When I made my beef stew, a few months ago, I had gotten a pack of beef stew meat at Costco. We really loved how tender and high quality the meat was, but it was much too large a portion for the two of us, so I subdivided it.
Without much inspiration for dinner this week, I took out a package of the stew beef and thought I’d make stew again. Then I remembered this recipe for Italian beef, that a decluttering blogger I follow had posted. I can’t say I’ve ever encountered Italian beef, and it honestly wouldn’t be my thing, even if I had. I find beef sandwiches heavy and fatty and stringy (except the rare roast beef sandwich at my favorite local deli, which is completely 100 percent wonderful.) Put au jus on that plate and they’re soggy, too! Not a good thing.
But I was intrigued by the recipe. It called for giardiniera, which I had never heard of. I googled it, and discovered it was pickled vegetables, several homemade jars of which I have in my garage. I like it and made several large jars awhile ago, but we haven’t gone through it at quite the pace I thought we might. An outlet through which I could get rid of whole jars at a time is pretty attractive at this point. Plus, the acid of the pickling brine would cut through some of the heavy, fatty, unctuousness of the beef. Mom likes beef sandwiches more than I do, and she’s been a good sport about pet care during my traveling (and I was telling her about the next two times she’ll be stuck with the zoo, so…)
It’s also an excuse to use the Crock Pot. It’s nice to be building up some positive associations with my least favorite kitchen appliance that takes up huge amounts of room.
So I did it. I used miso broth, instead of beef broth, which was what I had on hand. I didn’t have red peppers on hand, and mom is an onion fan, so I had her thinly slice a couple of large onions into the Crock Pot, and I picked some red peppers up on my lunch hour.
Mom is always talking about “no double carbs!” which is a principle to which she adheres inconsistently, but I was kind of jammed on a side dish. Everyone says “potato chips,” but with the bread, that’s a double-carb. I wanted to find a healthier option. My googling led me to this— Mom doesn’t like hot and cold together, so I was looking for a warm vegetable salad. I found this one, which is also double carbs, but it’s an intriguing spin on potato salad. It’s also pretty red pepper heavy, which had me thinking about ways to round down, there. My mom likes them less than I do, and I worried that they’d combine to disrupt her enjoyment overall. Between the two recipes, it called for five to six red peppers. I bought two red and one orange, and threw a couple of overripe tomatoes into the CrockPot to offset the reduction in volume (with the onions). I put the orange roasted pepper in the salad and 1 1/2 of the red peppers in the beef and the remaining half roasted red pepper into the salad. I used rice vinegar instead of white wine vinegar, because I had it on hand, and I did zest of a past-due lime with bottled lemon juice, which worked out fine.
I cooked the potatoes and green beans more than I would like, because that’s how mom likes her vegetables. The salad was warm and simultaneously fresh and interesting. I liked it, and mom (who has not been much for some of the salads I’ve enjoyed) saw a lot of potential for it, and kept saying “this would be really good with fried chicken and x and y” and listing favorite meals.
I toasted ciabatta rolls with a slice of provolone on each side. It was good to up the crusty factor of the bread and simultaneously provide a barrier, with the cheese, that prevented a very juicy filling from making the bread soggy. There was definitely enough liquid that I could have served it with jus, and the jus was definitely a great part of it, with the tang of the pickled veg and the faint flavor of the miso.
I think the best thing about it was that it was an offbeat choice. I don’t do a lot of dinner sandwiches, so it was a little unexpected, and we’re enjoying warm weather, so it was nice to do something a little less comprehensive than most winter meals.