tide that brought the various bits of this post (and recipe) all together was another sick obsession of mine…Pinterest. One of my favorite “pinners” posted a recipe and a to-die-for picture of a rib-eye sandwich with fried onions.

I wanted it…I’m telling you…I wanted it bad.

And then it clicked…the Dollar Tree ribeye steaks (purchased the week before) were still in my freezer. Their shape and thickness practically begged for the addition of a toasted hoagie roll. Plus, I had a fresh bag of sweet onion…and the grill-masters secret ingredient, already in the kitchen.

I swear, on the eyes of my children (which I always thought was kinda a creepy idea, even for The Godfather), I swear to you that this was, hands down, THE BEST steak sandwich I’ve ever eaten!

Here you go…thank you camp grill-master, thank you Dollar Tree, you came together and made something beautiful here…

Dollar Tree Steak Sandwich with Fried Sweet Onions
Serves 4

  • 4 – 3.5oz “Dollar Tree” rib eye steak, thawed.
  • 1 cup Italian salad dressing (I like Newman’s)
  • Grape-seed oil
  • 2 small sweet onions, sliced thin
  • Dash of salt
  • A-1 steak sauce (optional)

Newman Italian Dressings RecipesThe night before (this is it…the secret!) place the thawed steaks in a gallon zip bag, add Italian dressing, seal and squoosh the bag around with your hands until all the steaks are well coated. Put the bag in the fridge until dinnertime the next night, flipping it a couple of times in between.

In a small, nonstick pan, heat a teaspoon or so of oil over medium high heat, and add the peeled and sliced onions with a dash of salt.

Flip or stir the onions every couple of minutes until they begin to get golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet*, heat a couple of more teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Remove the steaks from the bag and pat them dry. (Wet meat don’t brown.)

Fry the steaks in oil – no additional seasoning necessary – until browned on both sides, adding a little extra oil to the pan, if needed. Remove steaks from heat, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, dump your fried onions in the steak skillet, and re-fry them for a minute, letting them caramelize in all those fantastic steak juices.

Split and toast your hoagie rolls (a must, always.) Give the bottom halves of the rolls a very thin coating of steak sauce (optional) and place a steak on each.

Top with 1/4 of the grilled onions, finish the plate with a chilled tossed salad, and serve!

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Not only does the overnight marinating in Italian dressing tenderize the meat (keeping it juicy, but not tasting at all like Italian dressing,) but the acids and sugars help the steak caramelize faster, and add an amazing depth of delicious “steak-house-steak” flavor.

And…it’s dirt cheap! I’m guesstimating around $1.50 a serving, not including the salad.

Now, before the math nerds all wet their high-waters in a frenzy to point out that $1 for a 3.5oz steak equals just over four bucks a pound…I realize that.

$4 a pound is still a pretty freaking good deal for rib-eye, PLUS good luck finding a butcher who will sell you a 3.5oz cut of steak, especially one cut thin like this for sandwiches (and, NO…that nasty “steak-um” stuff doesn’t count!)

So, yeah…I’ll be heading back to Dollar Tree in the near future. I’m thinking we need a steak-roulade experiment…

Chef Perry

*Next time I’m going to try this recipe on the grill chimney, I’m guessing it’s going to be even better!

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