Created on the Sout Side of Chicago (there is no "h" used in South in this context), in the Italian enclaves around the now defunct Stockyards, the classic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich (pronounced sangwitch) is a unique, drippy, messy variation on the French Dip Sandwich. It is available in hundreds of joints around the city, and rarely found beyond its environs.
I decided to see if I could get close to these delicious Chicago classics by trying this recipe I found on knol.google.com. I wanted to cook the beef slowly, therefore, the Cookshack smoker. Here is a picture of the Chicago Stlye Italian Beef Sandwich I grabbed from the web.
Several things to note about this picture. First, the bread is wet. Very wet. Au Jus is poored over the bread, and sometimes the bread is just plain dipped into the juice to get it nice and wet. Get bread that will hold up well to the soaking. Secondly, I've never seen such little beef used. Should be twice as much. Thirdly, I only get them with sweet green peppers sauted like typically ordered in Chicago. Recipe and technique follows:
1 boneless beef roast, about 4 pounds with most of the fat trimmed off
(Top sirloin butt, top round roast, or bottom round roast are preferred in that order. I used a sirloin tip roast)
3 teaspoons garlic powder
1.5 teaspoon onion powder
1.5 teaspoon dried oregano
1.5 teaspoon dried basil
1.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cups of hot water
6 cubes of bouillon
Rolls (I used sourdough rolls) sliced lengthwise but hinged on one side
3 medium sized green bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil, approximately
Mix the rub in a bowl. Sprinkle it generously on the meat and massage it in. There will be some left over. Do not discard it, we will use it in the juice. Let the meat sit at room temp for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the smoker to 235* with a small chunk of wood (I used 3.5 oz of cherry) You don't want a lot of smoke flavor.
Pour the water into a pot and heat it to a boil on the stove top. Dissolve the bouillon in the water. It may look thin, but it will cook down and concentrate during the roasting. Pour the remaining rub into the pot. Place a rack on top of a roasting pan. Place the roast on top of the rack and pour in the juice . Here is the rubbed beef sitting on a rack above the roasting pan with the au jus sitting in the pan.
Place the beef and au jus into the smoker and smoke until internal temperature is 140F for medium rare, roughly 3 hrs. The temp will rise a couple degress more as it rests. Don't worry if there are people who won't eat medium-rare meat. The meat will cook further in step 5 and the au jus will eliminate any pink color. Here is the roast just out of the smoker.
Let the meat sit for about 30 minutes for the juices to be reabsorbed into the meat fibers, and then place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Let it cool for about a couple hours, long enough for the meat to firm up. This will make slicing easier. Slice the meat against the grain as thin as humanly possible, preferably with a meat slicer. Here is a picture of the meat sliced. Looks great.
While the meat is cooling in the fridge, cut the bell peppers in half and remove the stems and seeds. Rinse, and cut into 1/4" strips. Cook the peppers in a frying pan over a medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom, about 1 tablespoon. When they are getting limp and the skins begin to brown, about 10 minutes, they are done. Set aside at room temp.
Put the juice into a pot and then on the stove top over a low heat, just a gentle simmer. Soak the meat in the hot juice for about 2 minutes at a low simmer. That's all. That warms the meat and makes it very wet. You can't leave the meat in the juice for more than 10 minutes or else it starts to curl up, squeezes out its natural moisture, and toughens. Here's a picture of the sliced meat sitting in the juices.
Once the beef has been soaked/simmered in the juices, remove and place in a bowl. I simmered the beef in batches until it was all Italianized. Slice your rolls, hinged on one side. Spoon juices from the pot heavily onto the rolls. Add a heaping pile of Italian Beef and cover with sauted sweet peppers. Add more juice. Salt and pepper. Enjoy. Here's a picture of my first sandwich ready for consumption.
These sandwiches were absolutely delicious. Slight smoke flavor. Italian flavorings. Very wet. Reminiscent of the Italiam Beef Sandwiches we loved so much back in our Chicago days. When we visit, we make these regular eating. Now I can get them whenever I want by following this recipe.
OK. These were very close but not exactly like the restaurants serve. Maybe just a little more oregano, salt, and pepper. I'll tweak next time. But all in all, very good.