Sunday, February 1, 2009

Italian Beef Sandwiches

During my time in Chicago I was introduced to something that is as Chicago as the hotdog is but without the same notoriety. I am talking about the classic Italian beef sandwich. It can be found at corner hot dog huts and sandwich stands across the city. The first names that usually come to mind are Portillos or Al's #1 Italian Beef. Both of these companies have multiple locations across the Chicagoland area. The idea for the sandwich is quite simple really. It consists of very thinly sliced roast beef that is soaked in a rich beef stock that is heavily seasoned with Italian spices. The meat is piled high on fresh Italian buns. Toppings are optional and are limited to cheese and a choice of peppers (sweet bell or hot giardenara).

My choice cut of beef for this recipe is the eye of round roast. Its a little leaner than some of the other options and if you prepare it properly it makes great Italian Beef. For this recipe I started with a large 6-1/2 pound roast...I know thats big but hey its Superbowl Sunday!

How Is It Made???

First I rinse and trim the roast of any visible fat. Then the meat gets a light coating of vegetable oil followed by heavy doses of dried oregano, garlic powder, and pepper. I then sprinkle with a very light amount of salt. I give the roast a quick rub to distribute the spices evenly, and its ready for the oven.I put the roast on a rack and into a 475 degree oven for 7 minutes per pound, so 45 minutes total for this bad boy. After 45 minutes, I removed the roast from the rack and placed it in a pan with a few cups of good beef broth. I then insert my digital thermometer, wrap with foil, and return to the oven at 325 degrees. I watched the readout of my thermometer and pulled it out of the oven when it read 125 degrees in the center. I allowed the roast to rest on top of the stove under its foil tent for 30 minutes and the temperature continued to rise until it peaked at 142 degrees in the center, which is perfect for what we needed. The larger the cut of meat the more the temperature will tend to rise after pulling from the oven. I put the pan with the roast and broth into the fridge to chill until we were ready to eat. It is much easier to thinly slice meat once its given a chance to cool. In the meantime I prepared the sweet peppers by steaming green, yellow, and red bell pepper strips in a little bit of reserved beef broth.

C'mon...Lets Eat!

I removed the roast from the fridge and combined the juices from the pan with the juices from the peppers into a large pot and brought just to a boil. I then turned the heat to low. Meanwhile, its time to get out the heavy equipment. There is nothing like using a real meat slicer for when you need to finely shave meat. I have made this recipe by hand before, it just takes a little extra effort and a sharp knife. I thinly sliced the beef and added into the broth mixture to heat back up to temperature as well as soak up some of the flavors in the broth. A toasted Italian roll with provolone cheese is the perfect place to stack this creation. Pile the meat as high as you can and top it with some of the sweet peppers. Authentic Italian beef houses in Chicago will give you the option of having your bun dipped in the "gravy" or what we called the broth. We usually opt to serve the sandwich with a little cup of the broth on the side for dipping. This is big city comfort foot at its finest.


  1. mmmmmmmm, and broth for dipping.......mmmmmmm again

  2. How strange that you would make this now. Just last night I saw a Man V Food on this very sandwich somewhere in Chicago. But they do dip it in the juice. My husband I both agree that would make it too messy. Does it really get it mushy? I guess that is why they teach you the "stance" so you don't get all messy eating it.

  3. The bread in your picture is way too fancy. I never had a sandwich with that kind of bread here in Chi-town. Although it looks good, I doubt it can hold it's integrity once it takes a bath in the gravy (and it must have a bath!). You put a link of Italian sausage in the middle of that sandwich and make that a combo, then you are golden!