Dish of the Week: The French Dip

Dip this messy roast beef sandwich in jus.
Dip this messy roast beef sandwich in jus. Photo by stu_spivack
Dip this messy roast beef sandwich in jus. - PHOTO BY STU_SPIVACK
Dip this messy roast beef sandwich in jus.
Photo by stu_spivack
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re sharing a classic sandwich, the French Dip.

Also known as a beef dip, the French dip is a messy sandwich made of thinly sliced roast beef that gets piled into a French roll or baguette. The sandwich is served au jus, either dipped entirely in the pan drippings of the cooked beef or served with a side of beef juice for dipping. Despite its name, it is American in origin, with the “French” moniker likely referring to the type of bread used.

There is much debate about where the French dip was created, as two Los Angeles restaurants stake claim to its birthright. Philippe The Original notes that the sandwich was created in 1918, when a sliced French roll was inadvertently dropped into a roasting pan filled with juice; A patron said he would take the sandwich anyway, and the “French Dipped Sandwich” was born. Other folklore states that Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet created the sandwich for a customer who was complaining of sore gums shortly after it opened in 1908.

Neither story has been confirmed, of course. But it really doesn’t matter, because the gloriously sloppy roast beef sandwich, dipped in light beef gravy, is delicious either way.

This recipe, from Martha Stewart, makes a jus from pan beef drippings, dry red wine, aromatics and chicken stock. The sandwich is finished with Swiss cheese for good measure.

French Dip Classic

yields 6 portions
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 pounds chuck roast
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups chicken stock, divided
2 bay leaves
1 French baguette
4 ounces Swiss cheese, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in lower-third position.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper and brown on both sides, 8 minutes total. Remove meat to a plate.

Sauté onions, carrots, celery and garlic in Dutch oven until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and continue to cook, 1 minute more. Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan. Reduce liquid by half.

Return chuck roast to Dutch oven along with 2 cups chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to oven. Roast, basting a few times, until meat is fork-tender, about 3 hours.

Transfer meat to a baking dish and shred using two forks. Strain liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add remaining 1 cup chicken stock to saucepan and keep warm on stovetop until ready to serve.

Preheat broiler. Slice baguette lengthwise, drizzle with oil and place on a baking sheet. Top with shredded meat and Swiss cheese and broil until cheese is bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Cut sandwich into six portions and serve immediately with a bowl of dipping sauce on the side.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano