Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vive la France!

Or rather, vive la French Dip!

Red Beard has a soft spot for french dip sandwiches.  Beef, lamb, pork ... onions or no onions ... cheese or no cheese .... fancy or trashy.  He loves them.  And since they are a fairly easy dinner option (with a few side dishes), I've decided I love them too!

Best part:  the entire prep (when I'm not taking pictures at least) takes less than an hour with a minimal amount of dishes to do.  And it involves melty cheese.

I really love anything that involves melty cheese.  I also adore any occasion where I can disguise leftovers.  In this case, I was using up roast beef from a couple nights prior.  Nice roast beef, with lots of garlic.  Sure, I could have sent it with Red Beard to work in a cold sandwich, but this is so much tastier.

You'll need a few things to pull this off, but a lot of it is stuff you probably already have on-hand.  Aside from the beef and rolls, I can pretty much guarantee that I have some sort of cheese, and more condiments than my fridge door can comfortably hold (like mayo and dijon and worcestershire and sriracha ... and butter).  Onions and peppers and garlic are staples in my kitchen.  And you know, you just KNOW I've got wine. 

  • 8 ounces roast beef (either leftover roast, sliced super thin, like me OR sliced from the deli counter)
  • 1 whole bell pepper (any color);  3/4 nicely julienned and the rest rough chopped
  • 1 whole red onioin; 3/4 nicely julienned and the rest chunked up
  • 1 clove of garlic, well squished
  • 2 sandwich rolls (any type you like, but french or dutch crust are the nicest)
  • 8 ounces of cheese, sliced thin (any type you like, but I've found colby, swiss, provolone, and havarti work the best)
  • 1 tablespoon creamy horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of butter plus butter for the bread
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • Fresh OR dried rosemary
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 small can low sodium beef broth
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Sriracha sauce OR Tobasco

Mix together the mayo, dijon mustard, and horseradish and set aside.  This is your sandwich spread. 

First things first; let's talk au jus.  That wonderful, yummy, sploshy broth to dip the sandwich in.  Yes, of course, you could buy the Knorr packet and just mix with water.  But really?  All those preservatives?  I tried it once, thought it tasted like the little cubes of bouillon powder (so, ick), and made up my own version.  Surprise!  I'm making things up again!
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add the teaspoon of olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the rough-chopped onion and pepper bits, the squished garlic, and either 1 sprig of fresh rosemary OR 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary.  I was out of fresh.  I was also being cranky and refused to drive the 3.768 minutes to the grocery store.  Dried worked fine.    

Then toss in some red wine (about a cup) and a small can of low sodium (always always low sodium!!) beef broth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add a couple splashes of Worcestershire sauce and as much sriracha as you can handle.  I think I added only a small squirt, less than 1/2 a teaspoon.  I wasn't going for mouth-burning-scary-hot, just nice and warm. 

With regards to the low-sodium broth.  I like to add salt to foods; I like to be in control of the salt in my foods.  It's the same reason I prefer unsalted butter.  I have control issues.  Non-fat broth isn't something I look for.  If I happen to find a broth (chicken or beef) that is both low sodium and low fat - yay!  But taking the fat off of broth is easy - just set it in the fridge for awhile - that fat rises to the top and will solidify in the cold.  You can peel it off in a layer.  Easy peasy.  But there really isn't any way to pull the salt out.  

Sorry for the steam.  Hey, at least you know I'm actually cooking here!
Let it bubble while you prep everything else.  The longer it simmers, the yummier it will be. 

Now, in a skillet or frying pan, or another pot if you really want to be a rebel, heat the remaining olive oil and butter together over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, add your onions and peppers (the pretty julienned ones) and saute until the peppers are still a little crispy, but the onions are starting to caramelize.  Season with a little salt and a lot of pepper.   Bland is boring. 

Almost done!

While the onions and peppers are cooking, split your sandwich rolls, and butter them generously (because butter is awesome) and lay them out on a sheet pan.

Pop them under the broiler until they look like this:

Toasty bread is always nicer than regular bread.  ALWAYS.  Just keep an eye on them because I can't even tell you how many times I've burned bread under the broiler.  Nicely browned is only 5.68 seconds away from charcoal.  Slather the sandwich spread you made over everything.

Now, add your beef to your au jus.  It isn't going to be in there long, just long enough to get really hot and soak up a little of those yummy flavors. 

When everything is ready - the onions and peppers are dreamy, the beef is hot, and the bread is toasty - start assembling. Begin with toasty bread (all smeared with mustardy horseradish), and layer on your meat and peppers/onions.  Just make sure that whatever dish you're using is oven-safe.

Then add as much cheese as you can handle without your system going into shock.

Now comes the best part.  Before you add the top piece of bread, pop the sandwiches under the broiler one last time until the cheese is gooey.   Top the sandwiches off, add a cup of the au jus, and if you really want to make your family happy add a little of this:

We eat salad with everything.  It makes us less guilty about all of the cheese.
And a handful of these:

Sweet Potato Fries, available in the freezer section of Trader Joe's.  They are extra special when seasoned with a little cinnamon & chili powder.

Aside from being a gastrointestinal hootenanny, this meal is also not as guilt-laden as you may think at first glance.  Sure, there's cheese and butter and bread.  But if you can manage to limit yourself to 1/2 a sandwich (which I did do, and it was quite difficult), and eat plenty of salad, it's really not all bad.  There's a ton of veggies.  And the fries aren't fried and aren't regular potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are always being touted as a healthy alternative.  So I say eat the fries, enjoy the cheese, and fill up on salad.  And try to avoid the Haagen-Daz in the freezer, or all of those sweet potato brownie points will fly right out of the window.

Recipe now available @ Tasty Kitchen ... Click me!!

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