Thursday, April 3, 2008

ITALIAN BEEF.....MY WAY

This Italian Beef recipe is one that is a combination of my many attempts in the past to duplicate that wonderful Chicago Sandwich...Italian Beef. For years I did the infamous crock pot recipe that's all over the 'net and in cookbooks, because gosh darn it, if that's the closest a southerner can get, then I'd try to be happy with it. For years I was. Then Geraldo and I went to Chicago for a visit, I got hooked again and the crock pot wannabe didn't cut the mustard SO....., when some little cafe came to Nashville claiming to have "Authentic Chicago Style Italian Beef" I was on my way in a matter of days. The clerk's accent seemed authentic and the weight of my foil wrapped treasure kept me excited as I drove the 10 minutes to my house. (I know better than to try to eat an Italian Beef and drive.) I got home, stepped over the dog, grabbed a TV tray, and I know I had to be giggling and perhaps even talking to myself as I sat down and unwrapped my hefty beefy lunch. My first bite made me almost cry. I can only describe it as something like you going to the supermarket deli, buying the sliced roast beef, bringing it home and soaking it in a beef bouillon salt bath for a few hours. YEECH! What a disapontment. It's like going to see George Michael and Andrew Ridgely shows up instead. How dare these people advertise this as Authentic? And what really upset me was that I know most folks here in Nashville may go there thinking that they are eating the real deal! Oh, I gotta fix this. At least in my little circle of friends. It was time for me to get to work and attempt to somehow come up with something at least similar enough to share with my southern buddies to give them an idea of what it is that makes Chicago folks so fortunate and so many of the rest of us hopelessly geographically challenged.
Do Not Critique this recipe. It is a work in progress and will continue to be tweaked. I made this when my brother and his fiance came to visit recently and it was a hit. At least no one thought is was a Philly Steak! I would never claim authenticity, but this recipe works for me and I hope that any of you out there who have heard of and perhaps wondered what the heck an Italian Beef Sandwich is will try this. It is time consuming, don't try to hurry it up and tho there's lots of ingredients, it's still cheaper than a plane ticket. The next time you visit Chicago put it at the top of your list to try a real Itailan Beef Sandwich and you'll know one of the many reasons that I love Chicago. Food, Blues, Cold beer, Great Museums, Oprah... and Italian Beef.

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich

1 4-pound sirloin tip roast
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced, and granulated Garlic (to taste) to season the roast before roasting
2 large red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch strips
2 large green peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch strips2 medium yellow onions, sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
4 to 6 Italian poor-boy rolls, sliced lengthwise but not cut all the way through

Optional: Top with hot peppers, or a hot vegetable mix/ or serve with a grilled Italian sausage link cozied up in the bun with the beef. And I like a lot of garlic patted over the roast before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Season the meat with salt and pepper, oregano, and thyme. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for about 2 hours or until the meat reaches 130 °F in the center. Remove and allow to cool. Deglaze the roasting pan with a little water and place the juices in a 6-quart pot. Heat a large nonstick frying pan and add the oil, garlic, red and green bell peppers, and onions. Sauté for 5 minutes and add to the pot. You may have to do this in batches.Slice the cooled meat very thinly across the grain, using an electric meat slicer if you have access to one. It just isn't the same shredded as it is when the beef is sliced paper thin. The taste is there, but the texture is nowhere near the real deal. Place the sliced meat in the pot along with any meat juices that have accumulated during cooling. Add the beef and chicken stocks, wine, and parsley. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Stir the pot a couple of times during cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.Turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Dip each roll into the broth in the pot so that it is saturated and heavy. Fill the roll with plenty of simmered beef and vegetables.Small changes: I added crushed red peppers to the broth, because I like more spiciness. And I would use more oregano next time. A teaspoon more, t least. Do it to taste, but remeber it'll intensify as it cooks. And it=f you want to make this ahead, go ahead and slice the beef after cooking and let it sit overnight in the juices. Then reheat until heated completely through (an hour, at least on a medium simmer) the next day. And Mamma mia! That's a sandwich. An Authentic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich. You will be a hero!!

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