BBQ BEEF SANDWICH WITH BLUE CHEESE COLESLAW
I spent the weekend barbecuing in the rain. Sure, Winter might not be the best time to break out the Webber and smoke some meat, but having lived in a San Francisco apartment without access to a yard for a couple of years, I’ll take any opportunity I can get. I spent the past few days away at my parents vacation home in Sea Ranch, and despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to keep me cooped up inside, I decided to brave the elements and experiment with an old recipe that I’ve been meaning to try for a while now.
When it comes to barbecue, for me, it doesn’t get much tastier than a good pulled pork sandwich topped with a tangy, vinegary coleslaw. I’ll order them whenever and wherever. In fact, on a business trip to North Carolina, I spent nearly $40.00 on a round trip taxi to a local BBQ joint claiming to have the best pulled pork in all of The Carolinas. However, having spent so much time dedicated to finding the ultimate pulled pork sandwich, it recently donned on me that I’d been neglecting another hallmark barbecue staple — the BBQ Beef Sandwich.
Now, what you see above is by no means authentic or traditional in any way, shape or form. This recipe is an adaptation of one from America’s Test Kitchen’s, Cook’s Country for a knock-off, quick riff on the beef-centric barbecue of Texas. Knowing that I’d be missing the slaw found on its pulled pork cousin, I decided to whip up a batch of creamy coleslaw studded with rich blue cheese – one of beef’s best friends – as a crunchy condiment. Placed atop some fluffy brioche hamburger buns I found at the local market, I was left with a sandwich that was instantly catapulted into the ranks of some of the best I’ve ever made. Smoky, saucy and beefy, these sandwiches pack huge flavor. This recipe is great for a crowd and can be prepared well in advance of service once you have the smoking out of the way.
BBQ BEEF SANDWICH WITH BLUE CHEESE COLESLAW
Adapted from Cook’s Country
This recipe requires the use of a charcoal or gas grill in order to smoke the beef prior to baking it in a low oven to finish cooking and further tenderize the meat. This step of the cooking process is necessary to develop a nice smoky character and lend the beef an authentic barbecue flavor. If you are working with a gas grill, simply heat all of the elements on high and place the foil packet full of wood chips on the primary burner. Allow the foil packet to smoke heavily (about 15 minutes) and keep the primary burner on high while you turn off the remaining burners. Place the roasting pan on the end of the grill opposite the primary burner, cover the grill and proceed with the recipe as directed below. For the coleslaw, feel free to add as much or as little of the mayonnaise dressing as you would like. I personally like to go a little light on the saucing in order to allow the cabbage and carrots to retain some of their crunch. The slaw can be served cold or at room temperature when it comes time to top the beef sandwiches, but I especially like the cool contrast of a crunchy slaw fresh from the refrigerator against the warm, saucy beef.
For the Beef:
- 1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (about 4 – 5 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon table salt (iodized salt)
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 cups wood chips, soaked for 15 minutes
- 6 soft hamburger buns
For the Sauce:
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 1/4 cups ketchup
- 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Coleslaw:
- 1/2 small head green cabbage, finely shredded
- 1/2 small head purple cabbage, finely shredded
- 3 large carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
- 1/2 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
- Prepare the Beef: In a small bowl, make a rub by combining the salt, pepper and cayenne. Slice the roast into 4 equal sized pieces and remove any excess fat or gristle. Rub the meat on all sides with the salt mixture then wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap. Place the meat on a plate and allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
- Smoke the Beef: Unwrap the beef and place them in a single layer in a large disposable aluminum roasting pan. Neatly wrap the soaked wood chips in a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and poke a few holes in it to allow smoke to escape. Open the bottom vent of the grill and light 50 coals in a chimney starter. When the coals are covered in a fine gray ash pour them in a single pile on only one side of the grill. Place the foil packet directly on top of the hot coals and place the lid on the grill. Set the cooking grate in place and adjust the vents on the lid of the grill until they are halfway open. When the wood chips begin to smoke heavily (after about 5 minutes) place the roasting pan on the side of the grill opposite the coals. Place the lid back on the grill with the vent holes directly over the beef and allow to smoke/roast for about 2 hours, until aromatic and deep red in color.
- Braise/Roast the Beef: Preheat the oven to 300° F and adjust rack to the lower-middle position. Remove the roasting pan from the grill and turn each piece of beef over. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in the oven and bake until the meat is fork tender, about 2-3 hours. Remove the beef from the pan, tent it loosely with foil and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes. While the meat is resting, pour off the pan drippings into a gravy separator. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the separated fat and strain the remaining juices, reserving 1/2 cup of liquid.
- Meanwhile, make the Blue Cheese Coleslaw: In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, both mustards, vinegar, celery salt, Kosher salt and pepper. Pour enough of the mayonnaise dressing over the shredded cabbages and grated carrots to moisten them. Add in the crumbled blue cheese and chopped parsley and toss well to combine. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to combine.
- Make the Barbecue Sauce: Combine the onion and reserved fat in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion has softened, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring constantly until well combined and aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in remaining sauce ingredients and reserved juices and simmer until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Allow the sauce to cool slightly before straining the sauce if you prefer a velvety texture.
- Assemble the Sandwiches: Split and lightly toast each hamburger bun. Using 2 forks, pull the beef apart into shreds, discarding any excess fat or gristle. In a saucepan set over low heat, toss the beef with enough barbecue sauce to moisten the meat well. When heated through, place the sauced beef on top of the bottom half of each bun. Top the beef with some of the blue cheese coleslaw, add the top half of the bun and serve immediately.
Makes 8 Sandwiches