Okay, before you get grossed out, I am not talking about chips and dip, or veggies and dip. I am talking about one of my kids’ favorite dinners. It takes me about 15 minutes of prep time, cooks all day without turning on the oven or wasting copious amount of expensive, natural gas, and is so delicious and easy to clean up, it’s incredible. I am referring to French Dip Sandwiches, and my Crock Pot.
Some people refer to it as slow cooker or a dutch oven, (that one always makes the immature child in me giggle, a lot), but thanks to the Rival corporation who coined the name “Crock Pot” when I was merely a year old, to me, it will always be my Crock Pot. Whether its covered in chili pepper graphics (R.I.P my chili pepper Crock Pot) or bright metallic red as my new one. It’s my Rival Crock Pot, and I love it!
When people think of using their Crock Pots, they often think of Fall and Winter, soups, pot roasts, and stews. They rarely see the kitchen counter during Spring and Summer. As good as they soups and stews are that come from mine, I say Spring and Summer are actually the ideal time to use your Crock Pot.
This is the time of year I want to be outside exploring, enjoying the nice weather, the green grass, sunny beaches and tree-lined parks. The last place I want to be is in my kitchen with my oven or stove on, adding extra fervor in my home, I have to pay to “pump” out. My air conditioning is already spinning my electric meter wheel faster than a Disneyland Teacup. Getting outdoors, while my dinner cooks safely in a warmed pot at home, using about as much electricity as my generic, Target alarm clock is just what my bank account ordered.
I love when we have been out all day, and I walk into the house and it hits me. That overwhelming wall of scent that sends my salivary glands into overdrive the moment it hits me. The smell of a home cooked meal, waiting for me. I already paid for it, pennies on the dollar compared to eating out, it’s already done, and it smells amazing! My favorite part is the sound the kids make as they walk in the door one by one. ” “Ohhh yum, that smells so good”, or, ” Oh my gosh, Mom! Did you make French Dip?”, and my favorite, “Oh Mommy, did you make those sandwiches I love?” Salivary glands start yet another pool in my mouth as I recall that scent again.
I know what you’re thinking, “So enough of the “Will Write for Food” mumbo jumbo, when are you gonna show us how to make this???” Well how about now…
The first thing I have to say is when I suggest to you a specific brand, it’s usually because I have tried other options and they failed. This is why I suggest certain brands. I don’t get paid anything or get any advertising kickbacks,(speaking of, click on my ads. I get paid, and it costs you nothing.) it’s just that using something else is a risk I have taken and it backfired on me. Recently I experienced this with Low Sodium Soy sauce.
It started out the usual way, I was trying to save a buck. Need I say more? Well I will, it was the Kroger brand of Lite Soy Sauce, and it was terrible! It was an over fermented nightmare. It didn’t even taste remotely like soy sauce of any kind. Zoe tried it on her brown rice, which she loves to eat as an after school snack. (p.s. trader Joe’s Frozen, microwaveable, Brown Rice is my favorite, not the organic kind though.) She had to throw the whole plate away! Of course, I had to sample it before I let her do this, and immediately concurred as I spat out my portion and tossed the remains of the entire bottle in the trash.
I’m not saying don’t buy generic stuff, I’m just saying, try it out on something else before you use it in a recipe. Like cracking your eggs individually before adding them to the entire batter. You do that, don’t you?
Anyway, onto the recipe. here’s what you’ll need.
A 3-4 lb. Chuck Roast ( Eye of Round works as well)
3/4 to 1 cup of Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce
1 packet of Herb-Ox Beef bullion granules (See more info below on it)
2 Fresh Rosemary sprigs or 1 tbsp. of dried, crushed Rosemary
1 tbsp of Garlic powder or three crushed, fresh cloves
1 Bay leaf
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 Tbsp Crushed Peppercorns
Enough water to cover the roast.
8-12 Hard rolls or Kaiser rolls
8-12 deli slices of provolone cheese
Here are some pics of the ingredients I used.
The Herb Ox granules can be difficult to find. The only place I truly know of that always has them in stock is Albertson’s. I have tried Von’s, Ralph’s, Stater Brother’s, Fry’s and Safeway, and I have only found them at Albertson’s. They are the best, and they last awhile because it comes with 8 packets. The reason I like them so much is because they are gluten-free, contain no msg and are completely sodium free. It leaves me with all the control over the flavoring with the herbs and spices. The lite soy sauce has enough sodium anyway, aside from salting the meat. As explained earlier, I don’t even try different soy sauce now. I have heard Trader Joe’s Low Sodium Soy sauce is good, but I am happy with my LS Kikkoman. Incidentally, I usually find the best bargain on this one at Von’s, aka Safeway here in AZ and sometimes at Albertson’s as well. The whole reason I ended up with that terrible bottle of Kroger brand was because they only sell Kikkoman’s in a tiny bottle for like $4.00. I get this big 20 oz bottle for around the same there when on sale, which is like every other week.
