Yesterday I posted homemade giardiniera (hot peppers in oil). Today we’re putting it to use in an old Chicago staple—veganized, of course—the Italian beef sandwich.
I’ve been missing Chicago lately, with Riot Fest dominating my Facebook feed and Upton’s Breakroom opening, so I’ve been thinking about the foods of my childhood. This is a big one. All over Chicagoland (the city proper and surrounding suburbs), you’ll find Italian beef joints. Sure, they sell hotdogs, but they’re there for the Italian beef. What is it? Well, if you’ve had a French Dip before, you’re close.
The parts of the Italian “beef” are:
The bread: Sounds easy, right? It’s not. Not being in Chicago, I don’t have access to the bread (Gonnella or Turano will work). In Portland, I have a wide variety of baguette, but most are too delicate and airy to handle what I need to subject it to. Find a softer baguette or long roll with as much give as possible, if you’re making do like me.
The “beef”: I just made a batch of beef-style seitan, doing recipe testing for Joni Marie Newman’s next cookbook, so I used this, slicing it as thin as possible.
The “juice” or gravy: The broth should have all those Italian flavors you think of, so I added oregano, red pepper, crushed fennel seed, and thyme to my very strong vegetable broth. I also added a little olive oil, because it is the best. Even as a child, I thought the beef was pretty gross, but I loved me some gravy bread (just the bread soaked in juice with some giardiniera oil).
The giardiniera: You can actually find this in some specialty shops all over the country. I found it once at Cost Plus World Market. The Internet is loaded with recipes, but it’s easy to make, really just a matter of brining the vegetables to suit your taste and covering in oil.
Putting it all together: Soak and reheat the sliced seitan in the broth. When you’re ready to go, either dip the open bread or spoon your broth into it. Then stuff it with an unholy amount of seitan and top with giardiniera. You should really have a bunch of fries with this, preferably served in a paper bag covered in leaky oil spots.
Barrel-chested bonus tip: Ever heard of a combination? That’s when you throw a sausage on top of it all. (Since it’s vegan, it’s not necessarily a recipe for a heart attack.)