The Blue Plate Special: Karrie’s Grilled French Dip
According to a culinary dictionary, the French Dip is a hot sandwich of tender, thin slices of beef usually layered on a long French roll, often with melted cheese, then dipped in a sauce made from the pan juices called “au jus.” Karrie Easter, Melissa’s retail sales representative in Oregon, submitted her version of this classic with flavor upgrades from Melissa’s pantry of tasty support ingredients that definitely adds a tasty twist to this classic. For Karrie, this dish also represents the end of another long winter.
“How this recipe came about is due to the fact that I just cannot follow recipes as written,” Karrie admitted. “I always end up tweaking old favorites and I love to create new dishes. While it’s still winter when this recipe is being published, spring is almost here, so I decided to share my annual “spring thaw” meal celebrating the change of seasons that I am so looking forward to this year. After a challenging Oregon winter stuck inside, I am always very anxious to get outdoors. This version of the classic French Dip has become my go-to transitional dish between the months of winter comfort foods/casseroles and the upcoming grilling season. At least that’s my excuse each year to jump the gun a bit with the first good weather day to wake our BBQ and use the small window of an early spring sun to quickly grill the main ingredient before the chill of an Oregon evening sets in. I do the rest of the preparation indoors; for me, this sandwich, along with a side of fried Dutch Yellow® potatoes – the potatoes are a must – signals that warmer days are almost here… plus it’s delicious!”
The French Dip Sandwich has been a popular lunch menu item in this country for more than one hundred years. Since 1918 to be exact. And, to be even more exact, only the dish’s inventor was French – the proprietor of Philippe’s, a delicatessen and sandwich shop in downtown Los Angeles. Philippe Mathieu was preparing a beef sandwich for a regular customer and accidentally dropped the sliced French roll into the drippings of a roasting pan. The customer liked the sandwich so much that he was back the next day with some friends to order “that sandwich dipped in the meat pan.” The new sandwich was soon put on the menu as the French Dip Sandwich and Philippe the Original restaurant still serve it today!
Though the original sandwich has obviously passed the test of culinary time, Karrie’s choice of additional flavor definitely adds depth to the original very simple recipe without losing this iconic sandwich’s identity. It’s still a French Dip, only better! Besides, anyone who enjoys cooking cannot resist the urge to add SOMETHING to almost every recipe. In this case, Karrie’s TT (Tendency to Tweak) is a delicious success!
The three components she adds to the construct of the sandwich itself use both fresh and processed-from-fresh ingredients from Melissa’s product list. She creates two distinct flavor pairings. Her sweet onion-shallot sauté lends a two-tiered oniony undertone; Melissa’s Creamy horseradish and mayo mix lend a spicy tang to the very pleasant pickled heat of our Jalapeño Relish Escabeche. This trio works together to take this already tasty dish to another level of sandwich-ness! Even the au jus sauce gets a little after-dip flavor boost as it blends with these additives!
Another subtle twist is using a Ciabatta roll instead of the traditional French roll. Italian Ciabatta dough is made using wheat flour, water, salt, yeast, and olive oil, and French bread uses wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt. The biggest difference is in the level of moisture in the dough. The wetter Ciabatta dough creates much larger “holes” in the bread during the baking process, so it is slightly denser and chewier than the lighter French. Slathering the top of the Ciabatta roll with garlic butter just before popping it in the oven is a nice touch too that encourages a golden-brown crust, plus the residual garlic bits cook into the roll, adding just a hint of garlic to the mix. I had to use a “Take and Bake” Ciabatta, so I built my sandwiches on a small over rack to allow the bread to bake for the few minutes it takes while the whole sandwich heated up— it worked perfectly!
