World cup final sandwich

July 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Looking for a snack to sustain you through the World Cup final next week? It’s looking as if it might be Germany v Holland, a grudge match if ever there was one, making Germany v England seem like a friendly….Now that England is out of the running, it’s possible to enjoy the football and contemplate eating whilst doing so.

I decided to take my inspiration from America, the nation of the sporting snack par excellence. I fished out the Superbowl edition of American food magazine Bon Appétit and decided to recreate the epic looking grilled cheese short rib sandwich with caramelized onions featured on the front cover.

It turns out that this is a speciality of restaurant Joan’s On Third in Los Angeles and was featured in the “RSVP” section of the magazine where readers’ favourite restaurant recipes are tracked down. Joan’s On Third looks amazing New York deli meets California cuisine. Imagine having somewhere like that on your doorstep…I digress. Back to the sandwich for which I give the full recipe below. Truthfully, the recipe is a little involved but the beef and onions can be prepared in advance ready to assemble into a sandwich at the right moment.

My first problem was finding out what the heck a short rib was. First stop David Rosengarten’s “It’s All American Food”. He says “Interest in cooking short ribs at home has been rekindled by the short rib boom in trendy restaurants. Americans across the map have rediscovered the comforting deliciousness of collagen-rich cuts of meat…melting down in a pot… into soft and buttery puddles of protein.” OK I get the picture and my appetite is whetted but what is it?

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to the rescue in his “Meat Book”: it’s a small rack of ribs from the flank, ie the forequarter just behind the front leg. This is the cow version of the more familiar rack of pork spare ribs and shares with that cut its sticky, juicy characteristics best brought out by a long slow cooking. Happily, my local butcher in Hale knew the cut (sometimes referred to as Jacob’s Ladder) and, with a couple of days’ notice, came up with the goods – a Desperate Dan super-sized rack of ribs which he helpfully sawed into manageable chunks.

Here they are, ready to begin the recipe which follows:

Recipe for grilled cheese and short rib sandwiches with pickled caramelized onions and arugula (rocket)

Serves 8

Ingredients – short ribs

5 pounds beef short ribs
1/2 stick (4 oz) butter
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion chopped
1 and 1/4 cups (10 fl oz ) red wine
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) low salt beef stock
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) medium dry sherry
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 large fresh thyme sprig

Here are my ingredients ready to go. I used all-American Quady’s Vya Vermouth instead of the sherry as that’s what I happened to have open.

Ingredients – pickled caramelized onions

1 tablespoon butter
2 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
4 and 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Ingredients – final assembly

Softened butter
16 slices country-style crusty white bread (or a crusty sourdough if you like)
12 oz Petit Basque or Monterey Jack cheese, sliced (or your favourite semi hard cheese suitable for melting- Taleggio would be good; I used a stunning unpasteurised Gorwydd Caerphilly)
4 cups (generous handfuls) baby arugula (rocket)

SHORT RIBS. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large wide pot over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook beef until browned, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet (to catch the juices). Add celery, carrots and onions to pot and sauté until beginning to soften and brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add wine, broth, sherry, garlic, bay leaves and thyme sprig; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Season with salt and pepper. Return ribs to pot, propping up on sides and arranging in single layer.

Here’s what they look like at this stage:

Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour. Using tongs, turn the ribs over in the pot. Cover and simmer until ribs are tender and sauce is very thick, occasionally rearranging ribs in pot to prevent sticking, about 1 and 1/2 hours longer.

This is what the cooked ribs look like:

Uncover and cool 30 minutes. Transfer ribs to work surface. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprig. Spoon off fat from sauce in pot. Remove meat from bones; discard bones. Cut meat into 3/4 to 1 inch pieces, trimming any fat. Return meat to pot. DO AHEAD. Can be made 2 days ahead. Chill until cold; cover and keep chilled. Rewarm just until lukewarm before using.


Melt butter in large skillet (heavy-based frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt and sauté until beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar and cook until almost all vinegar is absorbed, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl; cool. DO AHEAD. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill. Microwave in 15 second intervals until lukewarm before using.

ASSEMBLY. Line 2 large baking sheets with waxed paper. Butter 16 slices bread. Lay 8 slices, buttered side down onto the the prepared sheet. Divide the short rib mixture among the bread slices. Divide cheese among sandwiches. Spoon onions over sandwiches. Place handful of arugula (rocket) atop the onions. Top with remaining 8 bread slices, buttered side up. DO AHEAD. Can be prepared 1 hour ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Heat 2 large skillets (frying pans) over medium heat. Working in batches, cook sandwiches until bread is golden brown and cheese melts, about 3 minutes per side.

Here are my sandwiches in the pan. I slipped the pans into a 180 degree C oven for 3 or 4 minutes to complete the cooking without burning the bread.

Transfer cooked sandwiches to work surface. Cut each in half on diagonal. Transfer to plates and serve.

And Voilà! Here is my completed sandwich ready for consumption during the game. Your favourite beer is the perfect accompaniment. Awesome. May the best team win.

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