Thank Oski the college football season is upon us! The season got off to a great start last night with Ole Miss and Vandy duking it out; USC not covering the spread against an inept Hawai’i team; and Rutgers going for 2 in the first OT only to lose by one. And with that, brings us another season of EATING THE ENEMY!
First up are the Wildcats of Northwestern University. With its proximity to the Windy City, this week’s recipe is inspired by a local favorite: The Italian Beef. This is the one food that stood out to me when I began writing this post. Deep dish pizza? Not even close. Everyone knows NY style is better and honestly who the hell eats pizza with a fork and knife? Chicago Hot Dogs? The first cardinal sin of hot dog condiments is NO KETCHUP! So why the hell would I put tomatoes on my dog? (Not a euphemism)
What exactly is an Italian Beef? It’s a bastardized version of California’s beloved French Dip Sandwich.
Created on the Sout Side of Chicago (no "h" used in South), 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 (which is not a sex act). It is available in hundreds of joints around the city, and rarely found beyond its environs.
The exact origin is unknown, but the sandwich was probably created by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s as they rose from poverty and ground meat into the middle class, when they were able to afford beef for roasting.
Nobody knows for sure the inventor, but the recipe was popularized by Pasquale Scala, a South Side butcher and sausage maker. During the Depression, in the late 1920s, when food was scarce, Scala's thinly sliced roast beef on a bun with gravy and fried peppers took off. Today, beef sangwitches are a staple at Italian weddings, funerals, parties, political fundraisers, and lunches "wit my boyz". And Scala's Original supplies hundreds of restaurants and Italian Beef Stands with the raw ingredients.
RECIPE: Italian Beef
1 boneless wildcat roast, about 3 pounds with most of the fat trimmed off
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cups of hot water
4 cubes of beef bouillon (see discussion below) *
10 soft, fluffy, high gluten rolls, sliced lengthwise but hinged on one side or Italian bread loaves cut widthwise into 10 portions (Gonnella, Turano, and D'Amato are the bakers of choice in Chicago)
3 medium sized green bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil, approximately
1 cup hot giardiniera
1) Mix the rub in a bowl. Sprinkle it generously on the wildcatand 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 grill or oven to 400°F. If you are cooking indoors, put a rack just below the center of the oven.
2) Pour the water into a 9 x 13" baking pan and heat it to a boil on the stovetop. Dissolve the bouillon in the water. Pour the remaining rub into the pan. Place a rack on top of the pan. Place the roast on top of the rack above the juice. Roast at 400°F until interior temperature is about 130°F for medium rare, about 30 minutes per pound.
3) While the meat is roasting cut the bell peppers in half and remove the stems and seeds. Rinse, and cut into 1/4" strips. Cook the peppers in a saute pan over a medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom, about 1 tablespoon. Cook until tender.
4) Remove the roast from the oven. Take the meat off the rack and remove the rack. Pour off the juice, put the meat back in the pan, and place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Let it cool for a few hours, long enough for the meat to firm up. This will make slicing easier. Chill the juice, too, in a separate container. Slice the meat against the grain as thin as humanly possible, preferably with a meat slicer.
5) Soak the meat in the juice for about 1 minute at a low simmer. That's all. That warms the meat and makes it very wet.
6) To assemble the sandwich, start by spooning some juice directly onto the bun. Then lay on the wildcat generously. Spoon on more juice. Top it with bell pepper and, if you wish, giardiniera.
And where in the East Bay can you feast on one of these?
At GB Ratto & Co located in Old Oakland on Washington between 8th & 9th streets.
Happy Eating and GO BEARS!