Friday, April 17, 2015

Apéritif Friday - Homemade Italian Beef Sandwiches and Cucumber Gin Soda

When a person lives in bitter cold and snowy conditions for two-thirds of the year, it becomes nearly impossible to not go outside and let the sun fall on your face as much as humanly possible on the sunny 65 degree days in Springtime, when mosquitoes and dastardly black biting flies aren't even on the radar yet.

Can I get an AMEN?

With the warmup comes an unquenchable desire to sit on the patio and sip an apéritif. As in, every cotton pickin day this week at 3:00 I intentionally occupied myself because even it if is 5:00 somewhere else, I need to control things on school nights. 

But when we grilled on Wednesday I simply couldn't help myself. I cracked open the Hendricks because cucumbers danced around my brain. Summer screams Gin and Tonic to me. But since I swore off added sugar, tonic isn't cutting it with it's HFCS which tends to give me a killer headache after just one cocktail. So club soda or seltzer water it is, and I don't miss the quinine factor at all.
This Cucumber Gin Soda is light, refreshing, and mellow. Just like my mood lately. It was the perfect counterpoint to some sliced pears, goat cheese and crackers while we soaked up some rays and waited for the grill to heat up.

However, with the spring sunshine also comes spring rains, and grilling outside isn't always an option. If you find yourself wanting a hearty sandwich to prep your liver for some playoff hockey cocktailing, then give homemade Italian Beef Sandwiches a go.
They require minimal prep work: a la stuffing with garlic and rubbing salt and Italian seasoning all over a bottom round roast - which takes a whopping five minutes.
The cooking time is lengthy though, and you need to allow time for the roast to cool and sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before slicing and simmering in the au jus to finish cooking.
In the end these are so yummy and worth the effort, especially if you start them on a Saturday morning and do chores around the house. By puck drop you'll be a happy human, to quote our beloved Eddie Olczyk.
Enjoy the weekend, Spring weather, playoff hockey, and GO BLACKHAWKS!

Cucumber Gin Soda
4-5 cucumber slices
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 oz ginger - honey simple syrup*
2 oz Hendricks Gin
Ice cubes
Seltzer water or club soda, to top

Muddle the cucumber and lemon juice, breaking down the cucumber as much as possible. Pour them into a cocktail shaker and add the simple syrup, gin and ice cubes. Shake vigorously, then strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice. Top off with club soda or seltzer water and garnish with a cucumber slice.

*to make ginger-honey simple syrup, combine equal parts honey and water and add a chunk of fresh peeled ginger. Store in your refrigerator for up to a month.

Italian Beef Sandwiches
Bottom Round Roast, 4-6 lbs
4-5 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
Kosher salt
3 Tbsp Italian seasoning
32 oz beef stock
French rolls - we prefer Turano brand
Ghee or butter
Garlic powder
Giardineria, recipe here or use your favorite store brand

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees.

Prepare the roast by poking holes throughout with a sharp knife and stuffing garlic into the crevices. Liberally sprinkle the roast with kosher salt and cover it in Italian seasoning and place it on a roasting rack fat side up over an oven proof or disposable aluminum pan. Pour 2 cups of beef stock in the bottom of the pan and roast it in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 110 degrees. Remove the roast to cool, then wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours to overnight. Reserve the beef stock and any drippings that accumulated in the pan.

Half an hour before you're ready to eat, pour the reserved au jus into a pot and simmer (don't boil!) the liquid on the stove. Remove the roast from the refrigerator and cut off the fat cap. Slice it as thinly as possible with a sharp knife and place the slices of beef in the au jus. Add additional stock to cover the beef slices, if necessary. Cook until the meat is done throughout, about 15-20 minutes.

While the meat is warming up, prepare the French rolls. Cut them open (but not all the way through) and spread a thin layer of ghee or butter over the bread. Sprinkle garlic powder over the top and place them under the broiler until toasty brown. Watch them carefully to ensure they don't burn.

Place a few slices of beef on the roll, spoon some au jus over the top if desired, and top with giardiniera. Enjoy with a glass of red wine or more Cucumber Gin Soda as you watch the Hawks march on to the Stanley Cup Finals.


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