Slow-Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

When I think of French dip sandwiches, I think of my father. When my parents and I would opt to buy some takeout sandwiches for dinner, my father’s first choice was usually the French dip.

I am intrigued by the ritual that goes along with the classic French dip sandwich—gripping the sandwich to assure none of the meat and fillings come out, gently dip, dip, dipping it into the au jus, allowing the juice to drain just enough before taking a bite out of the tender result of the magic that happens when the au jus is added to the whole process. 

Having never been much of a beef person myself, I usually chose a sandwich less beefy and messy. Sure, I do crave a good grilled steak every so often, but I’d much rather have a fish or chicken. There is one exception to this rule: grass-fed beef.

Close up of sandwichBecause my food choices in recent years geared toward eating not just for pleasure, but also for fuel, I’ve shifted my mindset completely when it comes to my meat selections. My number one choice of beef, when I can get it, is local and grass-fed.

Sandwich being dippedGrass-fed beef may contain more antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals versus conventional grain-fed beef. In particular, beta-carotene and vitamin E may be found in substantially higher amounts. 

Grass-fed beef also contains lower amounts of overall fat and saturated fat. Because it is lower in fat and the cows may be living more of their lives wandering around pastures getting more exercise, the grass-fed beef variety tends to be a bit tougher to chew. The slow cooker is the solution to a tougher piece of meat. Cook it low and slow with ample time to allow the herbs, spices and juices to soften the meat and build the flavor.

What results is the fall-apart beef that is crucial to any classic French dip sandwich. Just don’t forget to reserve those juices leftover in the slow cooker that will become the au jus. Can’t have a French dip without the “dip.”

Bitten sandwich

SLOW COOKER FRENCH DIP SANDWICHES

Time: Five to six hours for cooking meat; 40 minutes for making sandwiches
Servings: Six to eight 4-inch long sandwiches.

Ingredients

For the Beef and Dip:

  • 2-3 pounds of thick cut, top sirloin steaks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 8-10 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

For the Sandwiches:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5-6 thin slices of mozzarella and/or provolone cheese
  • 1-2 large whole wheat baguettes or rolls, cut into 3 inch slices.

Instructions

  1. For the beef, mix together the minced garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub mixture all over top sirloin steaks. Place meat in slow cooker.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the beef broth, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Pour broth mixture gently over the meat in the slow cooker. Cover and set slow cooker on low for 5-6 hours or just until meat is very tender and falling apart.
  3. Just before meat is done, start cooking the peppers and onions. Bring a large skillet up to medium heat and add the coconut oil to pan. Once skillet is heated, add the onions, peppers, and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Gently stir the onions and peppers occasionally until onions are golden and translucent and peppers are tender (roughly 20-30 minutes). Once cooked, remove peppers and onions from the skillet and transfer to a bowl or plate.
  4. Once meat is cooked through and falls apart, use a slotted serving spoon to remove meat from slow cooker. Set aside. Using a gravy separator or small strainer with a paper towel set inside and over a bowl, slowly scoop the remaining juices in slow cooker out and into the separator or paper towel and strainer to allow juice to run through and separate most of the fat. Set remaining juices that have been drained of fat aside. This is going to be your au jus to dip your sandwiches into.
  5. Slice open the baguette or rolls and lay bottom half onto baking sheet. Place a serving of meat and peppers and onions mixture on each bread slice. Top with a slice of cheese. Set oven to broil and move oven grate up to the higher shelf.
  6. Broil sandwiches until cheese is just melting. Top with other half of bread. Serve with ¼ to 1/3 cup of au jus in small ramekins for dipping.