April 12, 2022. Dear Kids– You know I’m always looking for ways to merge Dad Cooking into the plant based eating you kids prefer. Today’s attempt is brought to you by the fine city of Buffalo, NY, with its iconic Beef on Weck. Beef on Weck is the shy, lesser known cousin of the Buffalo Chicken Wing. I recall this hearty, beef centric sandwich popping up every once in a while on menus soon after Buffalo Wings became a menu staple, but it never did achieve the rock star status of Buffalo Wings outside of Buffalo, NY.
Nevertheless, it’s still a great sandwich and just as good and certainly healthier when you make it with beets. You kids have loved beets ever since the “Guess The Beet Color!” game- a contest we’d play when you were younger that had you blindfolded to taste and try to guess the color of the kaleidoscope of beets we’d bring home from the farmer’s market- what a fun way it was to get you to enjoy your veggies!
The caraway seeds and horseradish that accompany the traditional Beef on Weck are flavors that work particularly well with the beets, so it makes complete sense to me to swap the beef out for the beets in this recipe- with the added bonus of it offering the best of Dad Jokes in the process. The red beets look the part as well- giving off the rarest of rare vibes and the technique of thinly slicing the beets also adds to the illusion of the tenderest “meat” you could imagine, with paper thin slices no hunk of beef could hope to achieve.
I hope you make this, soon to be iconic, sandwich so it can take its rightful place among the “legends” of DDD’s Buffalo Food Hall of Fame that already include The Dad’s Ultimate Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese with Crispy Chicken Skin and Buffalo City Chicken and Salad- Relax Kids, It’s Really Tofu.
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
Diet: Vegetarian, Vegan Option
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
- ½ cup sour cream or vegan equivalent
- ½ cup mayonnaise or vegan equivalent
- 2-4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1-2 tablespoons pickle juice, optional
- 1/2 cup minced fresh dill, optional
- 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds, if not using Kummelweck rolls
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon fresh pepper
- 3-5 medium sized beets (about 4 pounds with greens)
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme, optional
- 4 kummelweck or Kaiser Rolls (Kummelweck Roll InstaRecipe in The Lecture)
- 2 tablespoons cow or plant butter
- 4 ounces baby arugula
- Juice of half a lemon
Note- Kummelweck rolls are difficult to find outside of the Buffalo NY area, but any sturdy, hamburger type bun will work.
COOK AND PLAY
Play “Beat It” by Michael Jackson and buckle up for a lot more Dad Beet Jokes while you read this recipe.
1. Can’t Beet This Sauce. Set up middle oven rack and preheat oven to 400° for beets. In a medium bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish, pickle juice and/or dill if using, caraway seeds (if not using kummelweck rolls), kosher salt and fresh pepper. TASTE, adjust flavors as you wish and set aside.
2. The Beet Goes On. If your beets have greens, and I hope they do, cut off greens and stems an inch or so above the beets and prep those greens for the InstaRecipe below. Leave root tips at bottom of beets in tact and clean beets thoroughly- after all, they do come out of the ground. Place two or three beets and 4 thyme sprigs on a large square of aluminum foil and hit them with a pinch or two of salt. Make Beet Packs- wrap beets and thyme in the foil, crimping the edges securely to minimize beet juice leakage. Repeat with remaining beets. Place Beet Packs on a baking sheet and roast in oven until beets can easily be pierced by a knife- about an hour. Let beets cool to touch, cut off remaining stem and root tips, peel using a paper towel to avoid red hands for the day, and slice, as thinly as you possibly can, into rounds. If you’re brave and careful enough- use a V Slicer or similar device to get paper thin slices.
3. Don’t Miss A Beet With These Buns. Cut rolls in half if needed, butter the cut sides and toast, with buttered side down, to golden brown in a frying pan over medium heat.
4. An Unbeetable Sandwich. Smear the bottom of each bun with sauce and arrange a generous layer of beets atop the sauce. Top beets with a small handful of arugula that’s been tossed with lemon juice and pinch of salt, a bit more sauce and the bun tops. Serve with pickles, chips and more sauce on the side.
