Party Food Suggestion

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One of the results of my improving my skills at this hobby is I will often get asked to bring something for a party, and they don’t mean chips and dip. Actually some folks might say I bring some dip with me everywhere I go - but I digress. The hosts would like me to bring something grilled or smoked. In the summer this isn’t too tough because the weather is cooperative. In the cold weather around Christmas time or Superbowl Sunday it can be a challenge to do a long term smoke. For the last two years I have had a great grilled dish that I’ve brought to 4 different parties, that is relatively easy to make, can be made ahead, doesn’t need any elaborate reheating at the party and is an appropriate party food. The grilled dish in question is Baltimore Pit Beef Sandwiches. When I decided to make it the other day for a holiday party, I decided it was also worthy of a blog post. It is perfect for folks looking for something to make for the many upcoming parties this winter, or any other time of year for that matter.
In the past I’ve brought pulled pork or ribs or both to some of these parties and I still do sometimes. The problem with this is you are involved in a 5 to 16 hour cook in possibly extremely cold and windy weather. Sure you can make it ahead, but it is hard to do on a work day because you must pay more attention than normal to the cook due to the weather. Once at the party I end up having to reheat the food in FoodSaver bags placed in one or more large pans of water for 45 minutes. This may be easy to do for yourself at home, but taking this act on the road is a different story. Your hosts may have other things they are reheating and you are tying up some serious real estate on their stoves. Plus you are out of circulation for nearly an hour while you monitor the reheating operation. Two years ago, my brother ended up having to move the date of a party up a week and didn’t have much time for planning or a big budget. I’d just made my first Baltimore Pit Beef Sandwiches about a month before, and everyone loved them. I told him I could bring those if it helped and he agreed. The party was on a Sunday in August and I made them the day before. On the day of the party I packed them into a cooler and brought them up. I believe everyone there tried them and some folks had three. I brought them to another party in September and had similar results.

So let me tell you about the Baltimore Pit Beef Sandwich. Along the way I will mention the virtues of it in terms of cost, make ahead and ease of set up. The original recipe comes from the Cook’s Illustrated Summer Grilling Guide 2010. There is a link to it on the America’s Test Kitchen website (search for Baltimore Pit Beef) but it is premium content. You can get a 2 week free membership by giving them your email address. Opt out of becoming a member before the two weeks is up and there is no charge. There are other recipes for this sandwich on the web, but this one seemed best out of all the ones I looked at. The Baltimore Pit Beef Sandwich has 4 components: The roast(s), the “Tiger Sauce”, sliced onions, & Kaiser rolls. I will cover each in order.

The Meat:
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The meat is eye of the round, a fairly inexpensive cut that needs to be cooked right and cut right to be tender. A 3 (1.33 Kg) pound eye of the round roast is said to serve 6-8. The reality is with the thin sliced meat it goes further than that, but I use that for my planning. The 3 pounds (1.33 Kg) covers me for 6 to 8 people including many of them having seconds. The 3 pound (1.33 Kg) cut is easy to maneuver on the grill and is easy to slice and slices fairly quickly. Even if I buy a bigger roast, I will have it cut in half at the butcher’s counter. The last time I made this cut it was going for just over $3.00 a pound, so the price is certainly right too. This whole meal is relatively inexpensive to make.

Once home the roast is rubbed with a simple 6 spice rub. It gets wrapped up like a mummy in some Saran wrap. Then it can either stay at room temperature for the next hour before grilling or go into the fridge for up to 24 hours. I vote for the 24 hour stay because it makes a big difference in the flavor of the meat. The meat gets pulled out of the fridge one hour before grilling and gets rubbed with olive oil. I use my Misto mister for this because it is quicker and doesn’t disturb the rub as much. The grill goes on high and the meat is cooked on high and develops a deep, dark sear. The first side I do is one of the ends for about 5 minutes. The meat may not want to stand on the end, particularly if it is a long piece of meat. This is one of the reasons I get bigger roasts cut in half - there is a better chance of it standing vertically on it’s own if it is half as long. If not I put on some barbecue gloves and hold the meat with a pair of tongs. Not sure what I will do now in the Winter, because I don’t want to let out the heat while holding the meat. I will probably just forgo searing that end. Once the meat is off the end and searing on the first side, I wear some rubber gloves to hold the meat and insert a temperature probe into the end of the meat I just cooked. The probe wants to extend into the middle of the meat. Once again this is another reason I go for the 3 pound pieces of meat: I can put the probe in one end and it will reach the middle. This way I can cook all sides plus the other end and the probe is not in the way. I then continue to cook the meat, turning it every 5 minutes until I reach a target temperature of 120 degrees (49 C). The meat gets pulled off the grill and rests for 30 minutes loosely covered with foil.


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The meat is almost done being seared and has a deep dark crust. Note the temperature probe inserted into the left end of the meat

Normally you are not cooking a big piece of meat at a high temperature and there is carryover to be concerned with. With a high heat cook and a 30 minute rest the meat carries over more than normal. For my setup and the 3 pound roasts I use, I’ve found that the meat carries over 10-15 degrees (5.5-8.33 C) in 30 minutes. I am shooting for a medium rare and the 120 degrees (49 C) with a 10-15 degree (5.5-8.33 C) carryover gets me into the 130-135 degree (54-57 C) range which is the medium rare I am looking for. There will be some pieces from each end which are more towards medium, but this is good because some folks like medium. You may need to run an experiment on your own grill because the amount of time you need to cook your roast could affect the carry over temperature. High temperature on two different grilles could be vastly different, 100’s of degrees different. My results were different than the Cook’s Illustrated results from the original recipe. The roast cooked with the lower high heat is going to carryover less than the grill with the higher high heat. I may see this in action myself when I grill this meat in the cold of winter instead of the heat of summer. I may need to let it cook longer. In the summer it takes me around 40-45 minutes to cook the roast at 800 degrees (427 C). In the Winter I may only reach 500 degrees (260 C). If it takes much longer than that in the winter (due to lower available heat) I may take the meat to 125 degrees (52 C).


