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~ Joe's Beefy French-Onion French-Dip Sandwiches~

IMG_9455Before the Christmas holiday, I made a big pot of beef stock, so I could serve French onion soup with our prime rib dinner.  Consequently, I have some wonderful leftovers in my refrigerator:  four bowls of onion soup, beef stock in the freezer, and, a plate full of the flavorful, tender, shank meat I used to make the stock.  I had planned on having leftover onion soup for dinner tonight, and, planned on using the stock and shank meat to make beef-barley soup tomorrow (I still might because I have a lot of both).  That was the plan, until Joe (while foraging for food this morning), suggested I shred the shank meat to make beef sandwiches to dip in onion soup!

How obvious!  I am speechless!  Why didn't I think of this!

IMG_9414Not since tomato soup with grilled cheese have I been so excited about a soup and sandwich combination.  Truth be told, I don't like leftover prime rib unless it is briefly simmered in gravy and put on an open-faced, knife-and-fork sandwich.  Don't take offense to that, it's just a quirky preference of mine.  I also don't think prime rib is historically used to make beef dip sandwiches. Don't take offense to that either, as, it is obviously one way to use up primo beef leftovers.   Using the shank meat I have on hand to make a French dip beef sandwich makes sense and sounds awesome to me.  Dipping it in French onion soup instead of plain 'ole jus?  Be still my heart!

A bit about the French dip sandwich:  Let's start with -- it is not French.  It's an American creation. It's a hot (warm) sandwich, made of thinly-sliced roasted beef and served on a French roll -- hence, French.  The sandwiches are always served with "au jus" (meaning "with juice") for dipping.  The jus is made from beef juices leftover from the cooking process, although, seasoned broth is sometimes  substituted.  There is one more option:  The "wet" sandwich.  The entire sandwich gets baptized in a quick dip of jus, then, served with more jus to the side -- for double dipping.  Options include: toasting the roll, adding onions and/or melting cheese on top. 

IMG_9373Two Los Angeles restaurants claim to be the birthplace of the French dip sandwich:  Cole's Pacific Buffet and Philippe The Original.  Both places were founded in 1908, and, to date, they both have unresolved arguments and plenty of lore to support their 'inventive' claims of ownership.  Both establishments serve wonderful sandwiches, and, I prefer to realistically tell you they are simply the first two eateries to successfully market this sandwich.  Why?  Ever since women began roasting meat, men dipped bread into the juices to sop up every drop of flavorful goodness.  It was a born-out-of-necessity, "waste not, want not", run-of-the-mill practice.

My version of Joe's 'sandwich idea' isn't classic French dip.  

It's a "French twist" on the "French dip"!!!

IMG_9304Part One.  The Bread.

My choice is:

2, 1-pound French batards

A batard is 1st cousin to the baguette.  Because it's shorter & wider, it's sandwich-friendly. Cutting each one into thirds yields 6 manageable-sized sandwiches.

IMG_9323Part Two.  The Meat.

I'm shredding:

4 cups cooked beef shank meat

IMG_9309This allows for a generous 1/2 cup per 4-inch sandwich.  That's a lotta beef. Feel free to substitute 4 cups of any kind of cooked, shredded or paper-thin sliced beef.  Since this meat was used to make my broth for the soup, the flavor profile is perfect.

Part Three.  IMG_9300The "au Jus".

I'm heating:

8 cups lefover French onion soup

on the stovetop.

I'll be adding:

1 cup of this leftover soup

to my beef, just enough to moisten and flavor it.  The rest will be served to the side of the sandwiches (almost 1 cup per sandwich).

IMG_9112Part Four.  The Cheese.

I'm shredding:

16 ounces French Gruyere (4 cups)

My leftover French onion soup is being used as "au jus" tonight, meaning, it won't have bread in it or cheese on top of it.  I'm melting my French cheese on my French bread sandwiches to make up for that. This is all fitting together perfectly!

It's time to make French-Onion French-Dip Sandwiches!

IMG_9355 IMG_9349~ Step 1. Place the shredded meat in a 10" skillet and add 1 cup of the warmed (hot) onion soup.  Over medium heat, bring the meat to a steamy-state, but don't simmer or cook it.  You just want it warmed.  Taste.  if you think it needs a bit of salt and pepper, add a bit now.  I added none.

IMG_9373 IMG_9365~ Step 2. Slice each 'roll' in half, to open it up completely. IMG_9369Place 1/3 cup of grated cheese on the bottom. Top with a generous 1/2 cup of the meat mixture, followed by another 1/3 IMG_9381cup of grated cheese.

Tightly wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil.

Note:  This should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway just in case:  do not assemble and wrap these sandwiches until you are ready to put them in the oven to bake.

~ Step 3.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve immediatlely with 1 cup of hot French onion soup to the side, for dipping, drizzling or eating!

Unwrap to reveal the meat-y, cheese-y, onion-y goodness:

IMG_9451Whether you dip it in the jus a little, or a lot...

IMG_9415... this is a beef dip sandwich worth talkin' about!

IMG_9431Joe's Beefy French-Onion French-Dip Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 6 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; fork; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; 4-quart stockpot; 10" skillet; alumium foil; 6, 1-cup ramekins 

IMG_2416Cook's Note:  For another classic American "beef dip" sandwich served with au jus to the side and topped with a spicy, crunchy, pickled vegetable Giardiniera, try my recipe for ~ Sweet Home Chicago: Italian Beef Sandwiches ~.  You can find my recipe in Categories 2, 17 or 19! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


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