Memorial Day Weekend ~ Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

It’s Memorial Day weekend! The unofficial beginning of summer. 🙂

To celebrate this weekend, I tried making my own version of Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches. My husband is from Chicago, and this is one dish that is very hard to come by outside of the city limits. He misses his occasional beef sandwich in Seattle.

I found a recipe from Cook’s Country magazine that sounded promising. They do such a nice job testing recipes at that magazine, so I thought that would be a good place to go for an authentic dish. I would highly recommend subscribing to their magazine, or to their sister magazine, Cook’s Illustrated. They are definitely a trusted source in my kitchen.

We ended up sharing the beef with another of Rob’s friends from Chicago, and both he and Rob thought this recipe was very close to what they remembered from their childhoods!

I did change a couple of things from the original recipe to make them a little healthier and to make them a little more authentic. My butcher trimmed the beef very well, so very little fat remained. I also used kosher salt instead of table salt to reduce the sodium. The original recipe asked for the giardiniera to be blended with mayonnaise, but that’s not what I have experienced in Chicago, so I didn’t follow those instructions. I also didn’t put the giardiniera liquid into the jus for the same reason. The jus had a ton of flavor all by itself. One final thing I added was a bell pepper to include a vegetable and to stay authentic.

The whole dish only took a couple of hours, and most of that time was just roasting the beef (so I could go off and do other things.) It is definitely an easy recipe to repeat over and over again.

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

4 teaspoons garlic powder

4 teaspoon dried basil

4 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon ground pepper

1 4-lb top sirloin roast, trimmed of most of the fat

2 tablespoons oil (canola, grape seed, or vegetable)

1 finely chopped onion

3 minced garlic cloves

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

2 cups low sodium beef broth

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 ½ cups water

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1 inch strips

French bread for serving

Giardiniera packed in oil for serving

(If you are in the Seattle area, De Laurenti Specialty Food and Wine has a nice selection of authentic giardiniera. That’s the only ingredient that’s a little tricky to find.)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the garlic powder, basil, oregano, and pepper in a small bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium high heat until it is almost smoking. Pat the meat dry with paper towels, and brown on all sides. Transfer to a roasting pan with a V-rack to keep the meat from resting on the bottom of the pan.

Add the onion to the remaining fat in the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, flour and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix. Cook about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the broths and water, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil. Then add the liquid mixture to the roasting pan.

Stir 1 tablespoon of oil, red pepper flakes and salt into the remaining spice mix. Massage the mix all over the meat.

Roast for about 90 minutes, covered, and then transfer the meat to a cutting board. (It should still be a little pink in the middle). Tent with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Pour the jus through a fine mesh strainer into a pan, and keep at a low simmer.

Microwave the sliced bell pepper for two minutes to give it a head start. Then add it to the jus, and let it soften.

Slice the meat as finely as possible, and place it in the jus on the stove. Cook until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Serve the beef on French bread slices, with spicy giardiniera. We also like to serve it with a little bowl of jus to dip.

Take a bite and imagine you are at the shores of Lake Michigan on a picnic blanket on the beach!

Memorial Day ~ Lime Marinated Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Tomato, Mint and Watercress Salad and Lemon Blini with Raspberry Sorbet

Cheers and thank you to all of the members of our military, past and present!

I attended one of my favorite Williams-Sonoma technique classes this weekend, which featured recipes for Memorial Day. They are free cooking classes held almost every Sunday before the store opens, and you get to taste the creations after they are made. I would highly recommend checking them out! I had a whole Memorial Day menu already figured out, but the samples were so tasty at the class that I changed my mind. We had lime marinated pork tenderloin medallions over a tomato, mint and watercress salad and lemon blini with raspberry sorbet. A very summery menu to kick off the unofficial start of summer! 🙂 This is my take on the recipes I learned. As usual, I tried to make them a tad healthier. For example, I used less salt in the marinade, quite a bit less olive oil for the dressing and more veggies than called for. In the dessert, I used skim milk instead of whole.


Lime Marinated Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Tomato, Mint and Watercress Salad

1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed of any excess fat

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Small garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons finely minced onion

2 oz chicken stock

1 oz red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 oz extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups cubed tomatoes (bite size)

2 cups watercress

2 tablespoons fresh mint

2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Cut the pork into uniform medallions, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, and place in a baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk the coriander, cumin, lime zest and juice, olive oil, salt, garlic and onion. Pour the marinade over the pork, mix well so every piece is coated, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 375

Preheat an oven proof grill pan over medium heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, and reserve the remaining marinade. Grill the pork on the preheated pan, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the oven, and finish cooking for about 6 minutes, or until cooked through.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the pork to a platter to rest under a tent of tin foil. Add the remaining marinade, stock, vinegar, and honey to the pan and simmer together until it is reduced by one third on the stovetop. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil.

Mix the tomatoes, watercress, mint and almonds in a large bowl. Toss the warm dressing into the salad and serve with the pork on top.

Serves 2

Lemon Blini with Raspberry Sorbet

1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

1/2 cup skim milk

1 full egg (separated) and 1 egg white

2 tablespoons sugar

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

Two pinches of salt

Store bought raspberry sorbet

In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, milk, egg yolk, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth. Sift the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt over the ricotta mix and stir until everything is combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are frothy. Add one more pinch of salt to this, and continue whisking until you have soft peaks.

Fold 1/3 of the egg whites with a spatula into the ricotta mix, and then gently fold the remainder of the whites in.

Preheat a pan over medium low heat and spray with cooking spray. 1 tablespoon at a time, drop the mixture onto the preheated pan. (This will make each blin about 3 inches in diameter.) Make sure not to crowd the pan. Cook about 2 minutes per side, until golden on the outside and cooked through.

Serve with small melon ball sized scoops of raspberry sorbet for a nice compliment to the mildly sweet lemony pancakes.

Serves 2, with leftovers

By the way, I’d like to note that I’m normally not a huge watercress fan. I find it too peppery and strong for my taste. But this dressing mellows out the flavor, so I actually enjoyed it! I think I’ll be eating more of this vegetable in the future with this new recipe. I’d recommend trying it if you find you steer away from peppery greens like I do.

I should also mention these aren’t technically blini, which are made of buckwheat flour and often served with caviar. But these are sweet little dessert pancakes along the same lines as that classic. Whatever you call them, I hope you enjoy!