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Saturday, March 19, 2016

French Beef Dip au Jus

So, because we're seeing what are sure to be some of the last few cold days we'll be seeing this year, I decided I yet had time to sneak in a good roast beef before the end of the season.

In fact, I don't think I've done a roast beef since last winter anyway...  don't really make many of them.

Usually, when I do, I make the traditional roasted onion, potatoes, and carrots kind of dealie, dry roasted in a dutch oven.  The wife is a big fan of this old timey meal.

However, a delightfully fun, delectably delicious, and deceptively easy alternative is to make French Dip Sandwiches.

Essentially just braised roast beef, sliced relatively thinly, and served in a roll with onion and a generous pot of jus (beef juice from the braising/roasting), this is just as comforting as any roast beef (if not more), and a lot easier to make, eat, and serve.

And it's FUN!  The bread gets all soggy from the jus, but that doesn't stop you from dipping into the pot for even more jus every bite!  Mmmmmmm....

Anyway, you'll see it's easy.

First, treat the beef like you would any other, searing it with high heat on all sides real quickly before slow cooking/roasting/braising.

We picked out a really cheap cut, that actually turned out to be quite perfect for this.

I rubbed it down in some avocado oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and then gently seared each side in a very hot, pre-heated pan.

Make sure to get ALL the sides.  That maillard reaction browning is the good stuff.

Use tongs to get the awkward sides.

Once all the sides have browned nicely, set the beef aside; in your slow cooker if you're using one, otherwise in a medium sized dutch oven.

Myself, I'm using a slow cooker.

That's basically all the work you need to do for the beef, until it's done and you slice it up.

But the best part about that searing you just did?

The gribblies!

Let the pan cool down substantially (I usually take it right off the heat), but after a few minutes put it back on to 'low' heat.

And saute a generous amount of sliced onion.

Be sure to add another generous glug of oil in there, and periodically scrape the bottom with a metal implement (like a wire whisk).

After a few minutes, the onions should start to turn nice and golden, and all of the gribblies should be incorporated.

Once they're like one quick step away from becoming caramelized, pour in about two cups of beef broth.  Don't use any other kind of broth, OK?  It has to be Beef Broth.

Let that mingle for a minute or so, and feel free to scrape around, getting the bottom and the sides of the pan, to get any wayward gribblies.

Then, carefully pour the entire contents on top of your beef, in your slow cooker or dutch oven.

Because I'm a miser when it comes to flavour (flavour miser, that's me), I did a second round of deglazing.

I poured the rest (another 2 cups) of my beef broth into the empty pan, and reduced it a bit.  Then poured about a half a cup of red wine in as well, also to reduce for a bit.


This helped bring up the level of liquid in my slow cooker to cover just enough of the beef as to do a nice job of braising.

Next, and lastly before the slow-cooking, I added a very generous blanket of fresh thyme leaves.

It takes me many a minute to carefully prepare thyme, but I find it worthwhile, as thyme is one of my favourite green herbs.

If you're interested in my technique, take a hop, skip, or jump on over to my post on "How to De-Stem Thyme".  It's quite edifying if you're inexperienced...  :)

Stir in that thyme, and a bit more salt and pepper, and it's ready to slow-cook.

Believe it or not, you're actually not supposed to cover your meat entirely with liquid, when braising.  I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm sure there's a good reason... and someday I'll happily learn that.

But for now, I make sure to leave the top 1/8 or so of the beef, and then cap it off with the lid, and set it to slow cook for a few hours.

It was about 5 hours, actually.


Shortly before serving, I very very lightly toasted two fresh white french sandwich rolls.

And then slathered some dijon mustard on each side.  Not a tonne, mind you, just enough to mingle with the flavours.

And now to check on the beef.

Hoh man oh man.

Take out the beef and let it sit for a few minutes on a cutting board (the kind with juice-catching grooves).

While the meat is resting, strain some jus.

We're not making gravy here people.  In fact, one of the characteristics of a good beef jus, is its clarity.  We want it to be really pristine looking (and feeling... in terms of texture...)

So, a couple rounds of straining.

First, a medium colander to catch all the thyme, and onion.

And then a fine-mesh sieve (or cheesecloth if you don't have one) to strain anything that got through the first round.

Some cute serving bowls/ramekins are essential here.  It really helps to sell the whole "you're supposed to dip your stuff in here" thing.

And you want to serve each person one, you get that right?  These are individual jus dips, and served right on the plate with the sandwiches.

So, I made two of these.

Then it was on to carving the beef.


Try to slice as thin as you can, but not if it's going to massacre the beef.

Mmmmm.... I'd say these were between 5 and 10 mm.

So, now that everything is ready, time to assemble the sandwiches.

First pour a little bit of the strained jus (you should still have lots of this left) directly on to the bread.  This helps to give a head start to the sogginess (which is desired, trust me).

An optional step is to cut up a couple of slices of a good french cheese.

I opted for a nice smokey gruyere.

Then, layer up the beef slices, taking care to distribute them evenly.

Then close up the sandwich, garnish with some fresh thyme sprig(s) if desired, and don't forget the pot of jus!

The next step?

Grab, dip, bite, chew, swallow, and love.