Cleanin’ out my Cabinets: The Italian Beef Sandwich

I love regional sammiches and if I know an area has a signature one, I generally do whatever is necessary to sample it when I visit.  I consumed over 400 cheesesteaks during my two years in Philly, dream about the debris po boy from Mothers on a regular basis, and will write a 1,000 word missive about the Jersey sloppy joe some point soon.  They’re not all winners, though. I wouldn’t recommend you visit Pittsburgh for the soggy french fries and deli meat on stale bread sandwich at Primanti Bros.  Sandwiches You Will Love lost all credibility for me with that one.

On Kristi and my visit to Chicago, I wanted to get the famous Italian beef sandwich.  But, as documented previously, it was a pretty packed couple days and we covered two of the most popular regional specialties in hot dogs and deep dish.  The sandwich had to be passed on for, you know, normal restaurant meals and stuff.  It was a vacation away from Janet for cripes sake.

I don't know if that's all me or my raincoat was full of air, but I don't think I want to know. Not sure if I would tell you either

I don’t know if that’s all me or if my raincoat was full of air, but I don’t think I want to know.  Not sure if I would tell you either

Blah blah blah, I didn’t get the sandwich.  Sounded friggin’ awesome though, sliced roast beef with Italian seasonings, simmered in the cooking juices and loaded onto a sandwich.  Then, the whole sandwich is dipped back into those juices if you so chose.  Yeah, sounded too awesome to not make that for myself.

It all started with a few blade steaks.

My Friday afternoon trips to the Back Bay Shaws get a little crazy.  Anything that isn't bolted down has the potential to be purchased

My Friday afternoon trips to the Back Bay Shaws get a little crazy.  Anything that isn’t bolted down and I haven’t cooked before has the potential to be purchased

As alluded to in the caption, I have thoroughly enjoyed hitting up the supermarket by my office on Fridays for random cuts of beef and pork and usually some seafood as well.  These blade steaks looked good and I’d never cooked them before, so I was completely unaware that they can’t be grilled like a regular steak.  Explains why they were pretty inexpensive and had a visible ribbon of gristle running down the middle.

Since they couldn’t be grilled, what else could I do but take a crack at the Italian Beef Sandwich.  I seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper and put them in a preheated ‘Lil Blue with some olive oil to brown on the stovetop.

The gristle is pretty visible here.  It looked like a slice of the hanger meat, which is probably what I would discover blade steak is if I did even 5 seconds of research.  Meh

The gristle is pretty visible here.  It looked like a slice of the hanger meat, which is probably what I would discover blade steak is if I did even 5 seconds of research.  Meh

After the meat was fully browned, I removed it from the pot and threw in a mix of celery, carrots, and garlic that I had run through the food processor.  After that cooked for a couple of minutes I added in a sliced yellow onion.

IMG_2162

I gave myself a lot of crap for how odd it was to send most of the mirepoix through the food processor and leave the onions whole.  But I wanted them to have a visible presence in the final sammich, and I now have to live with that visually disjointed decision

I cooked the onions until they had a little color on the edges but were otherwise translucent, about 10 minutes.  At which point I deglazed with a cup of red wine, added some dried basil & oregano, and turned the heat up a bit to reduce.

IMG_2164

I will freely admit that this looks like a complete mess.  Usually food shots that look this crappy involve large amounts of grim looking organ meat, but this was just all over the place

After the wine had reduced by about a quarter, I stirred in a few chopped tomatoes, a cup of beef broth and a couple bay leaves.

Smelled like an awesome beef stew, but probably looks like about 30 other previous posts on this blog.  Braising is the tool of the weak and I braise a lot of stuff

Smelled like an awesome beef stew, but probably looks like about 30 other previous posts on this blog.  Braising is the tool of the weak and I braise a lot of stuff

I brought the liquid to a boil then lowered to a simmer for ten minutes to reduce it a bit and let the flavors come together.  Once it looked right (I have no effing idea what that means but its true), I added the blade steaks back in and made sure they were well covered in the liquid and onions.  Lid went on, heat was reduced to low, and left it to cook for 80ish minutes.  At which point I had this.

Not sure what magic happens once the lid goes on, but it seems like stuff goes in a liquid and comes out a thick sauce.  This bears almost no resemblance to what it was an hour and a half earlier

Not sure what magic happens once the lid goes on, but it seems like stuff goes into a liquid and it all comes out a thick sauce.  This bears almost no resemblance to what it was an hour and a half earlier

I fished the blade steaks out with some tongs and gave them a good shake to get the extra sauce and onions off of them before transferring to a cutting board.

For a pound and a half of meat it contracted a ton and looked like barely enough to fill a couple sandwiches.  I think I started telling Kristi she wouldn't like it at this point to secure a larger portion of the meal

For a pound and a half of meat, it contracted a ton and looked like barely enough to fill a couple sandwiches.  I think I started telling Kristi she wouldn’t like it at this point, mostly to secure a larger portion of the meal

I sliced each steak into medium thickness slices since I wanted them to retain some texture then added them back into the cooking liquid.  ‘Lil Blue went back over low heat to simmer for another thirty minutes.

As the simmering time for the braise neared its end, I sliced and lightly toasted a crusty baguette.  A couple big spoonfuls of the braise and lot of the liquid went into the baguette along with a sprinkling of cheese and, on my half, a handful of sliced sweet peppers.

Not enough liquid to do the full dip of the sammy, but I made sure it was soaked and nearly impossible to eat

Not enough liquid to do the full dip of the sammy, but I made sure it was soaked and nearly impossible to eat

With a couple more spoonfuls of cooking liquid and a knife to hold everything in place I gave the sandwich the old close and squeeze.  First I cut Kristi off her half, and then dug in.

This was a cross between the roast pork sandwich at Johns in Philly and some sort of Italian flavored pot roast.  Well, I guess that’s what it was actually.  The meat was tender but not quite to the point that it was like a shredded beef or fall-apart pot roast; still had some texture.  The liquid gave it a french dip like flavor but with the Italian seasonings and tomatoes clearly in there as well.  It was definitely a little salty from the salt on the meat and the reduced broth, but in an enjoyable way.  The parmesan cheese gave some nice contrast sharpness and the pickled peppers added some crunch and contrasting vinegar flavors.  I raced through my half to make sure there was enough for another half.

I left some for Kristi's second half as well.  I am a jerk and all but I save some sammich for the ladies

I left some for Kristi’s second half as well.  I am a jerk and all but I save some sammich for the ladies

Man of the match is probably the crusty Iggys bread since it was just crusty enough to hold it’s crunch/crust while also being completely soggy and soaked with sauce.  This was a solid sandwich.

I was going to make these again for the Super Bowl but couldn’t find the right sized bread.  Probably for the best, we always have way too much food.

Snowstorm this weekend!  Gonna make some sh*t.

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3 thoughts on “Cleanin’ out my Cabinets: The Italian Beef Sandwich

  1. Yummmmm…sorry you missed the sammies in chi-town. A native has made them for me and they are really something else. Something to look forward to next time. Cheers!

  2. Try cooking some blade steak just as a fried steak, med. to med. rare, that grissel down the middle is not so bad and the beef has great flavor IMO.

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