Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich (Slow Cooker Style)

Beef, Sandwich, Slow Cooker, Tailgating / Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

We used to have this great delivery place nearby that specialized in a Chicago Italian beef sandwich so big, it could bounce a French dip on its knee. A mountain of paper-thin slices of seasoned beef, spicy peppers and hot giardiniera piled high in a fluffy white roll. It was our every-other-Friday staple until the place closed, and part of me died. Or at least a few fat cells.

I finally decided to make them at home, starting with Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn’s ultra-authentic, cooked-over-the-broth recipe. (You can find it by clicking here.) The man knows what he’s talking about, and this is definitely Jeff’s favorite.

I just needed something a little lazier for my Friday night pleasure. Something that didn’t require breaking out the meat slicer.

So my next attempt was Jeff “Sandwich King” Mauro’s pot roast-style recipe. Instead of using the oven, I tucked the roast into my slow cooker overnight, so it could simmer over low heat in beef stock, red wine, onion, garlic and fresh thyme. By 5 a.m., the dog was howling. At 8 a.m, I caught my Jeff leaning over the pot with a fork.

Yeah, it’s good. Fall-apart tender. Juicy. Perfectly seasoned.

Just the beef and its jus would make a killer sandwich, but for me, it’s not a Chicago Italian beef without the giardiniera, a relish made by marinating different veggies in seasoned oil and/or vinegar. Feel free to buy it (check your grocery’s olive and pickle section) or make your own, using the recipe below. The process is really simple, but it takes about three days, so give yourself time. The longer it hangs out in the fridge, the better it gets. The fresh, spicy, sour flavor of the veggies balances the richness of all that beef, while the seasoned oil adds a little extra silkiness and flavor.

The key to this sandwich is “the wetter, the better,” so you can serve it with the jus on the side (for dunking), add the jus over the top of your finished sandwich (and really soak it), or go all-in and put the pulled beef back into the jus for serving. If it’s messy as hell, you’re on the right track. That’s why God invented paper towels.

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich 

Adapted from Jeff Mauro (“Sandwich King” via Food Network)

Makes 4 really big sandwiches

    Pot Roast:

  • 1 boneless beef chuck eye roast (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
    Sweet Peppers:

  • 4 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 soft, hinged sub or hoagie rolls
  • 4 slices Provolone or mozzarella (optional)
  • Hot Giardiniera (recipe follows, but you could use store-bought)
  1. Season the entire roast with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Brown the roast on all sides, and transfer the roast to your slow-cooker insert.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and saute, stirring occasionally until just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high, and add red wine to the Dutch oven. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, and bring back to a simmer. Add Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and fresh thyme. Pour the mixture into your slow cooker.
  4. Set slow cooker to low, cover, and cook until tender, about 8 hours. (Or, set your slow cooker to high, and cook for 5 to 6 hours.) The meat should fall apart easily.
  5. Transfer the roast to a baking dish, and tent with foil to keep it warm.
  6. If You Don’t Care About Dunking Your Sandwich: Shred the meat with two forks, and put it back in the slow cooker with the jus. Then jump ahead to step 9.
  7. If You Live to Dunk: Strain the liquid remaining in the slow cooker (your jus) through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. (Let it set for 5 minutes, if you want to skim the fat.) Pour the liquid into a saucepan, and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
  8. Grab two forks, and pull the beef into smaller chunks. Add just enough jus to keep it moist, and re-cover the meat with aluminum foil until you’re ready to build your sandwiches.
  9. For the Sweet Peppers: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the pepper strips with oil, granulated garlic and salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast the peppers, stirring halfway through, until lighter in color and soft, about 20 minutes.
  10. To Build the Sandwich: Simmer the jus until very flavorful and hot. Place some beef on a roll. (If you’re adding cheese, set your oven to broil, place the cheese slices over the beef, and broil until the cheese melts, about 30 seconds.) Add some sweet peppers and hot giardiniera. Serve with the hot jus for dunking.

Homemade Hot Giardiniera

Yield: 3 to 4 cups

  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 1 cup small-diced carrots
  • 1 cup tiny cauliflower florets
  • 4 to 8 serrano peppers, sliced (depending on heat level desired)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced small
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine 2 cups water and the salt in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Mix until the salt is dissolved. Add the carrots, cauliflower, serranos, garlic, celery and bell pepper to the salt water. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Day 2, drain and rinse the vegetables. In a clean bowl, mix the oil with the oregano and pepper. Add the vegetables and mix to combine. Allow to marinate overnight.

Storage: After 2 days at the most in the bowl, you can place the giardiniera in air-tight mason jars and keep it in the fridge for at least 2 to 3 weeks.

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