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The meat has rested for 30 minutes and is ready to be sliced. The food slicer is really the only way to go here for nice thin slices in a timely manner.

Once the meat has rested, it is time to slice it. Don’t let the meat sit longer than 30 minutes because it is still carrying over. In fact you will find if you don’t slice it fast on the slicer one end may come out medium. Once again this is not necessarily a bad thing, but you certainly don’t want your whole piece running way over. Really the only way to slice this meat thin and quickly is with a food slicer. I suppose if you are really good with an electric knife that might work too. You are shooting for thin, because the eye of the round is not the most tender cut. You are shooting for quickly so the roast doesn’t carry over too far. Once the meat is sliced I let it cool off briefly and then put it in ziplock bags and refrigerate it. To make things easier later, I’ll sort it into different bags by degree of doneness. At the party I can lay the meat out by degree of doneness and let people pick from one pile versus the other. This beats people sorting through the meat with the meat fork looking for a medium piece, while others are waiting to be served.

I’ve mentioned I tend to keep the roasts in 3 pound pieces and add more roasts to suit more people. This gives me a standardized cook time, a predictable rise on the rest and the meat doesn’t carry over too far while I slice it. My temperature probe can be inserted into the end and the tip will reach the middle of the meat. The piece is usually short enough I can stand it on it’s ends and it is easy to maneuver on the grill. The one downside to this approach of cooking 3 pound (1.33 Kg) pieces at a time is I can realistically only do one at a time. The problem is a 3 pound (1.33 Kg) piece takes about 40 minutes to cook and you must flip it every 5 minutes. This means you are pretty much out at the grill while you are cooking the meat. The meat has a thirty minute rest and you need to start slicing it right away to keep it from carrying over too far. So you really can’t start one while the other is resting. Unless you can clone yourself. So what I do is cook the first piece and when I take it off the grill, I turn off the grill. Just before the 30 minute rest period is up, I go back out and light the grill. When I am done slicing the first roast the grill is hot again and I start the second roast.

The “Tiger Sauce”
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Let’s get one thing straight. This is a somewhat spicy sauce, but it is made by you and is not referring to the Asian Tiger brand sauce you will find in the condiments section of your supermarket. The main ingredients of the sauce are mayo and horseradish. To this is added some fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, a pinch of cayenne pepper, table salt & pepper. These ingredients are whisked together in a small bowl to make the sauce. The sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and put in a sealed jar and refrigerated. Before I move on a brief word about horseradish: I didn’t know this before making this sandwich for the first time, but there are two types of horseradish: Fresh and with preservatives. What you find at room temperature in your condiment aisle has preservatives and is not fresh. The fresh horseradish is sold in a refrigerated case. In my supermarket it is near the butter and it may also be found in a refrigerated case near the deli counter. For this meal get the fresh version - the taste is so much better.

The Onions:
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For every 6-8 people I thinly slice one large or two medium yellow onions. I use my mandolin slicer to get nice thin, uniform slices. I then cut the slices in half and break the rings apart as I am putting the onions in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. I usually do this just before I will be leaving for the party.
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The Rolls:
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The rolls are Kaiser rolls. I usually go out the day I’ll be needing the rolls and buy bags of Kaiser rolls with poppy seeds. I usually buy at LEAST 1.5 rolls per person and since they come in bags of 8, I’ll usually round up to the nearest 8. These sandwiches are really good and while the usual suspects will have seconds, I’ve seen people that are picky eaters or who don’t eat a lot go for seconds on these as well. So you may want to go closer to 2 rolls per person. You can always freeze the leftover rolls. Also, the Kaiser rolls with poppy seeds I buy are fresh baked from my supermarket’s bakery, not the ones found in the bread aisle. The Kaiser rolls from the bakery are never sliced. Check this out before you leave for your party. It is probably easier to slice them with your bread knife in the calm of your Kitchen than at the party with who knows what knife.

Party Time:
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On the day of the party I about an hour before I want to leave, I slice up the onions and the Kaiser rolls. The Kaiser rolls go into a shopping bag. I put the bags of meat, jar(s) of Tiger Sauce, and bag(s) of onion into a small Igloo cooler with a cooler ice packs. If it is less than a thirty minute trip I won’t even bother with the ice and just put them in the cooler. Once there you can set up the meat on a platter, the onions and Tiger sauce in two bowls and set out the rolls. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that. You’re bringing some great tasting food that is new to people not from Baltimore, you were able to make it ahead over several days and getting it to the party and setting it up couldn’t be simpler.

SOME RELATED LINKS

Here are some links for the Baltimore Pit Beef Sandwiches picture entry and the blog entry on the Misto Mister mentioned in the article .

  BALTIMORE PIT BEEF SANDWHICH Sandwiches Picture Entry
  GETTING MISTY - MISTO MISTER Blog Entry

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