Onto the prep… for the roast, I don’t even bother to brown it in a pan first. This dish has so much flavor on its own, it’s not necessary. I have tried it with and without browning and could not even tell the difference, so I of course, opt out of dirtying a pan, adding oil and turning on my stove.
You can trim the roast if you like, but I prefer to take the fatty pieces out at the end so I can capture all that flavor for dipping in the au jus. Sprinkle some kosher salt and grind some fresh pepper on both sides. Now this is hard part…Turn your crock pot on the hottest setting and drop the roast into the crock pot.
Now all you have to do is sprinkle the Herb Ox granules on it, pour the soy sauce and water over it, toss in the garlic and herbs, and you’re done! Well, for now anyway. If you like, you can put this all together the night before and just pour the water over and add it into your pot the next morning, but it’s best to do this in a separate container. Your crock pot could crack or break if it is too cold when you start turn it on.
Here’s what mine looked like when I was done putting it all together. I usually use the dried rosemary, but was out and had some fresh on hand. I think it looks pretty. That’s hard to do with raw meat you know!
It takes mine about 7-8 hours on high to cook to the way I like it, so set your pot accordingly. If you are gone longer than that and have one of those nifty programmable ones, I suggest you have the temp lowered to the “warm” setting after 8 hours, or to “low” after 7 hours.
Here’s a pic of what it looked like after three hours…
You can remove and slice at this stage if you want to take the time and like it better sliced. Just put the meat back into the juices after slicing.
Another pic after six hours…
Getting ugly now isn’t it?
And finally…The last step after I have removed the fatty pieces, which took me about five minutes. (My dog loved them!) I shred or separate the meat here a little and let it stew in those delectable juices for a few minutes while I slice the rolls and get the cheese ready. BTW, the hard rolls can be substituted only by some other kind of tasty roll that has a hard, crisp exterior followed by an airy, light interior to soak up all those juices. Kaiser rolls work great as well. Just don’t waste your money and time by using some brand name, plain Jane, French rolls that came off a shelf in the bread isle. Head straight to the bakery section, tell them what you’re making, and they should know what you need. They are about the size of a large dinner roll, and if you happen to find them in the day old section for half-off, that’s fine, just make sure they are worthy of the meat and your time.
I know it looks really gross, but trust me. It looks fine once it’s assembled, and tastes even better. I never said it would be pretty anyway…at least, not yet!
Now it is. Here’s what it looks like all assembled on my plate. Yum, Yum, Yum!!!
See I told you. I wish you could smell it. Now grab your self some of that au jus and just go to town!
It is so good, I could just eat a couple of these alone, but the kids like the sides, so you can serve this with a lot of different things if you wish. The kids love steak fries with it. I love to toss them in a little fresh crushed garlic, flat-leafed parsley, shredded Romano cheese and a butter/olive oil mixture after the fries crisp in the oven for a bit. But since the whole point is to be oven free, you can serve with a little potato salad, bag of chips, a nice Carnegie Deli dill pickle on the side, or you could just pick up some of those delightful potato wedges your grocery store’s deli has been nursing under that orange light for few hours. The main thing is the sandwich, and it’s worth every bite, penny, minute, whatever you put into it!
Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you. This stuff freezes and reheats amazingly well! Just put into an airtight container, Ziploc freezer bags, etc. What I like best is being able to remove some of the fat in the juice after it freezes. It rises to the top in a solid, white layer. Just pick it off after its defrosted a little, but isn’t melted yet. It saves calories, but the flavor is still intact. This works if it is refrigerated overnight as well.
Here are a few sides we like with it. The Carnegie deli pickle spears are so crisp and cold with the perfect amount of tang. They are better than Vlasic and they came from Costco in the deli section, the Miss Vickie’s chips are from Sam’s Club in a multi flavor pack. I love these chips and was ecstatic to find them at Sam’s as I have had to quell my cravings for them over the years with a trip to Togo’s for a hot pastrami sandwich (poor me, no really, poor me. My blood pressure skyrocketed!). Although I can make the steak fries at home, these are Red Robin’s…Yum!
So, I had this whole story cooked up about the history of the French dip sandwich and how it’s not really French at all, but I’ll just let you Google that one on your own if you’re interested. Okay fine, being the trivia geek that I am…I’ll give you the link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_dip_sandwich. There! Are you happy now? FYI..My vote is for Cole’s. Their story makes more sense to me.
So, this coming weekend we are celebrating our family’s Greek Easter. It’s a little ahead of schedule as it actually falls on the same day as regular Easter this year, April 24th, which also happens to be my Grandma Rose’s birthday. But I get to head out to California and see my niece and nephew-in-law I haven’t seen in almost a year! They moved to Michigan the same week we moved to Arizona last year and we miss them sooooo much! Looking forward to seeing you Stacey and Garrett! I can’t wait to come back and fill you all in on all the great food and fun of the weekend!
In the meantime… Enjoy your food, cherish your family and savor every last crumb life throws at you.