Each time I roam…Chicago is…

Calling me home!

Growing up, I never really had that strong desire to leave home. It seems like all 18 year olds have only one thing on their mind – getting as far away from their hometown as possible.

This was not me. Crappy winter weather and all, I had accepted the Chicagoland area as my home. In fact, I honestly believed I’d never move.

Until I did. Move, that is. And it’s not like Iowa is super far away or anything, or I have to get on plane to see my family but it is…different. Smaller. Slower. Rural. Not bad – just not home.

Plus, people are always telling me I talk funny? Me?? Talk funny?? Like how?! This part I just don’t understand. I didn’t grow up in the city or anything, but apparently I have that nasal-y twang in my voice that just screams Chicago. Just ask the random girl who came running up to me poolside in Vegas thinking I was her long lost high school friend, Meredith. When I told her she was mistaken, she asked me where I was from. When I told her,  she responded with “Oh, I should have known by your accent,” before turning and walking away.

::side eye:: ::head scratch:: Hm. Ooohhhhh-kaaaay. Whatevs, man!

Well, say what you want about me and the way I talk, but I’m proud of where I come from! Growing up in area that is so ingrained in it’s traditions, you kind of develop tunnel vision as a kid and it becomes hard to imagine life outside your bubble.

As a kid, I thought everyone in the entire country had the pleasure of enjoying the awesomeness that is EAGLE MAN.

“Oh. Look at those low rates.”

Your sneakers are my gym shoes. I’ve ALWAYS said gym shoes. Shoes that are actually worn to the gym are gym shoes. So are the sleek pink and gray Pumas I have for bopping around town on the weekend. Gym shoes are all encompassing. I’ve gotten the side eye for this one in the last few years since moving away. “Sorry, Ms. D – can’t dress today. Forgot my gym shoes.” (In my locker, where I left them…on purpose…five minutes ago.)

I end sentences with prepositions (in speech) all.the.time. I hear this is a Chicago thing? Maybe? “I’m going to the store, do you wanna go with? Okay, where are my car keys at?” I also add superfluous ‘thes’ where they aren’t needed. “I’m going to THE Target.” “I’m going to THE HyVee.” This must come from years of shopping at THE Jewel and THE Dominick’s. 🙂

And it wasn’t until I moved away that I realized that the entire rest of the country is DOWNRIGHT DEPRIVED because they can’t just head on down the road and find the PERFECT Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich. Growing up, I really didn’t understand the specialness of this sandwich. There was a beef place on just about every corner it seemed – even within walking distance of our house! (Although that place wasn’t particularly good…and it’s long gone now.) Every catered event from sports banquets to family reunions included piles of this delicious thin sliced beef swimming in its meaty juices with chewy Italian rolls on the side.

Now I’m in a place where people have never even experienced this sandwich. Say WHAT?! It leaves me wondering – at least once a month when that unmistakable craving hits- Where’s the BEEF?!

Well, for the Super Bowl, I planned to bring the beef right to my own house. I could call up Portillo’s and have them ship me a pile frozen…or I could dive right in and make it myself.

Browsing recipes, most of the ones I came across involved the crock pot and packets of Italian salad dressing mix. Meh. Tasty, I’m sure and certainly easy, of course. But NOT Italian beef. There’s no way you can thinly slice a beef roast that’s cooked in the crock all day – shredding is your only option. That just wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible.

Then I spotted this recipe over at The Paupered Chef. This recipe calls for coating a sirloin tip roast in a spice mixture and roasting at a high temperature for about 20 minutes to get a nice crust going and then reducing the heat, adding water to start your juice and slow roasting the meat to a perfect pink on the inside. Then the whole thing is popped in the fridge overnight for the flavors to get down in there real good. The next day, it’s popped in the freezer for about two hours, thus making it just icy enough to slice paper thin with a knife. (You got a meat slicer? Yeah, me neither. It was a knife or nothing!)

The verdict? Drum roll, please! It came out GREAT! It’s a bit time consuming, but most of it is inactive time so all you need to do is plan ahead. The Paupered Chef tossed the meat in the juice on stove top for just a minute or two before piling it on a roll. But since I was making it for a crowd, I decided to reheat the meat and juice slowly in the crock pot for a few hours before we were ready to eat it.

