As most of the world hunkers down in their homes to avoid transmission of the COVID19 virus, home kitchens buzz with activity and creativity. Contributions to and new memberships in the Memphis Cooks Facebook group grow daily as past and present Memphians seek to showcase their efforts and solicit cooking advice from each other.
Many local restaurants continue to do curbside pickup and home delivery of some or all of their menus. Place at the Table applauds these small businesses for employing their staff safely and sustaining their operations through the crisis. Please order from your favorites, if you can.
Over the weekend, I found myself craving the open-faced Italian Roast Beef sandwich with slow-cooked beef in a red tomato sauce over provolone and toasted French bread from Fino’s from the Hill in Midtown. Kelly English, his brother Todd and remaining staff continue to lead Restaurant Iris, The Second Line and Fino’s through the crisis offering curbside pickup and home delivery of foods from their current, family-style menus. By preserving their small businesses, they are safely feeding us and inspiring others to do the same.
Fino’s menu currently omits the Italian Roast Beef sandwich. Unable to wait for normal operations to resume, I drew upon inspiration from Paul’s grandmothers over the weekend to make this dish on my own. Paul recalls Mary Linxwiler making a beef pot roast in a tomato sauce for her grandchildren but inherited no recipe for it. Elsewhere on this blog, readers can find the sugo recipe made by his other grandmother, Mary Favazza, that I make for Paul’s family reunions.
With these details I made an Italian Roast Beef sandwich that rivals Fino’s version — at least until the sandwich returns to the menu. This recipe will feed a large group, but the rich, hearty flavor improves overnight for leftovers the next day. Why share when you can eat this for days!?!
Italian Roast Beef Sandwiches
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 lb beef chuck roast, fat trimmed around edges
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 carrot, chopped fine
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
- 2 14.5 oz. can of peeled, whole tomatoes (pureéd in a blender just enough to break apart)
- 1 14.5 oz can of water, beef broth, or stock
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp basil
- 2 tsp oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp of sugar (only if the carrots didn’t make it sweet enough)
- 2 8-oz package of sliced provolone cheese
- 1-2 large loaves of French bread
- Salt and pepper the chuck roast. Sear roast in a large stew pot with 2 tbsp of olive oil and set aside.
- Sauté chopped vegetables in the remaining olive oil in a same pot until softened. Deglaze the pot when you begin sautéing the garlic, onions and carrots by scraping the fond from bottom and edges of the pot. Add puréed tomatoes and water and spices through oregano. Return roast to pot.
- Bring pot to a boil, stir and reduce heat to a low simmer (covered) for 3-4 hours. Stir occasionally while simmering and add water, stock or broth as needed.
- Remove roast from pot to a cutting board. Test seasoning of the sauce for salt, pepper and sweetness. Add more as needed.
- Return pot to a boil as you use to forks to pull apart the roast into ropes or shreds of beef. Discard large pieces of fat and return all pieces of meat to the pot. Stir and return to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Cut loaf of bread into square pieces that will fit the size of your provolone cheese slices, then slice those pieces in half. Add one slice of cheese to each half of bread and toast until the cheese begins to melt.
- Plate toasted bread and ladle the Italian roast beef sauce over both pieces. Serve with a knife and fork.