Chalmette-Style Roast Beef Po' Boys
Seeking out a proper po’ boy always tops my list on trips to Crescent City. Let’s be honest, sometimes they’re the reason to hit the road in the first place. For me, the sandwich has always meant fried shrimp or oysters, or both (aka The Peacemaker). For my F&S partner Scott Moody, who was raised in Chalmette, Louisiana, po’ boys mostly meant the roast beef variety from Rocky & Carlo’s Restaurant and Bar.
The Sicilian restaurant served them up with “slow-simmered roast beef, lots of gravy, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and French bread,” he recalled. His mouth-watering memory became my muse to create a drippy, crackly, crunchy masterpiece that will transport anyone to the back roads of Cajun Country. Here’s the result.
Roast Beef Po' Boys
The combination of seasonings (Holy Garlic! and Chica Licka Bam Bam), deeply browned beef and fresh aromatics create one of the best, richest tasting gravies we’ve ever tasted. This sandwich is less of a project if you make the meat a day in advance.
One 2-pound trimmed flat brisket roast (or beef top round roast)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 ½ tablespoons Holy Garlic! seasoning
1 ½ tablespoons Chica Licka Bam Bam seasoning
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
4 sprigs thyme (rosemary or oregano would also be great)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Two “torpedo rolls” or loaves of crusty French bread (about 18 inches long)
Mayo (preferably Duke’s)
Dill pickle slices
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
Finely shredded hearts of romaine or iceberg lettuce
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 250°F.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. When the oil is shimmering and almost smoking, add the beef and cook until it’s deeply browned on all sides, 10-12 minutes. Lower the heat as needed if the bottom of the pot begins to burn.
Set the beef aside, and add the carrots, onion, and celery to the pot and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until vegetables are golden brown and beginning to tenderize, about 8 minutes. Add the Holy Garlic! and Chica Licka Bam Bam seasonings and stir until the vegetables are evenly coated and the mixture is very fragrant.
Return beef to pot, and add the chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pot, and place in the oven. Cook until the beef is fork tender (but not falling apart), about 2 ½ to 3 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and set the beef aside. Strain the beef stock and discard the solids (you should have 4 cups of broth). Do not clean the pot.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Heat the butter in the same pot over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and cook, whisking often, until the mixture turns the color of peanut butter, and takes on a strong toasty, garlicky aroma. Pour in a cup of the stock, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and blended. Pour in the remaining stock and continue to whisk often until the liquid comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has thickened, about 10 minutes.
Slice the beef into ⅛” slices and return it to the Dutch oven, along with any "debris" that collects on the cutting board with the gravy. Cover the pot and place in the oven until the beef is completely tender, about 1 hour.
Split the French rolls in half crosswise then open lengthwise. Spread the top buns with mayo. Divide the beef and gravy between bun bottoms. Place the pickles, tomato, and lettuce on top of beef, gently “squish” the sandwich together and serve immediately.
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