Sometimes, I’m not so smart. This is sometimes true even when I haven’t been drinking. Take this post, for example. I was planning on posting this recipe last night, but in my excitement I made up my sandwich and ate it before I remembered to shoot a picture of it. Luckily I had plenty of beef leftover so tonight I “forced” myself to eat another one, just so I could take a picture of it to share with you, my readers.
Okay, so it really wasn’t much of a sacrifice since I absolutely love Italian beef sandwiches. While you can find them in most major cities nowadays, it is in Chicago where this sandwich reaches its apex.
For the uninitiated, a Chicago style Italian beef sandwich is made up of thinly sliced, highly seasoned roast beef that has been warmed in jus, stuffed into a long roll, drizzled with more of the jus, and topped with either fried sweet peppers or giardiniera-a mixture of sliced hot peppers and vegetables. It rivals the Muffuletta (the famous New Orleans sandwich) for its shear messiness, and kicks the Philly Cheesesteak’s ass flavor wise, in my opinion (I’m willing to hear a rebuttal on this, but good luck changing my mind!).
While the sandwich, itself, is not complicated to make, finding a couple of the ingredients may be slightly difficult. First off trying to find the proper giardiniera can be difficult. Any slightly spicy mix of pickled vegetables might be called giardiniera, but not all really work with this sandwich. You want to find a brand that contains mostly sliced hot peppers with just a few other vegetables thrown in, mainly carrots, celery, bell peppers,etc. There are many brands out there that are mostly cauliflower and carrot. Stay away from those, as they don’t provide the right flavor. Scala’s is the brand most recognized in Chicago and I believe you can buy their giardiniera online. The other difficult item to find is the bread. In Chicago there are numerous bakeries that specialize in making loaves for Italian beefs. It can be difficult to find a bread the right size with the right crust and crumb consistencies. Most baguettes are too hard, most “Italian” breads are too large and too soft. Outside of Chicago I have found the best bet is the cheap, grocery store baked “French” bread. I usually stay far away from these loaves that tend to make a mockery out of the French baguette but in this case they work perfectly. The crust is just tough enough to hold all the jus for just about the length of time it takes to eat a sandwich (don’t delay in eating too long or the bread will dissolve into nothing) while the soft interior is perfect for soaking up all that just.
One final word about this recipe. I often try to stay far away from those little beef bouillion cubes, but they are virtually essential to making a jus of the proper flavor so I make an exception in this case.
It is best to roast the beef at least 1 day in advance to cool it down completely. This will help with slicing, especially if you don’t have an electric slicer.
Italian Beef Sandwich
3 pounds beef, sirloin roast (or other less fatty roast)
1/2 Tbsp. oregano, dried
1/2 Tbsp. basil, dried
1/2 Tbsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. black pepper
4 cubes beef bouillon
5 cups hot water
1 loaf french bread
1 jar giardiniera
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly season roast with salt. Mix the spices and dried herbs together along with the peppers. Generously sprinkle over the roast, coating it well on all sides. Place the roast on a rack over a 9×13 pan. In the pan place the beef bouillon and the hot water. Add any remaining season. Roast to an internal temperature of 140°F.
When meat and jus has cooled add meat to jus and refrigerate overnight. The following day slice the beef as thin as you can. This takes a little patience if you don’t have an electric slicer, but try to cut as thinly as possible. Your efforts will be rewarded in the long run. In a pot, heat the jus to a low simmer or just below. You don’t want it boiling or you will overcook your beef. Cut the bread into 6 inch sections and slice open but leave a thick hinge. Taking about 6 oz. of beef, dip it into the hot jus and allow it to warm for about 45 seconds, give or take, depending on how hot the jus is. What you don’t want to happen is for the beef to start to curl. This means you have overcooked it and it will be dry and tough. When the meat is warmed just through, use tongs to transfer to the bread. Don’t shake off the excess jus. Try to transfer the meat leaving it as wet as possible. Drizzle a little more jus over the top then top the sandwich with as much giardiniera as your mouth can handle, drizzling a little of the oil, the vegetable are packed in, over the top of everything. At this point you want to eat this thing pretty quickly or you find your bread disintegrating before your eyes