Of all the meals I have had the pleasure of eating in New Orleans, by far my favorite is a drippy, sloppy, saucy roast beef po boy. Perhaps lesser known than its fried-shrimp sibling, this garlicky slow-cooked sandwich swimming in its own rich, roux-thickened gravy is really my favorite.
The po boy (or poor boy, if you will), created and named during the streetcar strike of 1929, is the reigning king of New Orleans sandwiches. It can be filled with anything from potatoes or shrimp to oysters or ham, so long as it is tucked inside a loaf of soft, squishy (preferably freshly baked) French bread.
There is something about the roast beef po boy in particular that won me over at first bite. How could I resist chunky bits of beef melting in my mouth, its juices running down my chin and dripping on my lap? You know something is good when you couldnt care in the least!
One things for sure everyone whos had one (NOLA natives in particular) has a favorite type. There are a few different methods for preparing the roast beef from thinly sliced and layered, to pot-roast style, where the slow-cooked meat is shredded or chopped, and most famously (and perhaps most hard to come by) those using debris, which is essentially a hearty gravy made up of bits of meat and char that have fallen from the roast.
Ive been experimenting with my version of roast beef po boys using the pot roast style, essentially, for quite some time. Originally, I overcomplicated things by adding all sorts of nontraditional ingredients to the mix and thinking that more add-ins meant more flavor. Ive come back around with the realization that less if often best. (Bacon is one of my changes that stuck, because how could it hurt?)
Top round is my preferred cut (followed by chuck), which is slow-cooked in a flavorful sauce of garlic, onions, red wine and stock. The sauce is thickened with a flour- and butter-based roux, to which the shredded meat is added back to create the ultimate gravy.
You can eat your po boy plain or dressed with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and maybe a few dill pickles. I like mine with lots of mayo and a slice of provolone cheese. If you want to truly go New Orleans style, serve with an ice cold root beer to wash it all down. And dont forget a pile of napkins!
Nealey Dozier is a recipe developer and a writer for TheKitchn.com, a website on food and home cooking.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less