The choice of beef cut depends on personal preference, though Karrie’s tri-tip is very flavorful, with a deep beefy taste and tender texture if sliced against the grain. Note: the grain of this cut is quite apparent once cooked; not slicing perpendicular to this grain [cross-grain] results in a very tough chew. The cut is prized by culinary professionals for pairing well with the flavors of complimenting ingredients. Besides being Karrie’s personal symbol of sunny days ahead, grilling is the best way to infuse a smoky accent into this steak sandwich that an oven roasting just cannot offer. Unfortunately, at the time of my own first prep of the recipe, it was a balmy 19°F, and the grill was a bulky shape on my deck covered in snow. I opted for the oven and will revisit with a grilling when it thaws. No matter the season, either method will produce a delicious sandwich experience— this one is a keeper! Though I must add my own tweak— a bib. It is deliciously messy!
It has been about six years since Karrie Easter made the decision to leave her twenty-one-year career as the Produce Manager at a large supermarket in Oregon to learn the very different wholesale side of the produce industry. She uses those years of store-level experience to provide sales and merchandising support to one of the region's largest retailers on behalf of Melissa’s. Her territory covers all of Oregon as well as southern Washington State.
“I love the daily challenges and being able to learn something new from everyone on our Sales & Marketing Team. The most interesting thing about working at Melissa’s is that I really never know what my day will bring; it keeps you on your toes for sure. I am still learning the sales side of this business and look to many associates for their guidance and support. The fresh produce business has so many nuisances that affect the day-to-day supplies and prices of most everything in a retail produce department. I understand how hard it is for the produce manager to keep on top of it all. That’s where I can be of the most service. Each day brings at least one unexpected challenge; finding the solution in a timely manner for the client is actually the fun and very rewarding part. It’s a fascinating industry and I learn something new about it every day that helps me the next day!”
Karrie works out of her home office in a small rural town (pop 3,000) about 25 miles south of Portland in Oregon’s beautiful and bountiful Willamette Valley, known worldwide for its Pinot Noir grape and wine productions. Her household is shared with her fiancé, Todd, but completely ruled by their very spoiled Olde English Bulldogge, Sniper. The couple enjoys the quiet slow pace of life that a small town with no grocery store or gas station offers. In the summer that means lots of time out of doors, evening concerts and car shows at the local park. Though most of the time it’s just a quiet evening around a fire pit enjoying the sounds of the countryside. In the winter they like to host game nights with a close group of friends/neighbors. Ha, probably most of them are hoping to be served KARRIE’S BLUE PLATE SPECIAL! Enjoy.
Karrie’s French Dip Sandwich
Yield: 4 sandwiches
For the French Dip:
1½ lbs. Trip Tip Steak (or any favorite steak)
3 tablespoons Kinders Steak Seasoning
1 Melissa’s Perfect Sweet Onion, sliced thin
1 Melissa’s shallot, sliced thin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Melissa’s chopped garlic
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ jar Melissa’s Creamy Horseradish
½ cup mayonnaise
1 bag Mini Ciabatta Rolls
1 cup Melissa’s Jalapeño Relish Escabeche
1-1/2 cups fresh mozzarella or provolone cheese, sliced
2 envelops Johnny’s Au Jus gravy mix, 3 cups
For the side dish:
1 lb. Melissa’s Dutch Yellow® Potatoes, thin sliced, halved or quartered
Sour Cream (optional garnish)
Green Onions (optional garnish)
Season steak then grill to medium-rare, set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing thin against the grain.
Sautee the sweet onion and shallot. Mix together the mayonnaise and horseradish. In a small bowl combine melted butter and chopped garlic. Set all three aside.
Place the ciabatta rolls in a baking dish, brush inside top and bottom with horseradish sauce mixture (1). Then layer thinly sliced steak on the bottom bun (2), spread the onion-shallot mix over the steak slices (3). Lastly, add a thin layer of Escabeche relish and top with mozzarella slices (4).
Place tops of buns back on, brush with garlic butter and bake at 350°F until toasted and cheese is melted. While the sandwich is heating, fry the potato slices in butter until crispy golden, garnish with sour cream and chopped green onions (optional). Serve on the side along with the heated au jus sauce for dipping.