If you are reading this, chances are you don’t live in Chicago. But if you like the many wonderful flavors and food styles Chicago has to offer—like our deep-dish pizza and loaded hot dog—then the Italian Beef sandwich will have you packing up and moving to the Windy City in no time flat! Well, it’s a good thought if you can brave the winter weather.
Currently living in South Carolina, this holiday season presented me with some extra time to indulge my home-town cravings! In case you are wondering, the Italian Beef sandwich consists of thin slices of slowly roasted beef served on a tender Italian roll—dipped or not in the roasting juices. Then it is topped with a hot Italian-style relish, known in Chicago as giardiniera.
If you don’t want to insult a Chicagoan, please don’t get the Italian Beef confused with the Philly Cheesesteak! The cheesesteak is served on a crusty roll with Cheez Whiz, while a true Italian Beef lover would never put cheese on the sandwich. But if you do want to add a slice of provolone, we won’t get mad at you.
Like other famous dishes, everyone has their own favorite recipe. The three things that most will agree on is, the cut of beef used, the Italian bread roll and the giardiniera. Regardless of your recipe, if you remain true to these three things, you will end up with a “to die for” sandwich!
Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe
3-4 pounds eye round roast (or rump, top round and sirloin tip)
fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, thick sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 cups beef stock
Giardiniera, see recipe below
Provolone cheese slices, optional
Season roast with the salt, pepper, oregano, pepper flakes and rub all over with the olive oil. Into a large dutch oven, place the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. Place the roast on the vegetable mixture and pour the stock into the bottom of the pan (not directly on the meat). Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours. When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator and let rest for 30-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Roast for 3 hours or until internal temperature reaches 120-130 degrees. Remove roast from oven and let cool to room temperature. Remove from pan, wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight. Strain the juices (referred to as au jus), into a container, to remove large pieces of roasting vegetables. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Discard the vegetables.
The next day, return the au jus to the dutch oven and bring to a simmer over low heat; cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Trim excess fat from roast; and using a meat slicer or very sharp knife, cut roast, across the grain, into very thin slices. Add the beef slices to the simmering au jus and let cook for an additional 20 minutes until tender.
Cut rolls horizontally on one side, leaving attached on back side. Spread the rolls open and top with generous amounts of meat. (If adding cheese, place on rolls before adding the meat.) Top with spoonful’s of giardiniera. Using large tongs, dip the sandwiches briefly into the au jus, or serve it in small bowls alongside sandwiches.
Chicago-Style Giardiniera Recipe
4 serrano peppers, halved and sliced*
4 jalapeno peppers, halved and sliced*
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, halved and sliced
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 cup cauliflower florets
½ cup kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon celery seeds, optional
Fresh ground black pepper
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup olive oil
½ cup sliced green olives with pimento
In a large bowl, combine the peppers, carrots, celery and cauliflower and sprinkle with salt. Cover completely with water; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Drain, rinse and set aside. In a small bowl, combine garlic, oregano celery seeds, black pepper, vinegar and olive. Pour over the vegetable mixture, add olives and mix well. Spoon into airtight jars, covering with the vinegar/oil mixture. Refrigerate at least 2 days before serving; will be even better after 1 week. Should last 3 weeks refrigerated. Makes 4-6 cups.