On Super Bowl Sunday I attempted to fulfill one of Michael's foodie wishes. He has been craving Chicago Italian beef sandwiches, and I decided to do some research and make some for him. He got to relive some good memories, and I learned that making Italian beef is pretty easy and well worth it!
Italian beef is a Chicago institution, and a number of restaurants around town serve up this dripping wet sandwich, which is best eaten over a trough. The meat is roasted to medium rare, sliced thin, then simmered in an au jus made from the meat drippings, stock, lots of oregano, and other seasonings. To eat it, you fill a sub roll full of meat and then dip the whole sandwich into the au jus. No dainty dipping of the ends, you plunge the whole sandwich in! Then you top it with bell peppers and giardineria (pickled vegetables). It is sloppy and good!
While researching I came across Roadfood.com, which has an active forum, and I found a thread that discussed making your own Italian beef. After reading the thread, I decided to follow a recipe attributed to Max's Italian Beef. I cannot verify if indeed this is indeed their recipe, but we thought it tasted pretty darn good. Neither the giardineria nor the dry rub ingredients had any amounts listed in the original, so I made a wild educated guess. I also played around with the giardineria a bit, adding some pepperoncini instead of the serrano peppers, and we liked it.
Cutting the meat properly is crucial to a good Italian beef sandwich. Slice it as thinly as possible using a meat slicer or an electric knife. We used to use an electric knife and learned that short strokes produced thinner slices than trying to make large, full slices. Again, not completely authentic, but we made do with what we had. Now that we have a meat slicer, it works much, much better. And for safety reasons, we box it up and put it away after each use to keep it out of the boys' reach.
Using the right bread is also very important. Bread that is too light will fall apart in the au jus, so use some hefty sub rolls or a good French bread cut into individual portions.
I used some fresh oregano from my kitchen garden for the au jus, so this is my contribution to Grow Your Own for February. If you are growing your own produce or raising your own meats, then join in! The deadline for entries is February 27th.
[Updated January 3, 2012.]
ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES
- roasting pan and rack
- meat thermometer
- small bowl
- 6 quart pot
- electric knife
- glass jar with lid
- small sauce pan
- 12 sub rolls or French bread (hefty texture, otherwise it will fall apart in the au jus)
- 5 pound bottom round roast ((aka outside round roast))
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon course black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons oregano
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 quarts low-sodium beef broth (or homemade stock)
- 1 tablespoon garlic
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 large green bell peppers (slice thin)
- 8 ounces beef broth (or homemade stock)
- 1 cup water
- 4 sprigs fresh oregano ( or 1 tablespoon dried oregano)
- 4 stalks celery (thinly sliced)
- 6 serrano peppers ( or pepperoncini. thinly sliced)
- 1/4 cup sliced green olives (optional)
- 6 Italian hot peppers (thinly sliced or chopped)
- 2 cups canola oil
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- GIARDINERIA: Several hours to one day before you prepare the meat, put all the vegetables for the giardineria in a jar. Heat the olive oil, vinegar, and salt in the microwave just until warm. Pour over the vegetables, then put a lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator.
- MEAT: Preheat the oven to 350° F/175° C. In the small bowl, stir together the ingredients for the dry rub, then rub the mixture all over the outside of the roast. Stick in the meat thermometer and place the roast on the rack. Roast in the oven until the meat is 140° F/60° C (medium rare). Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for 1 hour before slicing.
- AU JUS: In the 6 quart pot, add the beef broth, garlic, oregano, and black pepper.
- Using the electric knife or meat slicer, shave the meat as thinly as possible and put the slices into the au jus. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Do not boil the meat.
- SWEET PEPPERS: While the meat simmers, put the sliced sweet peppers, broth, water, and oregano in the small sauce pan and heat just to a boil, then drain.
- To serve, pile some of the meat onto the sliced rolls, then dip the whole thing into the au jus. Then add some sweet peppers and some of the giardineria. Eat with lots of napkins or paper towels.