Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich

I'm doing Jeff Mauro's recipe from the pilot of his show, Sandwich King. I love the concept of a whole show revolving around making sandwiches. We watched the first episode and my wife said, "You need to make that", and I agreed.

Unfortunately, it's not an instant gratification type of dish, in that you have to (yes, you are required to) make the giardiniera for the sandwich, and that takes 2 days to brine and marinate.

No problem though. I don't mind doing it this way because I always plan my menu for a whole week.

I made the giardiniera and subsequently fell in love with it. I had it on pizza before I even made the Italian beef sandwich, and it was amazing. I could only imagine what having it on what the condiment is pretty much designed for would turn out like.

This sandwich isn't perfectly traditional in that we don't have a deli slicer to get the nice slices of beef for the normal Chicago staple. Cooking it "pot roast style" allows the flavors to be there without having to buy a thousand dollar slicer. Fair trade for me.

Since I'm obsessive I also made my own bread using my tried and true baguette recipe I've done before, made into sandwich sizes instead of two big loaves. I'm not going to show all that again, but you'll see what I'm talking about.

The prep for this is fairly simple as it's pretty much just a pot roast. It cooks most of the day and then you build your sandwich. Easy.

Let's get started.

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich

Pot Roast:
1 boneless beef chuck roast (2 to 4 pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (I used half an onion and 2 shallots)
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups beef stock
2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Sweet Peppers:
2 to 4 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sandwich Build:
4 soft, hinged sub or hoagie rolls
Homemade Hot Giardiniera, recipe here


Preheat the oven to 300F.

Season both sides of the roast with salt and pepper.

Toss it into a hot pan with some oil.

We're looking to brown the outside a bit. Maybe 5 minutes, tops.

Mine splattered fiercely, so I had to us a lid to block the splattering.

Flip the roast and brown the other side. Again, 5 minutes or so.

Pop it into your slow cooking vessel of choice. We're going to do this one in the oven, so make it oven safe. Or just use a crock pot on high.

Now that we have some beautiful beefy flavor in the pan, lets add the aromatics!

Toss them in. You shouldn't have to add oil.

Give them a good stir and begin scraping up some of the fond on the bottom. Don't worry too much about it as we'll deglaze in a minute.

Cook the onions until they soften a bit. Maybe 5 minutes.

Toss in the Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. I just used some Italian seasoning that I made a while ago, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Cook for about a minute, until it starts to become fragrant.

Toss in the garlic.

Cook 30 seconds.

Toss in the wine. Be careful, as it will sizzle fiercely.

Scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan while it's going.

Add the beef broth and thyme and bring it to a boil. Get the rest of the crusty goodness scraped in.

Toss the contents of the skillet into the pot with the beef.

Cook for about 4 hours at 300F. You can turn the roast every 30 minutes if you want, but I only did it 3 times total.


While that's going, you should bake some bread.

I just used my normal recipe and made four loaves instead of two.


When your roast is finished, fish it out of the jus and let it cool down a bit.

Mine was so tender it fell apart trying to move it.

Shred the beef when you can handle it.

I kept it on warm in a small sauce pan with some of the jus to keep it moist. Somehow I didn't get a picture of it. Sorry.

Rest. You've had a rough day.
Strain the au jus of all the solids.

You don't have to obsess with cheese cloth or anything. It's just for dipping.

I actually added a cup of water to my au jus. It was very strongly flavored and I wanted it to go a bit further.

Just return it to the heat, check for salt and add water or don't.


While that's resting and coming up to temp, get the sweet peppers taken care of. 

Boost the oven to 350F.

Cut a few green bell peppers into strips, drizzle with olive oil and season with some garlic powder and salt and pepper. 

Give them a good toss on a cookie sheet. 

Cook for 20-25 minutes or until they are softened and just starting to brown around the edges. Give them a toss halfway through.


To assemble the sandwich, just cut the bun, add the beef and peppers, and top with the giardiniera. I served the au jus on the side, but it's typical to dunk the sandwich straight into the jus and serve it soaked.

Overall, this was a great sandwich. Filling to be sure, and the flavors were great. The beef was very tender and moist. The Italian seasoning really came through. The bread made a big difference to me in that it was very crusty and hearty and the jus just soaked into it. If it was a regular hoagie roll, i'm afraid it would have been too soft overall. The peppers added some texture and sweetness to compliment the beefy saltiness of the au jus. The au jus was actually a little spicy from the crushed red pepper and I thought it was a nice touch.

But the king here, no kidding, was the giardiniera. I wanted a spoonful with every bite. We ended up eating right out of the giardiniera bowl after finishing the sandwiches. It was fantastic.

I'm going to make another batch this weekend using the same oil and leftovers from this one. It's that good.

Bravo, Chicago for yet another awesome food gift to your country.


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