A French Dip is no more french than French Fries. Perhaps it was named because of the french-style roll on which it was served, or because “au jus” sounds so much better than “with broth”. Regardless, this American favorite apparently originates from Los Angeles, where two restaurants battle it out over who made it first.
If you, like me, envy the hosts of the Food Network shows that highlight restaurants across the country and sample their specialties, you may already know how the French Dip got its name. Legend has it that a french roll, on its way to becoming a beef sandwich, was dropped into a pan of beef drippings or broth (whether on purpose or accidentally is highly debated) and the recipient enjoyed it so much others started ordering the sandwich “dipped”. Now I am a French Dip lover but I do NOT want my bread pre-dipped. I cannot stand soggy bread. Would I try it if I found myself at one of the two LA restaurants said to have created this yummy sandwich? Of course! But, until then, just give me my cup of jus, please!
The traditional sandwich is simply a french-style roll or baguette, roasted beef (prime rib if you are lucky), and beef broth. Sometimes sautéed onions and/or mushrooms are added. A little horseradish mustard is always a good condiment for beef. Cheese has also made its way into the cast. Provolone, Swiss, and mozzarella are the most common but occasionally you will see the French Dip go a little “Philly” and get some warm Wiz (as in Cheese Wiz) drizzled over it.
Let me list for you the reasons you should make this French Dip ASAP:
- It is easy.
- It is meant to be made in advance.
- It serves a crowd (or four teenage boys).
- It is perfect for a buffet-style gathering (a.k.a. Super Bowl).
- Crazy good leftovers.
- Crazy good leftover soup.
- Crazy good leftover quesadillas.
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
8 oz package button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 large onion, halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 15-0z can reduced-sodium beef broth
2 cups water
2 tablespoons browning sauce
3-5 pounds beef roast (bottom round pictured here)
1-2 tablespoons steak seasoning
1 teaspoon granulated instant coffee or espresso powder
French rolls, hard rolls, or bread of choice
Shredded cheese or cheese slices (optional)
Horseradish mustard (optional)
NOTES: 1) Browning sauce can typically be found with other condiments like ketchup, mustard, and Worchestershire Sauce. 2) If you don’t have a favorite “steak seasoning”, you can substitute 1 tablespoon salt + 1/2 tablespoon black pepper + 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic. 3) If you don’t have instant coffee or espresso, substitute a cup of brewed coffee for one of the two cups of water earlier in the recipe. 4) The bottom round roast used here was about 5 inches thick. I cut it in half lengthwise to allow the broth to flavor the meat more easily and make the resulting slices easier to fit on the rolls.
Place one tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. When butter has melted, add onions and mushrooms and toss to coat vegetables with butter/oil. Saute until caramelized and tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic, thyme, and crushed red pepper. After a minute or two, stir in beef broth, water and browning sauce.
Bring broth mixture to a boil and then remove from heat.
Combine the steak seasoning (or salt/pepper/granulated garlic combination) and the coffee/espresso powder and rub on all sides of the roast.
Preheat oven to 300°.
In another dutch oven, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. (If you do not have two pans for the process, transfer the broth mixture to a heat-resistant bowl and use the same pan for browning the beef.) When hot, place the roast in the butter/oil to brown. The butter and oil should be hot enough to sizzle when the roast is added. Do not move roast for 2-3 minutes. Flip roast over and repeat until both sides are nicely browned. Remove from heat and slowly pour broth mixture over roast. Cover and transfer to oven.
Bake for 3 hours (2 1/2 if using a smaller roast). Remove from oven and transfer meat to a plate or tray.
Allow meat to rest and jus to cool. After about 5-10 minutes, the fats from the broth will separate from the broth and the majority of the fat can be skimmed off the top. Slice the meat, against the grain, as thin as possible or as you like. Return the sliced meat to the broth.
Serve with warm rolls and a side of jus!
Cole slaw makes a great side dish for this sandwich.
But really … what’s a masterpiece like this without … that’s right … french fries.
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