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Need help reproducing a Lee's Cheltenham Hoagie in Canada

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  • looz Jan 11, 2012 08:02 PM
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It's my mom's birthday in a couple of weeks, and I'm throwing her a surprise party with hors d'oeuvres inspired by the various places she's traveled in the past few years. Philadelphia's on the list, and it's a special one - it's also her home town. The food I've decided to replicate (in miniature) is one of her favorite foods of all time - a Lee's Cheltenham hoagie. I'd like to enlist the help of some Philadelphia natives to make it as close to authentic as possible!

According to the Lee's menu, a Cheltenham is a Lee's Special with some added ingredients. From the menu:

All of our Hoagies include Lettuce, Tomatoes, Provolone Cheese,
Seasonings and your Choice of Our Famous Oil, Mayonnaise, Onions and Hot Peppers.

Lee’s Special: Bologna, Beef Salami, Ham, Cooked Salami

Lee’s Cheltenham: A Lee’s Special PLUS Ham, Capocollo, American & Provolone

I have a few questions about this, and hopefully you guys can help me out!

- What makes the oil famous? Is it a special seasoned oil? Olive oil?

- What kind of bread do I use? These are going to be made in miniature, but I don't think mini hotdog buns will cut it.

- Why is ham listed twice? Some other hoagies have "Pepper Ham" on them. Do you think that's what they mean? And if so, what's pepper ham?

- Is there a specific salami I should get for the "Cooked Salami"?

- What can I use for American cheese? I know what it looks like, but the closest thing I've ever seen here in Canada is Kraft singles. If I can find the white ones, will that work? How is American cheese usually sold to the general public?

- Any idea what "Seasonings" they use?

I know this is a long post. Thank you very much in advance! You're going to help make someone's birthday really special.

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  1. I believe that some of the Lee's will ship hoagies. Why not check into that and have the real thing shipped?

    1 Reply
    1. re: mitchh

      So I spent the last hour on the phone with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Border Services. I'm not going to be able to have a hoagie shipped. :( While there is a 20kg exemption for personal use, the meat has to be packaged showing that it originated in the United States. It can't be sliced and made into a sandwich. :(

      My mom used to smuggle them home in her suitcase. She once got searched, and they didn't find it! (They weren't very diligent, apparently.) She said they opened the suitcase and she could *smell* the hoagie. She has no idea how they didn't notice it!

    2. The seasoned oil is the the "secret sauce" of the Lee's hoagie and crucial for getting the right taste. I wouldn't worry too much about the actual meats as long as they are close, they don't use anything that special or high quality. Also, I would skip the mayo, most people order without that. I don't really know what's in the oil... hopefully someone else can help.

      For the American Cheese, Kraft singles is definitely the wrong flavor and texture. The kind of American you want is the white American you'd get sliced to order from a deli counter. Do you have Boar's Head brand in Canada? That is a good American. If you can't find the right American cheese, a mild provolone is an ok substitute.

      The bread is the hardest part. A hotdog roll is definitely wrong--you need some "chew" to the crust. Lee's uses softer bread than a lot of other Philly hoagie shops. A supermarket-baked Italian loaf is not perfect but probably close enough (guessing here, don't know typical Canadian bread quality). A not-very-crispy baguette with a decent crumb would work too. Build it about 6"+ then just cut down to size to smaller sandwiches, this is better than using smaller rolls.

      The other important thing is how your build the hoagie. Don't slice the bread all the way through. Drizzle some olive oil (not fancy or strong tasting), then the cheese (center of the slices on the crevice), then the meats, then the lettuce and lay tomatoes and raw onions on top. Hot cherry peppers if you can get them are an optional addition, add them after the lettuce. Banana peppers are a substitute but not the same. Then douse with special oil and add seasoning: salt (if needed), pepper, oregano. It's important that the cheese is the bottom layer! Lee's may add additional cheese between meat slices on the Cheltenham, I haven't had one in a while.

      9 Replies
      1. re: barryg

        Or just get them shipped, you'll at least get oil that way :)

        1. re: barryg

          If I remember correctly, Lee's does almost a hot pepper relish rather than whole cherry peppers. Can anyone confirm? Been a while since I have had a Lee's.

