I’ve cut slices so thin I couldn’t even see them– How’d you know you cut it? –Well, I guess I just assumed.
CLASSIC Seinfeld. I am totally dating myself with quotes like that, and I’m dating myself using a slow cooker in this recipe since pressure cookers are ALL the rage. Yes, I have one and it might be a little life-changing, but I digress, back to the Seinfeld episode.
Kramer has a meat slicer. He slices everything, even Elaine’s heel on her shoe. It is an incredibly handy tool BUT definitely not something I’m EVER going to have in my kitchen. The problem with not having one is directly related to living in Texas.
Can you believe Portillo’s STILL has not expanded to Texas? The only way to cure that Italian Beef craving is to roll up my sleeves and make it myself, sans meat slicer
Those not from Chicago might need a little lesson on what an Italian Beef Sandwich is. First and foremost, there is THINLY sliced beef that has been heavily seasoned and roasted. Next up is the bread, which is impossible to find here in Texas. Maybe it’s kind of like what some might call a “sub roll,” but flakier and airier. In Chicago, it has to be Turano. It’s not crusty but toasts well while still staying soft. What makes it sinful is the gravy. It’s more like a broth that the meat sits in before being placed on the bread.
Now there’s the options. In my opinion, it has to be a cheesy beef. You can be like Jay’s and put Provolone on the bread with the meat on top, which slowly melts the cheese into the bread. Places like Portillo’s and Mr. Beef put mozzarella on top and quickly melt it. The latter might let the bread get a little too toasted/charred and make my son cry.
Another option is peppers, hot or sweet. I typically would say no to both, but some say it HAS to have the peppers. You can also put Giardiniera on it. Not everyone knows what that is, but it’s a pickled mix of vegetables that can be spicy in a light vinaigrette. I didn’t use it in the recipe, but I do have a simple at home version that I will share soon.
You have to know how you want to order it. My mom ruins it by ordering it dry. One of my kids gets it wet/juicy. The other gets it dipped. They actually take the whole sandwich after it’s assembled and dip it in the gravy. What results is a sloppy combination of beef, disintegrating bread, and gravy dripping down your forearms.
There’s also another variation I didn’t mention- the combo. That is an Italian Beef sandwich as described above with an Italian sausage in the middle. Meat and meat and bread. Probably not something I have ever or will ever order, but I do need to have my other craving- the Chopped Salad.
There’s quite a few recipes out there for Crock Pot Italian Beef. I came up with my own, because I wanted to use all natural ingredients and feel a little bit better about indulging. I prep it in my slow cooker’s insert and leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I just need to set it in the cooker and start it up on my way out the door to work. So easy and impressive because I’m cooking dinner AND at work all day. Yay me.
The biggest difference from authentic Chicago style is that I am lacking a meat slicer to produce slices so thin you can’t even see them. We have to settle for shredded beef. I PROMISE the drippy gravy will make up for it.
Using a slow cooker and making it on a cold wintery day is the perfect way to make yourself happy it’s not swim suit season.
- 4-5 lbs Beef chuck roast (one big or two small) - trimmed of excess fat on outside
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- heavy sprinkling of salt and black pepper
- 1 red pepper sliced
- 1 greed pepper sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- Mozzarella cheese and sub rolls for serving
- Season both sides of the beef with the worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil, red pepper, salt, and pepper.
- In a slow cooker, layer half the red pepper, green pepper, garlic, onion, and bay leaf.
- Place beef on top and cover with the remaining vegetables.
- Cook on low for 8-12 hours.
- Remove beef from slow cooker and separate excess fat. The beef should easily shred and fall apart. Don't over do it - let if fall apart itself.
- Strain the liquid left in the slow cooker, discarding vegetables, and let cool to separate the fat from the broth.
- Skim the fat off the top and place back into the slow cooker.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high to heat through.
- Add the shredded beef and put on lowest heat setting to keep warm.
- Slice sub roll lengthwise.
- Stuff with shredded beef and as much gravy as you do or don't want.
- Top with cheese and broil just until the cheese melts.
- If you want, DIP IT. Or just keep some extra on the side.