In American cuisine, the French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip, is a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef (or, sometimes, other meats) on a “French roll” or baguette. It is usually served au jus (“with juice”), that is, with beef juice from the cooking process. Beef broth or beef consommé is sometimes substituted. Despite the name, this American specialty is almost completely unknown in France, the name seeming to refer to the style of bread rather than an alleged French origin.
Although the sandwich is most commonly served with a cup of jus or broth on the side of the plate, into which the sandwich is dipped as it is eaten, this is not how the sandwich was served when it was invented.
Two Los Angeles restaurants have claimed to be the birthplace of the French dip sandwich: Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet and Philippe The Original. Philippe’s website describes the dish as a “specialty of the house”, and the words “Home Of The Original French Dip Sandwich” are present in the restaurant’s logo. At both of these restaurants, the roll is dipped in the hot beef juices before the sandwich is assembled, and is served “wet”. The sandwich can also be requested “double dipped” at either establishment. Philippe’s own brand of spicy mustard is traditionally used by patrons to complement the sandwich.
This controversy over who originated the sandwich remains unresolved. Both restaurants were established in 1908. However, Cole’s claims to have originated the sandwich shortly after the restaurant opened in 1908, while Philippe’s claims that owner Philippe Mathieu invented it in 1918.
The story of the sandwich’s invention by Philippe’s has several variants: some sources say that the sandwich was first created by a cook or a server who, while preparing a sandwich for a police officer or fireman, accidentally dropped it into a pan of meat drippings. The patron liked it, and the dish surged in popularity shortly after its invention. Other accounts say that a customer who didn’t want some meat drippings to go to waste requested his sandwich be dipped in them. Still others say that a chef dipped a sandwich into a pan of meat drippings after a customer complained that the bread was stale. Cole’s account states that the sandwich was invented by a sympathetic chef, Jack Garlinghouse, for a customer who was complaining of sore gums. Some accounts tell Philippe’s version of events, but assign the location to Cole’s. The mystery of the sandwich’s invention might not be solved due to a lack of information and observable evidence.
The French dip is now served at a number of restaurant chains including fast food, diners, and standard restaurants.
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 700 g beef brisket or beef roast, trimmed
- salt & black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 cups mixed greens ( 5 - 6 cups)
- 1 large baguette—cut into 4 pieces, split horizontally, and lightly toasted
- In a 4- to 6-litre slow cooker, combine the stock, onion, garlic, Worcestershire, and flour. Season the brisket (or roast) with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and place in the slow cooker. Cover and cook until very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).
- Ten minutes before serving, transfer the brisket to a cutting board and thinly slice against the grain. Strain the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and reserve the onions. Boil the cooking liquid until reduced to 1½ cups, 5 to 7 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt & pepper. Add the salad greens and toss to combine.
- Dividing evenly, form sandwiches with the baguette, sliced beef, and reserved onions. Serve with the cooking liquid, for dipping, and the salad.