          1. re: cwdonald

            Hm I think you are right about that after thinking about it. You can buy hot pepper relish in a jar around here but I think it's pretty hard to find outside of the NY-NJ-Philly area.

            1. re: barryg

              Haddon House sells Hot Ground Peppers. They are great on a Hoagie and probably what are used in Philly since Haddon House is right across the river from Philly in Medford, NJ.

            2. re: cwdonald

              That sounds right! There are definitely little bits of red pepper in the sauce. Thanks!!

            3. re: barryg

              Thank you so much for all these details!! I'm feeling a lot more prepared to build this sandwich!

              I've never heard of Boar's Head cheese, but I'll check around. I may try some local sandwich places and see if I can buy cheese directly from them.

              1. re: looz

                You didn't say where you were located in Canada. If you are near a major city, you should be able to make a pretty decent replica.

                As others have said, the bread will probably be the hardest thing to find. Your best bet will probably be to go with a soft french baguette, or even better, a batard. As barry says, be sure not to cut it all the way through. Cut it length wise 3/4 of the way through and carefully flatten it out so you have a "hinge" on the bottom.

                Lee's famous oil is just a seasoned vinaigrette, oil and vinegar mixed with a few spices. Use the standard ratio of 3 parts oil to one part white or red wine vinegar. The exact spices that Lee's uses is kind of a secret recipe, like KFC or Coke. But I am pretty sure it's some combination of oregano, garlic and onion powder and paprika. Go heavy on the oregano, light on the garlic and onion powder, and use the paprika for color. The finished product should have an orange tint to it.

                I have no idea which meats and cheeses will be available in your area. If you can find an Italian specialty market/deli that would probably make your life a lot easier. You definitely want provolone, capicola, and genoa salami. I assume you can find ham at most deli counters. You also want to look for Kosher beef salami, probably under the Hebrew National brand. If you can't find that, ask if they have hard german salami. For the bologna and cooked salami, ask your deli, but if they don't have any, try the prepackaged meat section. I am pretty sure Oscar Meyer has pre-sliced salami and bologna available. American cheese will be hit or miss. As long as you find provolone, you can easily skip it.

                Assembly is just as Barry said. Flatten the baguette, and douse it generously with the vinaigrette. Add a row of provolone and/or American cheese down the middle of the bread. Overlap each slice slightly with the previous slice. Next add a row of your salami. If you find both Genoa and beef salami, put a row of the beef on one side and a row of Genoa opposite it. Next add the bologna and or cooked salami if you have them. Then you add the produce. Get a head of iceberg lettuce and slice it in 1/4 inch slices, just like you would cut cabbage for coleslaw. Run a line of shredded lettuce down the entire length of the bread. Top the lettuce with sliced tomatoes and onions. Splash a little more of the oil and vinegar on the lettuce and tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and oregano now, if you would like. Finally, you top off the lettuce and tomatoes with any remaining meats that you were able to find, hopefully both capicola and ham. And that's all there is to it, you are done. Best of luck to you in your search for ingredients!

                1. re: DDR4040

                  Thank you so much for all these details! I may just have to make a few "test" hoagies to make sure they come out right! Maybe for dinner tonight.... :)

                  I'm in Toronto (where we have three Italian neighbourhoods!), so I don't think I'll have trouble finding the ingredients. I had been planning to see if Lee's would ship just the sauce, but with your description, I think I'm good to go!

                  I am seriously excited for this. My mom is going to flip! Who needs mini sliders when you can have mini hoagies!!

                  1. re: looz

                    Your Mom obviously did a great job raising you!

            4. Dietz and Watson has a hoagie dressing that works well in getting that certain taste and smell of the real thing.

              1. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice on how to make my hoagies! I followed everyone's advice, got my meats from an Italian deli, used a not-too-crusty baguette, and seasoned the oil. (I never did find American cheese, though!)

                My mom said the hoagie was better than Lee's. :)

                Thanks again!!