Years ago, I was a solid beef and cheddar 5 for 5 guy. And by several years, I mean two decades. Tastes change. However, a few days ago, a couple of guys at work were plowing through some Arby’s sandwiches like they were getting ready to board the last flight to “The Food Sucks Here” Island. I paused as I often do when others are eating. Part of me just curious, and the other, like a dolphin at Sea World, hoping to get tossed a treat. Whatever cosmic force was at play, this Arby’s encounter turned my head towards their big red cowboy hat and then, the billboard-sized picture of their Beer Braised Beef Sandwich.
I was so intrigued by the sign. I had to look it up.
Shredded tender beer braised beef, melted beer cheese sauce, and mustard on a pretzel roll. The only thing on this Meatoberfest sandwich that isn’t inspired by Oktoberfest are the crispy onions. Those were inspired by how good deep-fried stuff is.
Having agreed with every word written, my dinner plans were born, and as with most last-minute harebrained ideas, I pick something with three separate cooking steps. In other words, the perfect last minute weeknight dinner.
This post is less recipe and more process. Loosely translated to Mike is lazy.
Arby’s…speaking of, I have no idea where the name originates. Google?
The brothers wanted to call their restaurants "Big Tex", but that name was already used by an Akron business. Instead, they chose the name "Arby's", based on R. B., the initials of Raffel Brothers. The Raffel brothers opened the first new restaurant in Boardman, Ohio, just outside of Youngstown, on July 23, 1964.
And best yet, an Ohio company. The more you know.
Anyway, the beef. Arby’s calls for beer braised beef. The word braise immediately equates to “long time,” which I do not have time for. I want tender, but not for a lot of money, so Pit Beef came to mind. Pit Beef uses bottom, or top round roasts smoked rare and thinly sliced. By tale, it’s Baltimore, Maryland’s barbecue.
Round roasts are cheap and while not the most tender cuts, when sliced thin and touched by the right flavor, are incredibly good. Based on a reverse sear idea from the ever great Amazing Ribs, I worked my bottom round with a mixture of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, granulated garlic, dried rosemary, and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Be sure to remove all visible fat and sliver skin.
Truss the roast to keep an even shape and smoke over indirect low heat until the internal temperature reaches 115° F.
Remove the roast from the grill and allow to rest.
Crank up a grill to high heat and sear the roast over direct heat for about a minute aside.
Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest.
The Crispy Onion Fries
Years ago, I was into frying, but since it’s subsided. With that said, there is still nothing like home fried onion rings. The cleanup and mess might be much, but the results are always worth it.
My go-to frying vessel is my cast iron Dutch oven. I always fry outside using the side burner of the Weber Summit Grilling Center.
I used an easy batter recipe I found online and with the vegetable oil locked in at 350° F, fried the rings in several batches allowing them to cool on a raised wire rack to make sure they did not sit in the drippings of their oil.
I also ate several while I worked on the other parts of the recipe. They are always so good.
Making a cheese sauce is so easy, it’s criminal to think of even buying it from a jar. Start by making a roux with equal parts flour and fat. In this case, 3 tablespoons of flour and butter. Combine the two, constantly stirring for a minute, so the flour fully absorbs the butter. Add 1/2 cup of beer and 1 cup of milk while still stirring.
For the beer, I went with Warped Wing’s Creep Show. It’s a smoked porter and one of my seasonal favorites. It’s also local. Creep Show is a flavorful moderately aggressive beer and it imparts its smoked malt character on the cheese. Looking for something a little less bold, stick to a lager.
Let the sauce thicken. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a little bit of cayenne. Slowly add 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese. It’s best to shred your own cheese, but if time is short, buy the pre-shredded variety. Just be prepared for it to incorporate slower.
Keeping in theme with the Arby’s banner, I used pretzel buns, which I happen to love. They are also sturdy, which the sandwich needs. Grill the buns cut side down over direct medium-high heat to mark. Be sure to add a little bit of olive oil to the cut side, so the buns do not stick to the grates.
Thinly slice the meat. This is key. The round is a lean cut, so the thinner sliced, the better it is.
The sandwich stack order is bottom bun>beer mustard (store-bought)>sliced beef>beer cheese>fried onions>pickled jalapeño>top bun.
The jalapeño was not on the Arby’s sandwich, but I added it for an extra tangy kick.
Pardon me while I lick my fingers clean. Wow, this was even better than expected. It’s rich, filling, and borderline addictive. This is a big sandwich with a lot of meat, let alone the luscious beer cheese covering every bite. It almost needs more than two hands to eat. I did, in full disclosure, slice it in half.
I’m sure Arby’s version is excellent. I should probably go and order one and see, but as with most things, I find the meals grilled at home to be far superior. This concoction is now at the top of my re-do list. It seems I have the meats too.
Now, how have you been inspired? What restaurant creation have you brought home?