Eye-talian beef sandwiches

In Recipies on March 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

"Whatever shall I do with all of this Italian bread?

Here is a fun to eat break from hamburgers or Sloppy Joes.

Italian beef sandwiches are an excellent way to use the economical cuts of beef, such as flank or skirt steak.  Both of the preceding cuts lend themselves well to crock cooking because they are lean.  Making the meat for these sandwiches using a fattier cut will result in a thick layer of grease floating on top that must be either ladled off or (worse) eaten.  Since it is not frugal to ladle off part of what you paid for, just buy the leanest and cheapest cuts available.  The Phyne Dyner has gotten some great deals on these cuts as the “sell buy” date approaches.

Once cooked, the meat can be put into freezer containers to eat on short notice.  Just microwave and serve.

And since Phyne Dyner’s readers have been dutifully baking baguettes and Italian bread, (You have haven’t you?) they will have the very best bread on which to serve these wonderful sandwiches.

A few words about crock cooking.

Use a bit less in the way of garlic, herbs, and spices when crock cooking.  Flavors tend to intensify a good deal in this method.  Go easy on the salt for the same reason.  But, if you got overzealous with the salt, toss in a roughly cubed potato for 30 minutes.  The saltiness will diminish quite a bit and be sure to remove them.  Be sure to fill the crock to the manufacturers recommended level.  Too little liquid can result in an overheated crock causing it to crack or the glaze to peel.  I never leave an electric crock plugged in overnight or while I am away.  Many people do, I do not.  If you must add liquid during cooking, carefully pour small amounts into the center of the food in the crock.  Adding cold liquid to a crock along its edge can cause it to crack or cause the glaze to come off.  Always use “high” setting for cooking.  The “low” setting is often not hot enough to prevent food spoilage.

One last word of caution:  One reason I do not do crock cookery overnight or while I am away is because of potential power failures.  If you have just started the meal cooking, go to bed or leave, and the power goes out you will not know it.  If the power is out for more than an hour and then comes back on in time to partially cook the spoiled food, you might get sick.  (NOTE:  This can happen with a deep freeze as well.  Always put several ice cubes in a baggie and put them in the warmest part of the freezer.  If the power goes out, the cubes will melt.  Then, when the power comes back on, they will refreeze…but cannot refreeze into cubes.)

Because these sandwiches are served au jus, it gives you a great opportunity to use loaves of bread that are getting a bit grey in the beard (old).

Here we go!

2lb flank or skirt steak, trimmed and cut into thick sliced portions

½ Italian pepper (or green bell), minced

1 medium onion minced

2-4 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp dry oregano

1 tsp dry basil

½ tsp dry thyme

¼-½ tsp red pepper flakes

2 TBS balsamic vinegar (see below)

salt (see below)

freshly ground pepper (several generous twists or ¼ tsp)

Put everything (EXCEPT salt) into the crock.  Add water to the recommended level.  Plug in and set on high.  Allow to cook 4-6 hours or until meat is extremely tender.  THEN check for seasoning and add a bit of salt, if needed.  Serve on crusty bread halves, ladle a bit of juice over each, and serve with pickled Greek peppers.

If you add salt at the beginning, the meat can stay quite tough, and there is a possibility of over-salting the dish.

Substitute liquid from the pickled peppers for the balsamic vinegar, if desired.

Some people prefer to slice the onion and Italian (green) pepper.  However, this can give the dish a “slimy” bit of vegetable here and there that bothers some people.  Also, the skins from the pepper slough off and one can find bits of resulting “string” in the meal.

Try this Greek version:

Same recipe.  Omit the basil and pepper flakes.  Add ½ to 1 teaspoon each of (dried) rosemary, thyme, mint, and lemon peel.  Serve on fresh pita!  For authenticity, spoon over a bit of tahina or skordalia and garnish with minced kalamata olives.  Hoo-PAH!

BTW…Do NOT be tempted to make this “more authentic” with lamb unless you want to see how a fat rendering plant works on a small scale.  Even with “lean” lamb, there is too much fat in the grain of the meat.


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