May It Please the Palate ...

Classic Philly Cheesesteak

By Nick Roumel

Monday. Defending a deposition. My least favorite part of the job. If you are opposing counsel, read no further.

I amused myself by objecting.

As legal readers know, objections in a deposition are much more limited than at trial.

For the most part, one may object to “form,” or “foundation,” to preserve the objection for the record.

Sometimes, when opposing counsel is really reckless, I’ll object to both “form AND foundation.”

One time I offered a bit of an explanation since I was repeatedly objecting to the same line of questioning.

Opposing counsel interrupted and fixed me a stern look. “There will be no "speaking objections," counselor.”

So I tried to be a good boy.

I restricted my further objections to simply “objection as to form (and/or foundation).”

One time, I objected to a seemingly innocent question. Opposing counsel looked at me incredulously. “What was wrong with that one?”

I was really mean. I said, “Sorry, you said you didn’t want speaking objections,” and sat ba

So he got even with me.

There I was, wondering what to write for this week’s column, when I heard opposing counsel’s voice rise in questioning my client. “Do you have a problem with alcohol?” I shot to attention.

”No,” my client quickly answered. She and I shared a look, wondering where that question came from.

“Have you ever sought medical help because of a problem with alcohol?”

“No!” my client repeated.

Then opposing counsel marked the exhibit. It was a medical intake form, the kind doctors use routinely.

Buried in the form was a question about alcohol use: never, occasionally, frequently. My client had checked “occasionally.”

Seven hours of deposition later, I’m thinking she might be edging closer to “frequently.”

And me, I needed a cheesesteak. (How’s that for a segue, editor?)

I shed that office as quickly as I could.

Went to the gym in preparation for the gorging that was to come. Adjacent to the gym, and owned by the same man, is a specialty grocery. (How’s that for cunning marketing?)

Thinly sliced ribeye — check. My butcher does it the proper way – slightly freezes the meat to get the paper thin slices. Onion, mushrooms. Some provolone slices, mild pepper rings, and McClure’s pickles. A soft French baguette. A bag of baked potato chips (health conscious, you know.) And just for fun, a wedge of brie.

Let the experimenting begin! I thought, and then rebuked myself, as if I’d blasphemed. Objection as to form. Philly cheesesteaks are a regional specialty, invented by the Olivieri family in 1930 and rivaled by many; but they must hew to the same formula: 

Thinly sliced ribeye, sautéed with onions, and topped with melted cheese, on an appropriate hoagie roll.

Controversies abound as to cheese (provolone, or honest-to-goodness Cheez Whiz); how much to chop the ribeye; whether to add mushrooms; and the precise nature of the hoagie roll.
But don’t go all-artisan or anything. That would simply be wrong.

Classic Philly Cheesesteak
(makes four fair sized sandwiches)


A crusty roll. A long Italian or French baguette with sesame seeds will do nicely.

1 lb. thinly sliced ribeye

1/4 to 1/2 lb. sliced provolone, Cheez Whiz, Velveeta, or – dare I say it – brie

A large sweet yellow onion

A red/green bell pepper or combination

1 garlic clove (optional)

1/2 to 1 lb. sliced mushrooms (optional)

1/4 lb olive oil

Mild pepper rings


Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat until it sizzles. Add thinly sliced onions, and, if using, garlic, mushrooms and/or pepper

Add the ribeye and cook it quickly; do not overcook. Some prefer it in whole slices. Others like to chop it a bit with the spatula.

Season the meat and vegetable mixture with salt and pepper. Push to the side of the pan in a heap. Turn heat down to low.

Top the meat and vegetable mixture with the cheese of your choice; let it get all gooey- melty.

Slice open the baguette and place it in the center of the pan, where it will soak up the juices and get warm and soggy.

Take out the baguette, cut into four equal pieces, and fill with the Philly mixture. That’s it.

Variations: I did not use bell peppers or garlic.

I liked it with the brie and some potato chips right on the sandwich, and just a few chopped peppers. I also tried it with a chopped cherry pepper mix called “hoagie topping.”

Hot or sweet peppers, or pickles, would also be good.

I’d even recommend tempting your favorite vegetarian with a veggie-steak product instead of the ribeye – but I wouldn’t try making this sandwich for vegans.

It is a cheesesteak, after all.

After all my experimenting, I concluded that you can’t really go wrong – all the combinations were good.

I just couldn’t bring myself to buy Cheese Whiz, however – thus the brie.

Objection as to form, I know.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor.