Today is my sister’s birthday. Like any proper Southerner who resides in the lower parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, you just grow up eating em’.
And I wanted to write about the roast beef poboy in particular, because it is her sandwich. Any time we pass through our old stompin’ grounds of Picayune, Mississippi — we make it a point to get one at Frostop (pronounced: Frost-top or as my wife Hannah would call it, Fro-stop).
I’ve written about Frostop before, so I’ll make its mention brief just by saying it was our hole-in-the-wall french fry/burger/poboy joint. A must have if ever heading across the plains of South Mississippi.
Because this is sort of a foodie blog, and because it’s my sister’s birthday, I’m gonna lay down my recipe for the “how-to” on roast beef poboys.
Also, I’ve yet to find a good one online. They exist, but are scarce and deserve much more recognition than they usually get.
There are two things important to this sandwich that have nothing to do with roast beef: poboy bread and mayonnaise.
If you don’t like either, this sandwich isn’t for you.
Good poboy bread is hard to come by unless you find yourself along the poboy belt. Leidenheimer makes the best. But you can’t really get it much else than Louisiana.
So, you do what I do and find a Thai bakery. Look for Banh Mi bread. It should be crusty, but incredibly light in the middle. Baguettes won’t do. They’re too hard. French bread at Kroger/Fred Meyer/Safeway/Wal-Mart won’t do. It’s too much white stuff. (In a pinch, buy it and take out a bunch of the filling.)
The bread is merely for holding together roast beef and condiments. It should absorb said gravy and act solely as a vessel. It should almost disappear among the drippings and shreds of roast beef.
Mayonnaise. For this, I’m thinkin’ either Blue Plate or Duke’s. I’m gonna side with Blue Plate because I have a soft spot for it. It’s what I grew up with, but Duke’s is damn good too. If you wanna be fancy and make your own, by all means, do it!
You must use copious amounts of mayo. You will think me later when the gravy/mayo emulsification is dripping down to your elbows. It sounds dirty, but it’s the truth.
(I’m not great at recipes, but I’ll do my best.)
Here’s what you need:
3-4lb chuck roast, preferably in big, flat chunks
1-yellow onion, small diced
3-large peeled carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 -3 quarts Beef stock, preferably homemade
(sometimes I use half beef stock/half chicken stock and top off with water, in a pinch)
3T canola oil
Bay leaf, or two
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Note: Here’s the bummer part for you — I like to let the meat marinate over night — and then after it’s cooked, I let it sit in the fridge’ over night again. But it’s worth it, trust me.
Here’s what you do:
Without piercing through the meat, make little incisions and stuff in your sliced garlic all over the place. Salt generously and add a few grinds of black pepper till coated. Wrap it all up, stick it in your fridge and come back to it 8-24 hours later. (Or whatever, you don’t have to do this, but I think it helps season the meat more thoroughly.)
The next day, get a big dutch oven (or big heavy bottomed pot) going with your canola oil. Get it sorta shimmering and smoky. Like you’re about to cook a big steak. Brown all that meat off on both sides and set aside. After all of your meat is done, throw in your onion and deglaze with a little bit of your beef stock (or a little water.) Enough to get that good fond off the bottom of the pan. If there’s too much black crud and oil in there, drain that out first.
After your onions cook for about 6-8 minutes, toss in your carrots. Add the meat back into the pot, jack the heat up and pour in your beef stock till it reaches the top of the meat, like a little meat iceberg. This is when I add seasoning. Salt. Pepper. About 4-5 big dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Bring it up to a simmer, reduce the temperature with lid on until you get a nice, slow bubble.
Let that cook for a solid 3-4 hours, or until it pulls apart easily.
Take out the meat in as big of chunks as you can and set them aside on a cutting board. Strain your braising liquid, but keep some of the carrots for your final product.
Slice your cooled down roast. Most likely it’ll shred to bits, but this is pretty much the whole idea. A lot of folks call this “Debris” poboy for such reasons. Once all the meat is cut, take half of your braising liquid that you have strained, and add all the meat back into it. Cover and put in fridge overnight. Take the other half of your braising liquid and continue to reduce it on the stovetop. You can do this the same day or the day before. Keep reducing till you’re left with half of it. It should be pretty dark and really flavorful. It might be a little salty, but you can always add water if need be.
When you’re ready to eat, slice your poboy bread and layer it thick on both sides (or just one) with mayo. Heat up roast beef in its braising liquid. Scoop out with tongs onto your bread. The wetter the better. Take some of that braising liquid you reduced earlier and spoon some on top. Top with shredded lettuce, tomato (I usually skip this part because…why?), and some folks like thinly sliced pickles. It’s up to you though. Stick it in the oven to warm the bread through and serve/consume heavily.
This is a little long winded, but it needs to be done right. It’s a sandwich that deserves 600 words, at least my word count says so.
A special Happy Birthday to my sister. Sending so much love your way.
…and if you get the chance, eat one for me.