Saturday, February 4, 2012

Superbowl Snacks: Chicago Beef Sandwich

Fig.1. This fine specimen came from Al's Beef in Chicago.  

My Superbowl parties have become more about what I'm serving than about football.  Even people who's company I don't share Superbowl night with ask me what I'm making for the boys. Well I'm glad you asked, this year's Superbowl is made possible by the great city of Chicago.
For me, a recent visit to Chicago wasn't about Alinea, Charlie Trotter, or Next (who has the time or patience for drawn-out, abstract-art-looking tasting menus anymore, I don't.) It's about the food that defines a city.  Chicago is defined by deep-dish pizza, popcorn, hamburgers, hot dogs, and this year's Superbowl menu item, The Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich.  The Chicago Beef Sandwich was brought to us by Italian immigrant workers who worked circa the opressive Chicago factory era:  No money equals tough cuts of meat no body wants equals Italian ingenuity equals a great sandwich.
The concept is simple: Take a soft  sourdough bun, pack it with thinly sliced beef that has been braised slowly in beef broth, add some pickled giardiniera, and dip the finished sandweech in the beef broth.  Soggy bread anyone? Yes please! To quote Galdolf The Grey, "keep it simple, keep it soggy"or was it 'secret and safe', I can never remember. Lord of The Rings was about food, right?
Pats suck!

 Fig.2. Al's Beef, Chicago

 Fig.3. Al's wall decor, signed by Jay Leno.

 Fig.4. Italian Beef sandwich from Portillo's, where they also make a fine Chicago style hot dog.

Chicago Beef Sandwich
Makes 6 sandweech

Fig.5. My version, simple but good. The more beef the better. Not enough in this picture.


  • 4 lbs of top round beef
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sourdough baguette rolls halved, toasted (If your bread is very fresh, you don't need to toast it.)
  • 1 cup chopped giardiniera vegetables in vinegar


Rub meat with dry ingredients, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a roasting pan set over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, sear meat all around.
Add onions and garlic to the meat pan and saute for 15 minutes, deglaze with wine, beef stock and bay leaves.
Place roasting pan in the oven and cook for 3 hours, uncovered, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 135 degrees F in center. Remove, let cool, then slice very thin. (I like to put the meat in the freezer for a couple of hours, it makes slicing it a lot easier. It's what they do in Chicago.)
Cool broth in roasting pan (you can put it in the fridge overnight) and remove the fat that rises to the top.  Strain the broth into a medium saucepan. 
Reheat the broth, and add the sliced meat to the broth. Place some meat on each toasted roll, ladle with some broth and top with giardiniera vegetables. 

Fig.6. I like to wrap the sandwich in foil.  The steam help with the overall texture and brings the sandwich together. 

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