A French dip sandwich will surely hit the spot! You can’t beat slow-cooked beef, peppers, onions, and provolone and warm au jus for dipping.
The French dip sandwich is an American classic often served in sandwich shops, but you can actually make it in the comfort of your own home. It is a simple yet delicious combination of shredded beef, melted cheese, peppers, and onions on a toasted bun served with a side of au jus for dipping. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely lunch or dinner or want to try something new, a French dip sandwich fits the bill! I mixed things up for this recipe by slow-cooking the beef in a crockpot instead of roasting. I know harissa is an unexpected twist to something so classic, but it works! The peppery, smoky flavor is sublime and adds a punch of flavor to the often understated side.
Why You’ll Love This French Dip Sandwich
- Excellent texture variation – Toasted bread that softens once dipped in au jus, tender beef, melted cheese, and crispy fries; this sandwich recipe offers a little bit of everything.
- Juicy beef – This recipe uses beef chuck for a few reasons. First, it’s rich in vitamins and minerals. Also, chuck is known for having a rich, beefy flavor and is incredibly tender and juicy when slow-cooked. Best of all, it is an economical cut.
- Melty cheese – Provolone cheese is one of the best cheeses for your cheese pull pleasure and works well with beef, peppers, and onions. For a little extra flavor, consider smoked provolone. The smoke flavor is present yet subtle.
- Fuss-free recipe – This recipe involves a lot of inactive time. To make the beef, set it and forget it. The same goes for the fries. Leave them to soak, then season and bake. Sandwiches and fries have never been easier!
French Dip Sandwich Ingredients Notes
- Beef: I went with a chuck beef roast because it’s one the best cuts for slow roasting. Use a sharp knife to trim any excess fat (you don’t want to cook it with a thick fat cap intact). Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of fat to remove from the au jus. Additionally, remove the silver skin. It does not melt during cooking.
- Beef Stock: Beef stock amps up the flavor of each French dip sandwich. Stock is used instead of broth because it has a deeper flavor and better mouthfeel due to its thicker consistency.
- Red Peppers: Red peppers are nice and sweet, but any bell pepper will do. Green, yellow, orange; the choice is yours.
- Onion: I love the sweetness onions add to the otherwise savory sandwich. So yummy!
- Subway Rolls: Hearty crusty bread is a must for French dip sandwiches. It holds up to all the dipping and contrasts the juicy shreds of beef.
- Potatoes: You can’t have a French dip sandwich without fries. Russets are best because they’re high in starch.
(Scroll down to the bottom for the printable recipe card with exact measurements and instructions.)
How to Make a French Dip Sandwich
- Cook the beef: Apply the rub to the beef chuck roast and place it into a crockpot with the beef stock. Set it to low and cook for 6-8 hours. During this time, you can go about your day, check items off your to-do list, and have time to return to the kitchen to prepare the fries and the remaining ingredients.
- Make the fries: Peel the potatoes, cut into strips, and soak them in an ice water bath for at least 30 minutes to remove excess potato starch. Then toss them with harissa, oil, and salt before roasting for 35-40 minutes.
- Roast the peppers: Roasted red peppers add depth to the sandwich. Roasting is easy. Transfer them to the same baking sheet with the fries during the last 15 minutes of cook time.
- Sauté the onions: They go into a pan with butter and are cooked until caramelized, which draws out their sweetness.
- Shred and assemble: Once the beef is ready, remove it from the pot and shred it with two forks. As for the tasty liquid left, strain it, and set it aside, but keep the liquid warm.
- Broil and serve: Assemble the sandwiches with the cheese, broil to melt the cheese and crisp up the bread, plate with the fries, and enjoy.
Variations, Substitutions & Cooking Tips
- Try different cheeses – Swap provolone with cheddar, Swiss, or Gruyère. All are good choices.
- Use sirloin roast – Although leaner and less flavorful, it’s the way to go if you’re trying to reduce fat consumption.
- Make it gluten-free – Crusty gluten-free French baguettes are easy to obtain. You’ll likely find a few options at your local grocery store.
- Thyme – Thyme would be a great addition to the beef. The fragrant herb is synonymous with beefy dishes because it adds depth and rounds out the flavors.
What is Harissa?
Harissa is a hot chili pepper paste. Iterations vary, but it often consists of smoked hot chili peppers, olive oil, garlic, and spices like cumin and coriander. The paste, a staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, is smoky, spicy, aromatic, bold, and versatile. Find in the ethnic section at most grocery stores, specialty markets, Middle Eastern markets, or online!
What to Serve with a French Dip Sandwich
The sandwich, dip, and fries are all you need food-wise, so let’s focus on beverages. If you don’t drink alcohol, you can’t go wrong with an ice-cold cola. Even better is a glass of cranberry or pomegranate juice. Both have tannins (like red wine) that act as palate cleansers. If you’re a beer drinker, consider a pale ale, amber ale, or light lager; nothing overwhelming that will take away from the food. As for wine, you likely want to go red. Your favorite Cabernet or Zinfandel are wise choices. However, you can get away with a Riesling or Moscato. Both are slightly sweet and will complement the spicy harissa fries.
Storage & Freezer Tips
To store, wrap assembled sandwiches in parchment paper, followed by foil, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Freezing is not recommended because it will negatively impact the texture. The au jus should go in an airtight container, preferably glass. The fries will last longer in the fridge, about 5-7 days, but only when stored in an airtight container.
How to Reheat
To reheat a French dip sandwich, preheat the oven the 350 degrees, place the wrapped sandwiches onto a baking sheet, and warm in the oven for 10 minutes. You can do the same for the fries. Arrange them in a single layer and keep an eye on them. As for the au jus, heat it in the microwave or a small saucepan. If using a microwave, heat in 30-second intervals until hot. For the stovetop method, reheat over medium-low for a few minutes.
- 2 lbs beef chuck
- 3 tbs harissa (I got mine from Whole Foods), divided
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 32 oz beef stock
- 2 russet potatoes
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 red pepper, halved
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 tbs butter
- 3 subway rolls
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 slices provolone
- Cut the beef chuck into 2 to 3 pieces.
- In a large bowl, combine beef, 2 tbs harissa and crushed garlic (be sure to rub all over the meat).
- In a crockpot, add the beef chuck and the beef stock. Cook for about 6-8 hours on low (this is perfect to throw together right before work).
- To make the harissa fries, peel the potatoes and cut into thin strips then add to an ice-water bath. Soak for about 30-40 minutes then drain.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Toss the potatoes together with 1 tbs harissa, olive oil and salt then lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Add the halved red pepper to the same baking sheet and cook the potatoes and peppers for 15 minutes more at the same temp.
- Once the beef has almost finished cooking, add the onion and butter to a medium-sized pan and cook over a medium-low heat for about 20-30 minutes or until caramelized.
- Remove beef from the crockpot and set aside, and strain and reserve the broth (this is your au jus dipping sauce)
- To assemble, add the shredded beef to your subway roll then the sliced peppers, provolone, and top with caramelized onions.
- To melt the cheese, simply place the assembled sandwich under the broiler for a minute.
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