As long as I can remember, the French Dip has been my favorite sandwich. I have seen many variations of the classic century old recipe, and most have been great, but very few stack up to the classic preparation. Good quality roasted beefsliced thin, a great French roll and a well prepared au jus.... that's it. There is something about the incredibly simple sandwich paired with a hot tub of savory and aromatic jus that just evokes nostalgia.
I could be a stickler, and say you HAVE to use a certain cut of beef or a certain bread option, but that's just not how I roll (pun somewhat intended). The important thing to remember is to make it your own. If you have read this blog in the past, you may have noticed that I, more or less, offer suggestions rather than strict recipes. I rarely follow recipes and tend to "cook by feel". When a friend or family member calls to ask advice on how long to cook something, I tend to reply in my sarcastic tone with the answer "Until it's done".
It all starts with beautiful bread and a nice hunk of beef. You can't go wrong with a nice Au Pain Dore baguette or baguettine, but I prefer the 7" sandwich ciabatta from the same bakery.More often than not, you will see this offered on a torpedo style roll... and Quinzani bakery in Boston has you covered for those. My personal preference steers me towards something with more of a crust. For the beef, I have used top round, sirloin, prime rib... the list goes on. A 2 lb piece of top round with get you in and out of the butcher shop or supermarket without breaking your bank, but my tried and true favorite is a nice piece of well marbled prime rib.
I liberally season the beef with kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, dried sage, dried thyme and fresh chopped rosemary. From here, I roughly chop a small onion, a small carrot, a stalk of celery and a leek. I put the seasoned prime rib on top of the pile of chopped vegetables, and roast at about 300°. I pull the roasting pan out of the oven when the middle of the beef registers 120° on a meat thermometer. I then transfer the roast to a cutting board while I preparethe jus.
The whole roasting pan goes on a stove burner, and I lightly caramelized the vegetables slightly to coax all the flavors I can out of them. I then add a little bit of red wine, just to deglaze the pan and help loosen any flavorful bits that have clung to the bottom of the pan. The contents gets added to a sauce pan and about 2 cups of beef broth is added. I tend to simmer this down until its reduced by roughly half, and then I strain the vegetables from the broth. This should result in a nice base for an aujus....tweak it to custom fit it to your preference.
Once the beef is rested, carve it as thin as possible, and dunk the sliced meat in the jus. I assemble on a toasted sandwich roll of choice, and serve with a soup cup of the aujus on the side for additional dunking of the sandwich between each bite.
Most French dip purists will tell you to dip the entire sandwich in the au jus and eatit wet, but that's where I stray from conformity. If you visit Philippe The Original in Los Angeles, who is credited to inventing the sandwich, that's how you will see it done... some people even request it double dipped.
I like to add some melted cheese, a little horseradish, or sometimes some spicy mustard, but I try not to add too many things, because as stated before: French dip simplicity is best.
This is the perfect rainy day weekend recipe. Give it a shot, and as always, if you even need a point in the right direction, hit me up on twitter @artisandoughboy.