Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Best-Ever Italian Beef

Next month is my 40th High School Reunion!

Wait just a minute there! How did that happen?

Let's see ... I remember ... High School.
Graduation.
College.
Graduation.
Marriage.
Moving.
Moving.
Moving.
Moving.
Tenth Reunion.
Moving.
Moving.
Baby - when will he ever sleep?
Toddler - when will he ever sit still?
Moving.
Moving.
Twenty-fifth Reunion.
Teenager - when will he ever get home?
College kid - when will he ever get a job?
Moving.
The Wedding!
Fortieth Reunion.

Some days did seem a lot longer than others, but now I am left to wonder how they all passed so quickly?

The Reunion Committee on The Wall at CCHS
That last move on the list was back home, where my story began, and where I went to high school. I've been lucky since then to spend the last few months hanging out with some high school friends and planning our 40th reunion. We've met once a month at a local restaurant, where we could share a drink, reminisce and plan a get together for 300+/- of our oldest friends.

For the past couple of months though, as the big weekend draws near, we've moved our meetings back home. All the brainstorming, searching for lost classmates and making arrangements is done. We're down to the hands-on, get-'er-done work -- invitations, scanning pictures, name tags, decorations, reservations, t-shirts and posters. We needed more space to spread out and more time to work.

Stuffing Envelopes With Invitations
Our classmate, Nancy, who literally has spent the last year on iTunes, downloading dozens hundreds thousands of songs from our school years, plays them in the background to inspire us as we put the finishing touches on our plans.

And in addition to the music, it only seemed natural that last week's dinner-while-we-work should have a touch of nostalgia too. I made a big batch of Italian Beef sandwiches, a local favorite, and a  salad to fuel us for hands-on projects. Nancy brought homemade peach cobbler from Flamm's Orchards in Cobden and we were set for an evening of stuffing -- ourselves and the invitation envelopes!

Lingering in the kitchen to fill my plate after everyone was seated, I heard a few moments of silence fall over the dining room as everyone dug into dinner. Then I heard a chorus of "this Italian Beef is really good, it tastes even better than Italian Village's Italian Beef!"

Italian Village was a favorite hangout of ours from junior high off-campus lunch hours through high school late-nights after games and dances. It is probably the first place we all ever tasted Italian Beef sandwiches, so it is the yardstick by which we measure all others. I've worked for years to achieve that memorable taste! It was music to my ears to hear my friends liked my take on Italian Beef as well, or maybe better, than our favorite.

Now, most sources you read will say Italian Beef originated in Chicago, but we're at the opposite end of the state and we've been eating it here as long as we can remember -- but only with pepperoncini on the side -- not peppers and onions or giardiniera like they do in Chicago! And I've never tasted any Italian Beef in Chicago that is as good as our own Italian Village version -- although Portillo's, in Villa Park, is really good.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Italian Beef, I am truly sorry. You'll just have to imagine beef, slow-cooked with Italian seasonings, sliced thinly or shredded, served on a warm crusty Italian roll and accompanied by pepperoncini (or peppers and onions or giardiniera, if you go Chicago-style.) 

Oh, wait! You could make some with this recipe and taste just how good it is for yourself.

You can thank me later. I'm off to finish the faculty invitations for tomorrow's reunion meeting.


CORA’S BEST-EVER ITALIAN BEEF

4 tbsp. olive oil
1 6-7 lb. rump roast (leave fat on!)
1 tbsp.Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
26 oz. beef stock, or more
1 can beer
8 oz. jar chopped pepperoncini, with juice
½ pkg. Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing Mix
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Italian Sub Rolls

Heat olive oil in heavy pan or Dutch oven. Sprinkle roast with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Brown roast on all sides. Add remaining ingredients to slow cooker and stir to blend. Place browned roast in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low or medium for 6 to 8 hours. At the end of cooking time, turn off slow cooker and allow meat to cool. Remove meat from slow cooker and shred meat with a fork.   After all meat is shredded, add it back to stock in the slow cooker and set on low to heat. Serve on lightly toasted Italian sub rolls (I like warmed Cobblestone Mills White Sub Rolls) with additional meat juices and more pepperoncini on the side. Makes 10 to 12 sandwiches.

After using all the Italian beef for sandwiches, use the leftover meat juices as an excellent base for making Minestrone soup. Add a blend of vegetables, cannellini or kidney beans, canned tomatoes, cooked pasta and more beef stock to the pot and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Stir in freshly grated Parmesan before serving with crusty Italian bread.

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1 comment:

Robin said...

Another wonderful time I missed! What fun and I can just taste those delicious Italian beef sandwiches. And you know, I hadn't thought about it, but Italian Village was the first place I ever had an Italian beef sandwich. What great times we shared over great food at I.V.