I’ve talked a little bit about my sisters in the past, but today it’s time to tell you about Ben, my younger brother. Ben and I are only three years apart, so we spent a lot of time together, doing normal sibling stuff like spending a high percentage of our Saturday mornings painstakingly splitting up our chore list so as to ensure the fairest distribution possible.
We didn’t always get along. Like one time in early elementary school, a friend and I were playing in my pink-carpeted room, we heard Ben call from the bottom of the stairs: “Liiiiiiiiiz! Mom made some cookies. They’re ready now!” Delighted, my friend and I flung open my door and bolted out of the room, only to step on a radius of about 3-feet of toothpicks stuck upright into the carpet, leading out from the doorway. As we stumbled to the ground, eager to pick toothpicks out of our heels, we looked up to see Ben and one of his little nose-picking buddies laughing.
Not cool, Ben, not cool.
Another time, a friend and I were playing baseball in our cul-de-sac against Ben and one of his friends. Trying to be a kind older sister, I lobbed an underhanded pitch to Ben’s sweet spot from about ten feet away. Ben took a big swing and drilled me, with the baseball, literally leaving seam marks on my forehead.
This is a true story.
We regularly had exchanges like when I would punch him in the arm as hard as I could and then sprint to my parents’ bathroom to lock the door behind me, waiting with ears perked to see if he’d given up waiting for me to come out yet because somewhere along the line he outgrew me…and I recall on more than a few occasions that when Ben would be losing a game, he’d up and flip the board over, sending game pieces scattering all over the room and walk off, leaving me to dissolve into a tantrum for the ages….my poor Mom.
But lest you think Ben and I remained sibling rivals, let me tell you about more recent years. It was Ben who told me that this haircut made me look like a fifty-year-old substitute teacher and that no boys would ever like me so long as I maintained this hairstyle. He was absolutely right. I immediately began growing it out and met Eric three years later. I have Ben to thank for that.
Ben and I also share an affinity for Jim Gaffigan, and our family meals are now punctuated by lines like “Ketchup, you’re being modest…You’re way more than fancy. You’re elegant.” In fact, when I think of Gaffigan quotes, they almost always sound like Ben’s voice in my head now.
What’s better is that Ben married a stand-up girl, Vicki, who fits into our family like the perfect jigsaw puzzle piece. Of his own volition, Ben once told me that one of the things that first attracted him to Vicki was that she had a well-trained dog, which apparently to him indicated that she would make a great mom. I totally agree…and we’ll get a chance to see Vicki’s mad skills in action this fall since she and Ben are expecting their first kid! We couldn’t be happier for them.
It’s because of Vicki that I bring you this recipe for Italian beefs. For my last birthday, she mailed me a box of some of her favorite things…a few foodie magazines, a few recipes, and some specialty seasonings to go along with them. Such a fun birthday gift…and these beefs…well, they might be the best gift of all.
Guys, this recipe is E-A-S-Y easy. Water goes into the crockpot and is joined by 1 teaspoon each of salt, basil, onion salt, pepper, dried parsley, oregano, and garlic powder. Throw in a packet of Italian dressing seasoning…and your meat. Let it simmer in your crockpot for 10-12 hours. Done.
This beef is tender, full of flavor, and is vying to be in your next sandwich. We used the beef to make hoagies with mozzarella, marinara, onions, and peppers, but you can even just serve the beef on buns with the au jus rendered by the cooking. What’s more is that it makes a ton and is easily freezable if you can’t get to it all right away.
So let these Italian beef sandwiches serve as a shout out to Ben, Vicki, and their little growing peanut, whom we cannot wait to meet.
P.S. Your’e still my favorite brother.
(recipe by Carpé Season, by way of my sister-in-law Vicki)
(yields app. 12-15 "servings" - for us that meant 6" hoagies)
This recipe for crockpot Italian beefs couldn't be easier to make and it yields super tender, juicy, flavorful beef that's perfect for a sandwich. You can also freeze the beef in its juice in large or individual portions.
3.25 lbs. boneless beef round (could also be called bottom round roast)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 packet dry Italian dressing seasoning
3 c. water
Optional ingredients for sandwiches: soft hoagie buns, sliced onion, sliced bell pepper (frozen and thawed works great here), marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella
Lightly coat the crockpot with cooking spray; use a paper towel to wipe up excess and spread around evenly. Pour the water into the crockpot. Stir in the salt, pepper, basil, onion salt, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, and Italian dressing packet. Place the meat in the water mixture; cover with a lid, and turn on low for 10-12 hours (I like to do this overnight). Optional: about halfway through the cooking time, or whenever you wake up if cooking this overnight, flip the beef over so that both halves get some time in the water).
Once meat is fork tender, I remove it from the crockpot and place it in a large covered bowl in the refrigerator. Then, I pour the juice into a smaller bowl, cover it with a lid, and put it in the freezer for about an hour. Once the fat from the juice has solidified on the top, I remove the fat with a spoon, and pour the remaining juice into the container with the beef. I recommend letting the beef sit in the juice for a few hours before serving to let it rest - I think this improves the taste a lot (per this recipe's advice ).
When ready to serve, shred beef with your fingers or a fork, and reheat beef in the juice in a covered saucepan over medium heat. It only takes about 10-15 minutes to reheat. You can also freeze the beef in its own juice in large or individual portions.
To make the sandwiches you see pictured here: Preheat oven to low broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and place split hoagie buns on the sheet. Sauté sliced onions and peppers in olive oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until just softened. Place warmed beef (with a slotted spoon to remove from juice) on your split hoagie bun. Top with sautéed onions and pepper. Spoon sauce over the top, then sprinkle on mozzarella as desired. Broil on low for 2-3 minutes, just until the cheese is melted.
Alternately, you can serve these beefs with just their au jus...equally fantastic and super easy!