Beef Cooking Easy Dinner Recipe Food Recipe Sandwiches

Build a Better Beef Dip

This one goes out to the one I love.

In honor of my wife on her birthday, I’ve decided to post simple instructions for making one of the most delicious, simple and comforting sandwiches in our dinner rotation. I’m almost ashamed to say that I’d never had a beef dip before meeting my wife, but I like to think of it as being introduced to a recipe that -through savory flavors and full bellies – made our relationship that much stronger.

The recipe that follows uses some pre-made ingredients, like au jus concentrate and deli-sliced roast beef, but also has a few special twists.

To me, the resulting sandwich is a savory amalgamation of comforting ingredients that satisfies and comforts, like a bowl of soup on a cold day, but to my wife, it’s so much more.

A delicious final product!
A delicious final product!

I knew that the little changes were family “secrets,” that the addition of the rosemary and garlic weren’t just bold flavors, but were “Aunt Lily’s way” of building a better beef dip.

I can certainly understand and appreciate the powerful connection between food and memories. I have been known to wax nostalgic in certain culinary circumstances, especially when it comes to mom’s apple pie and a certain noodle salad, but I didn’t fully understand  her connection to this sandwich until our recent trip to Chicago for her cousin’s wedding.

While in the Chicago area, we were fortunate enough to stay at the aforementioned aunt’s house, and as such were welcomed in true Chicago fashion. We were treated to local favorites, some delicious (pizza, hot dogs, beef dip, etc.) and others wholly unpalatable (White Castle).

White castle: Literally the most disgusting thing that I've ever willingly eaten.
White castle: Literally the most disgusting thing that I’ve ever willingly eaten.


Our host’s delectable cooking aside, the best food I had was from Portillo’s, which is a Chicago institution known for their special Chicago-style hot dogs and their beef dip. I indulged in a pair of the hot dogs, of course, but my wife – as she normally does when a dip graces a menu – went for the beef sandwich.

Portillo's famous Chicago dogs!
Portillo’s famous Chicago dogs!

To me, both were delicious, but to her, the beef dip tasted like so much more than that. To her, a simple (delectable) beef sandwich tastes like history. It tastes like summer trips to visit family. It tastes like time spent, packed around around the kitchen table, talking about everything and nothing. It tastes like Lily’s secret recipe.

And that’s what makes food special: the fact that we can take a bite of something and have it not just sustain us and satiate our hunger, but entertain us, and activate our memories.

So give this recipe a try. At the very least, you’ll enjoy a tasty meal. At the most, you might just start a good food memory of your own. Enjoy!

Ingredients for one delicious sandwich:

  • 1/3 lb rare roast beef – sliced at the deli
  • 1/2 loaf French bread – sliced lengthwise
  • Sliced fresh mozzarella
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Johnny’s French Dip au jus concentrate
  • Water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

To get started, mix the au jus according to the directions on the packaging… and then stray from them. Mix the concentrate and the water in a small soup pan, peel the garlic cloves and give them a quick smash with the side of a knife blade (just to release the flavor a bit) and add them to the au jus mixture with sprig of rosemary.

Lily's secret - rosemary and garlic in the au jus!
Lily’s secret – rosemary and garlic in the au jus!

As the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, slice the bread and cheese, and spread mustard evenly on one or both inside halves of the bread.

Once the sauce has cooked down, individually dip the slices of roast beef into it and layer them onto the sliced French bread, like a hoagie. Places the slices of cheese atop the beef, and place the sandwich – open-faced – onto a baking sheet, and place it in the oven.

Gettin' cheesy
Gettin’ cheesy

Bake the sandwich until the cheese is melted, but not runny, about 7 or 8 minutes.

Serve the sandwich with a side of the au jus, or if you want to have a “real” beef dip, serve it after you’ve dipped the entire sandwich in the sauce. As to avoid the potentially massive amounts of cleanup, I like to serve the sandwich dry, and dip as I go. You know, because dipping is fun!

Cheers, and enjoy!

This is making me hungry...
This is making me hungry…


  1. What your wife enjoyed at Portillos is called an Italian Beef. Here is the recipe that will be very close if not better than Portillos:

    I swear by it. There are no places in Seattle that have italian beefs (I’m a Chicago ex-pat) so I resorted to making my own and this recipe is the result of trial and error.

    There are two things here that make a huge difference: The slicing of meat, and type of bread. Avoid the puffy dinner rolls. There is only one place where I found bread that worked, Safeway on 15th and 85th north of Ballard has baguette rolls. It’s not hard and dense like a baguette. It has a firmer crust than a typical sliced sandwich roll, but the same size and lighter.

    For the cut, we bought an electric slicer off Amazon (we use it to slice cheese and veggies too)

    If you both like hot giardiniera, go to DiLaurenti at Pike Market – it’s the only place I’ve found the real giardiniera jars. Everywhere else it’s “italian mix” which has cauliflower and all the other stuff. Not quite the same.

    So, that should do it and bring your wife “back home to” Chicago.


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