I must confess – I spiked my juice with beef stock. I didn’t want to, I really didn’t and I totally negated my goal of keeping it authentic by doing it…but when push came to shove the juice just wasn’t beefy enough – I added about 3/4 cup and it was perfect.

Even though our team wasn’t playing last night (Ahem. Bears.) this was still great game food. Let’s talk about serving. The roll, in an authentic Italian beef is important, but I had to go with what I could find…a chewy, white sub roll would have to do. And if you want to do it up right, you gotta top it with hot peppers or giardiniera and dunk the entire thing, bread and all, in the juice. Or make it “wet” as they’re known about town. I actually prefer mine “dry.” That is, not dunked. And I wasn’t sure if my party guests would be down with the whole hot pepper thing, so I caramelized a bell pepper/onion mixture to top them off. The sweet bell peppers are an acceptable alternative to the hot – the onions…mmm. Not. To the purists. But, hey, when you go to the trouble of making it at home, and I already spoiled it by adding the beef stock, I didn’t feel too guilty about taking a few more liberties with authenticity. I can’t wait for an excuse to make this again!

HOMEMADE ITALIAN BEEF (Recipe Source: The Paupered Chef)


  • 2 1/2 pounds beef round or beef sirloin tip roast (Mine was a bit bigger, about 3.3 lbs.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart water
  • Pinch grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Beef stock, broth or bullion to taste, if needed.
  • Bottle of giardiniera (if desired. I made a bell pepper/onion mixture instead)
  • Italian rolls, for serving


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Mix together the red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Rub half of this mixture on top of the meat.  Set the meat in a large roasting pan and set in the oven.  Roast for 20 minutes (I roasted mine for 30 minutes since it was a bit bigger), then reduce the heat to 250 degrees.  Cook for another 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes, add the rest of the spice mixture to the quart of water.  Pour the mixture into the roasting pan. Cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the temperature of the middle of the roast is 130 10 140 degrees.

Remove the meat and set aside to cool.  Set the roasting pan on your stove top burners and turn the heat to medium high. Scrape up the brown bits that have stuck on the bottom.  Reduce mixture slightly for a few minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.

Cover the meat and put the juice in a container. Store in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Before serving eat, transfer the meat to the freezer for 2 hours. Then slice the meat as thinly as possible.

Yes, that’s a wadded up paper towel in the background of this photo. We didn’t eat that. :-p


Warm the liquid in a saucepan on the stove.  Add the grated nutmeg.  Reduce the mixture if it is too watery.  Then dump a handful of the sliced meat into the juice and cook for 2 minutes, or until just heated through.


Combine meat and and liquid in the crock pot. Heat on low for 2 to 3 hours or until just heated through.

Pile the meat directly from the pot onto rolls. Dunk in the juice, spoon a bit more liquid on top of the sandwich or serve on the side to dip. Top with hot or sweet peppers or giardiniera.


One year ago: “Me Time” Pizza – Check out my one of a kind masterpiece I created during a lazy weekend home alone last winter. 🙂


Filed under beef

6 responses to “Each time I roam…Chicago is…

  1. I might be biased, but we have the best food here in Chicago! There’s nothing like a good Italian beef, I’ll take mine with sweet and hot.

  2. Erin's Mom

    These sandwiches look great-just like Novi’s Beef in Berwyn!! I personally like my Italian Beef sandwiches “hot and wet”!

  3. Rachael

    It’s a bag, not a sack
    It’s pop, not soda
    And even when I say a word beginning with”th” it will sound like “da”
    This looks great! I will have to try making it for the hubs. We’re Chicagoans living in WI and we get the side eye all the time. People do not understand the intricacies of all that Chicago pizza is, what real Italian beef is, Vienna hot dogs only please. If only I could be eating at Mr. Beef @ Harlem & Irving right now!

  4. Pingback: Top Ten for ’10. | Milk & Honey

  5. HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN THIS POST BEFORE???? (I’m trolling your blog as I search for recipe ideas.) Eagle Man was my FAVORITE growing up. We loved those god-awful commercials. As a close second, I’ve also loved the Victory Auto Wreckers commercials. You know, the one from 1981 with the guy who opens his car door, only to have it fall off in the process? Classic. Can we now be best friends?

    • themilkmanswife

      LOL. Yessssss. Victory Auto Wrekcers is totally classic. I think it’s *still* on. Love it!! We can totally be best friends now!

  6. Julie

    I love this – I say same – gym shoes !! Haha – nothing like Chicago people

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