The Italian Beef Sandwich, The French Dip, and The Beef on Weck: All these classic sandwiches are very similar, but have their own lineage and subtle nuances that make them different from one another. This blog post may in some ways fly in the face of tradition, which is not exactly my M.O. I’d like to post about a sandwich I recently made for a large group, and how I took the basic idea of a classic sandwich and tried to upgrade it to gourmet status.
The Authentic Italian beef sandwich , originated in Chicago in the early 1930's. It pairs slow roasted beef simmered in beef jus an Italian style sub roll with the addition of giardenera relish. It is still a beloved staple of the windy city, and has been made famous by Al’s Famous Italian Beef, a small chain of about a dozen stores around Chi-town and its suburbs. Traditionally, this whole sandwich is dipped in aujus quickly and served: this is where the tradition loses me.
I decided I liked all the components of this offering, but thought they could be tweaked or updated. Instead of the typical italian style sub roll, why not the Italian herb foccacia from Tribeca Ovens? When quickly toasted, it provides enough structure to hold the moist meat and accouterments, as well as providing beautifully floral herb notes and irreplaceable olive oil flavors. In my version, the italian style roasted and simmered beef is substituted with a braised beef chuck- yeah, pot roast, essentially. A nice hunk of chuck beef that is lovingly braised in a robust italian red wine can do wonders. In this application, its done the night ahead and somewhat shredded into medium to large pieces. I added some of the braising juices to the meat as well to keep the beef nice and moist
The quarter sheet of the Tribeca Foccacia is sliced horizontally and filled with the braised beef, caramelized onions, thin slices of fresh mozzarella, Italian roasted peppers and a liberal spread of prepared horseradish on the inside of the top piece of bread. I also added a few thin slices of aged provolone because Sinatra was on the radio and it just felt right. I then assembled the top half of the sandwich and wrapped the whole thing in tin foil. A quick 10-15 minutes in the oven and the sandwich was ready to be unwrapped and cut in to roughly 12-16 squares. It was the perfect addition to the appetizer table at Christmas eve and Christmas day, and got its share of thumbs ups from full-mouthed family members.
Normally, I am opposed to straying too far from the tried and true traditions of classic preparations, but I saw the opportunity to upgrade almost all components of the sandwich. I’ve listed a quick guideline below to recreate my version. Enjoy!.
1 quarter sheet Tribeca Italian Herb Foccacia
2 lb piece of beef chuck, slowly braised in redwine and beef stock until fall apart tender
½ lb of Fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
3 medium vidallia onions, thinly sliced and slowly caramelized
One 6 oz jar of Roasted red peppers
3-4 thin slices of aged provolone
2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish