Sandwich of the Week is going to be homemade-sandwich heavy for the run of the TedQuarters revival. I want to support my local sandwich institutions, of course, and perhaps I’ll review some of them in this space, but I’m also trying to do the responsible thing and stay inside as much as possible.
People often give me spices and condiments as gifts, which I appreciate. I can and sometimes do make my own barbecue rub, but the gift of barbecue rub is one I’m always going to use eventually, which is more than I can say for dress slacks.
I haven’t exactly mapped out this site’s Operation Shutdown content, but I assume a lot of the food I prepare and write about here will include random ingredients I already had in my kitchen, as this seems like a good opportunity to use some of them up. That may make it difficult for you to accurately recreate these sandwiches at home. But it’s all jazz, baby. Seek not instructions here. Seek inspiration.
The sandwich: Roast beef, spinach and potato chips with club sauce on lightly toasted wheat bread.
The construction: I started with a rump roast I got from Crowd Cow, a reliably excellent source of meat that I’m going to endorse here because a) it’s a useful resource in these times and was actually available to deliver meat to me sooner than FreshDirect could, and b) we both get $25 credits if you sign up here with my referral code. Tacky, I know. But it’s not like I’m asking you to patreon me. We all get discounted meat out of this.
On the roast, I used a liberal sprinkling of Trader Joe’s coffee-garlic barbecue rub, which is delicious, and which I get as a gift frequently enough that I pretty much always have some around. Here’s how to approximate it if you don’t have access to it. Here’s the roast, with the rub, on the grill:
Hardcore grill heads might note that I’m cooking it over indirect heat with a chunk of oak thrown in with the charcoal. But again, don’t fret about the specifics. I’m sure you can roast a perfect rump in your oven if you don’t have a fancy barbecue.
The potato chips were Kettle-band Spicy Queso chips from a half-eaten bag I had in my kitchen. I wanted to put sliced cucumber on the sandwich, but opted for baby spinach when I opened the fridge and learned we had no cucumbers. For the sauce, I took a sweet red-pepper jelly of forgotten origin that was on my refrigerator door, then mixed it with mayo, a little yellow mustard for tang, and salt and pepper.
Mixing roughly one part jelly — any sort of jelly, really — with three parts mayo makes for a shockingly good sandwich topping. I got the idea from No. 7 Sub sandwich guru Tyler Kord’s A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Important background information: I never spent a whole lot of time thinking about roast beef until I worked at the deli. We often had it around my house growing up — I’m pretty sure it’s my dad’s favorite lunchmeat — but it was never something I went out of my way to order.
But one regular customer at the deli forced a frequent consideration of roast beef. Her name was Gae. She owned the smoke shop around the corner, she never wanted anything at the deli besides roast beef, and she only wanted roast beef it was extremely rare.
We went through about one roast every three days, but she only ever wanted it — on a platter with gravy and french fries — if it could be sliced from the very middle of the roast. So instead of walking about 100 yards to survey the roast beef every day at noon, she’d call to check in. She had an incredible voice — a thick, sludgy New York accent with the gravelly growl of someone who not only smoked constantly but also spent most of her waking hours inside a small smoke-filled room. And she apparently had no time whatsoever for pleasantries.
“Hello, De Bono’s,” I’d say when I picked up the phone.
“IS IT RARE?” she’d ask. I knew to expect her call every day, so I always kept tabs on the roast beef.
“Hi, Gae. Yes, it’s rare.”
“I LIKE IT STILL MOOING.”
“Come on over, Gae. I’ll get it ready for you.”
Gae was right. Rare roast beef is the best and most flavorful form of that meat. And I’ve roasted beef of various cuts with plenty of success, but until last night, I never really nailed the interior rareness I was looking for.
I think some of it was that the roast was still frozen in the very center when I put it on the grill, and some of it was dumb luck: A drunk lady visiting my neighbor popped her head over the fence and started a conversation with me while I meant to be checking on the meat. The grill got to a way higher temperature than I wanted, and the first time I stuck the meat thermometer in, it was already at 125-degrees in the middle. The innermost parts of big cuts of meat continue gaining temperature for about 10 minutes after you pull them off the grill (there’s science to this), so I took it off right then, let it rest for a while, and cut it open to find the beautiful interior redness you can see in the photo above.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Folks, I have made so many freaking sandwiches in my life. So many. Tens of thousands, easily. This might have been the best.
And that’s both alarming and liberating, because it’s really not a sandwich I spent a whole lot of time planning. I had a rump roast I wanted to turn into roast beef. I had some potato chips and some spinach. I had a random half-eaten jar of red-pepper jelly in the fridge. I had bread. I made a sandwich.
But what a sandwich! The beef was juicy, tender, salty and meaty, and still warm from the grill. The potato chips added some spice and a powerful crunch, the sauce was sweet, tangy and peppery. The spinach means it’s good for you.
The bread was a bit overmatched by the bulk of the sandwich and the juiciness of the beef, but it died a hero, for sure.
What it costs: $25 less than it would if you didn’t use my Crowd Cow referral code.
Hall of Fame? Yup.
We’re going to make it through this.