In our Heritage Dish series, we feature Hamilton Beach employees and their favorite family recipes. This month, we highlight Matt Harrington, Communications Manager, and one of his favorite recipes from his hometown of Buffalo, New York.
One of the first things people ask upon meeting me is, “Where are you from?” Most likely, this is because they detect the hint of the Great Lakes in my accent. Even though I’ve lived in Virginia for 14 years, the nasally a’s and hard r’s of the Western New York dialect remain. If my accent doesn’t let people know I’m from Buffalo, the Sabres t-shirt and Bills hat are a surefire giveaway.
Growing up in Western New York, I’ve eaten my share of chicken wings, and I’m skeptical when restaurants outside of the region claim they serve “authentic” Buffalo wings. For some reason, the rest of the country hasn’t yet figured out how to properly fry and sauce a wing. Normally, I make my own wings (and you can, too, with a deep fryer and your favorite hot sauce and butter mixture). But, this post isn’t about our world-famous wing. Instead, I want to introduce you to Buffalo’s best-kept secret: the Beef on Weck.
At first glance, it may appear to be a run-of-the-mill roast beef sandwich. But trust me, Arby’s has nothing on the Beef on Weck. The building blocks of the sandwich are simple: thinly sliced, rare roast beef, horseradish and the salty kummelweck roll.
If you don’t know what kummelweck is, it’s probably because a) you don’t speak German (kummelweck translates to “caraway seed roll”) or b) you don’t live in or know anyone from the City of Good Neighbors. A Beef on Weck without the “weck” is just roast beef on a roll. The Food Gods bestowed upon Western New York an abundance of kummelweck, available at every supermarket and bakery. If you live in the Buffalo region, you probably are familiar with Charlie the Butcher or Schwabl's restaurant, or you have a nearby mom and pop restaurant that makes a beef on weck exactly to your liking. If you live outside of the area, you’ll have to make your own, including the kummelweck roll. But don’t worry – it’s easy. You don’t even have to bust out your bread maker.
To make the buns, brush the tops of Kaiser or hard rolls with egg wash. Then, sprinkle on a mixture of coarse salt and caraway seeds (the saltier, the better). Pop them in a warmed oven or toaster oven for 3-4 minutes or until the egg wash is dry. That’s it! You’ve just turned an ordinary roll into the uniquely tasty kummelweck - the most important part of the Beef on Weck.
For the roast beef, you can prepare the roast yourself (remembering to catch all the drippings), or you can take the easy way out and order thinly sliced roast beef from the deli counter at your grocery store. Be sure to ask for the rarest meat they have. And – this is important – don’t forget to ask for the au jus. Some delis will have the juice from the roast available for purchase. If they don’t have it, you can pick up a couple quarts of beef stock or broth. While you’re at the supermarket, grab a jar of grated horseradish (not the creamy kind).
Heat the au jus or stock in a slow cooker on high heat. Use a fork to quickly dip each slice of roast beef in the hot juice and immediately place on the roll. Pile the beef high – big flavors call for a big sandwich – and spoon a healthy dollop of sinus-clearing horseradish on top of the meat. Before completing your beefy masterpiece, dip the underside of the top bun in the juice for a little extra flavor and moisture.
Whenever I have family in town or friends over for a football or hockey game, I set up the buffet with the Beef on Weck assembly line. Not only is it delicious (even non-Buffalonians love it), but it takes very little time to prepare. It’s nice to have a little taste of home as we suffer through another season of our favorite sports teams not making the playoffs. Again.
Update: in 2017, the Bills made the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons. Matt was extremely thrilled and celebrated by making wings and beef on weck sandwiches for his friends and family.