Downhome Favorite: Crockpot Italian Beef

One of my favorite things about food is its multi-sensory connection to everything.

Seeing a green chile cheeseburger reminds you of that one restaurant in New Mexico after the day you got way (like waaaaaaaaay) too sunburnt. The smell of grease brings you back to those warm, summer nights at the fair with friends, funnelcakes, and elephant ears. Annnnnnnnd the sound of sizzling bacon reminds you that you totally committed to a diet. Whoops.

Not feeling well? Chicken Noodle Soup. Cold winter day? Chili. Missing home? Italian Beef on a Fresh Hoagie Roll.

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We hail from south-central Illinois—the land of cornfields and soybeans. We have the best bonfires, the best gatherings, and the best family dishes… but maybe I’m partial. (Disclaimer: Don’t mistake my hyperbole for ethnocentrism!) Anyway, everyone back home has their own Italian Beef recipe. My mom makes it differently than my great-grandmother, and both of their recipes differ from that of my mother-in-law or her sister’s. I took a bit of this-n-that (technical term) from each of their recipes and created my own. It is an especially delicious combination that takes our tastebuds straight back home when we need it most. (And dare I say… it just very well may be my Supreme-Lord-of-the-Picky husband’s favorite, too!)

Do you know want to know the most exciting things about this recipe?

  1. Only a handful of ingredients.
  2. Incredibly cheap.
  3. Massive yield.
  4. Crockpot.

You bet. Mix it up, chop the meat, throw her in, and do you for the next six to eight hours. Could I tell you one more secret? You can actually prep this completely beforehand, throw it in a gallon-sized freezer bag, and toss it in the freezer for later. When you’re ready to use it, pull it out, peel the bag off, and dump it straight in the crockpot (yes, as a giant, frozen hunk) on “LOW” for 6-8 hours. You’re welcome.

For this recipe:

6-8 lbs. Beef Roast (Literally any kind. I have done this recipe with several different roast cuts!)
1 packet Dry Onion Soup Mix
1 packet of Italian Dressing Mix
1 packet Au Jus Gravy Mix
4 {crumbled} Chicken Bouillon Cubes
4 cups Water
½ or 1 jar Pepperoncinis (optional)

  1. Chop the Beef Roast up into golf ball-sized cubes (or so).
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine all dry items. Whisk well to break up any powder chunks.
  3. Add in water, stirring well to ensure any remaining chunks dissolve.
  4. Spray crockpot pan with Pam, and add roast chunks evenly, layering as necessary.
  5. Pour mixture over roast and turn crockpot to “LOW” for 6 to 8 hours.
  6. Near the 6-hour mark, check to see progress. Pull one piece out, lay it on a plate, and press a fork down on top of it (not through it like you’re picking it up to eat it, but press the back of the fork down on the chunk). If it easily mashes into shreds, it’s ready. If it doesn’t really fall apart, let it cook for another hour or so. (P.S. This is so hard to overcook; don’t sweat it.)
  7. Once at the desired tenderness, use a strainer spoon to scoop out beef chunks (they’ll be falling apart, so watch for hot splashes!) onto a cutting board or plate. Use a fork, spoon, knife, whatever-utensil-you-like, to shred and mash the pieces.
  8. After shredding, add the shredded beef back to the crockpot and submerge into liquid.
  9. Open jar of pepperoncinis, and using a fork, pull each pepper out and add it to the top of the shredded beef. (This is completely optional. I do not suggest dumping the pepperoncini liquid into the crockpot, as it seems to mask all the other flavors. I also prefer to only use half of the jar of peppers, also for the same reason.) Cover the crockpot and allow to continue cooking for 30 minutes.
  10. Once finished, remove the peppers. (I pull them to the side for later consumption or toss them completely.) Stir the entire pot to mix in any flavors from the peppers, and serve!

Add the juicy beef to a fresh hoagie roll (or some seeded steak buns… YUMM-O!), and top with some provolone cheese and pepperoncinis, or leave it as is. Either way, this is one of the best sandwiches on this planet, and I challenge you to tell me otherwise! We also serve this with French fries, or chips, or no sides at all—sooooo filling!

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I just adore how the juice soaks into the roll, making it the perfect level of sog (is that a word?) to not require dipping (though you totally can, and it is totally amazing). Never dry, always delicious.

There are always tons of leftovers in my house, even after I have 2 sandwiches, hubby has two, El knocks out one, and I usually have another 5-6 rolls’ worth. It keeps well in the fridge (or you could freeze it for later heating!) and only gets better as you pull it out to warm it up.

Give this hometown joy a spot on your weekly menu. For the love of experience, you won’t be sorry.

xo Chess

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