The Beet Down. When I was a kid, my beets came out of a glass jar or tin can- not that there was anything wrong with that- I still liked them. You really can’t blame Granny- back then, farm stands or farmer’s markets were few and far between, the supermarket produce department was a joke and “convenience” foods were crammed down the average housewife’s throat by advertisers with reckless abandon. If you can though, get your beets, with “free” beet greens attached at a farmer’s market for ultimate freshness and variety. If you can’t, fortunately, most quality grocery stores have a myriad of options when it comes to your beets, or really most any other produce. Of course, your local market still has your jarred or canned beets, but it should also have fresh red beets with or without greens- sometimes golden and Chioggia beets too! You might even find beets that have been cooked sous-vide and vacuum-packed, but why would you pay extra for that? If you’re really beet crazy, look for beet powder, beet chips and/or beet juice too.
Free Dad Advice. Speaking of “free” beet greens, this is a good time to remind you of your godfather’s and his brother’s opposing outlooks on anything “free”. As you know, your godfather, ever the optimist, always says, “Anything free tickles me!” whenever he is offered anything for “free”. On the other hand, his more cynical, younger and middle brother says, “Ain’t shit free!” under similar circumstances. I think you kids are split on this approach as well, but I would suggest it’s best to keep both approaches in mind whenever you come across anything “free”- celebrate the “free” things that life presents, but also make sure to check on those “free” things that seem too good to be true- they often are not free or true.
The Beet Life of Zach and Cody- the Second to Last Dad Beet Joke. Quick Dad Story- you kids loved beets so much, you would often try to “steal” beets from my board while I was cutting them for dinner. On one occasion, when I accused you off beet theft, you denied it with a smile until I asked you to show me your hands. You reluctantly presented your mitts with crimson stained fingertips, gathered your thoughts and exclaimed, “Look Dad, you caught me red handed!”- Bravo!
Can’t Beet This Advice. 1. Season. Available all year, peak season varies by type of beet and location, but peak for red beets is generally late summer-fall. For a guide to what’s in season where you hang your hat (An “All My Exes Live In Texas” reference, in case you missed it) check out this very resourceful site with App. 2. Buying. Avoid dried out beets that don’t feel heavy enough- fresh beets will be heavy and firm, smooth and divot free- roots should also be firm and greens should be vibrant, brightly colored and moist. Avoid large beets- they are tough. 3. Storing. a.) Greens. Immediately cut greens from beets an inch or two above beet. Thoroughly wash all dirt from greens and spin dry in a salad spinner- it will take a few washes as beet greens are often rather dirty even if the greens do grow above ground. Greens can be stored, loosely covered in the fridge, for a day or two, but are best cooked as soon as time permits. b.) Beets. Place beets in an open bag in crisper drawer of fridge and wash well just before using. 4. Friendly Flavors. Looking to improvise? Try any of these other additions with beets- apples, carrots, cheese (feta, goat), fennel, garlic, ginger, herbs (chives, mint, parsley, tarragon), onions, orange, shallots, vinegar, walnuts, watercress and/or yogurt. 5. Cook. Roast/Bake, Boil, Steam, Raw, Pickle.
Oh The Horror! The V Slicer or Similar Cutting Devices. Short of an electric deli slicer, there is nothing like a V Slicer (the Fancy French call it a “mandolin”) to get the thinnest of cuts on vegetables. Most of the members of this family, especially the youngest one, get the heebie-jeebies whenever I use a V Slicer, thinking my fingertips and palms are in imminent and grave danger, but I’ve been using these types of slicers for decades without bodily harm. Still, if your comfortable using a V Slicer, the Dad in me also vehemently directs that you always use the safety guard that comes with these slicers and I’m kicking myself for not showing the guard in the picture below. Another safety feature, that is not included when you buy a slicer, but that some use along with the guard (also not pictured below- Bad Dad!) are cut resistant gloves. Oh, and as for the V Slicer- here’s a slicer like the one I use. A vegetable peeler, a cheese planer, a food processor, or a sharp knife can also get the thin slicing job done, but these are also sharp objects, so be careful and like scissors, definitely do not run with them.
Beet Greens InstaRecipe. 16 ounces (about 8 packed cups) of clean beet greens with stems will give you 4 servings as a side. In a large pot, with a cover at the ready, sauté a diced onion until it starts to brown, stir in a tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of brown sugar, an optional minced garlic clove, a big pinch of kosher salt, and then add thinly sliced beet stems for several minutes until they start to soften. Add thinly sliced greens, cover and cook until wilted, about 10 minutes. TASTE and adjust salt, vinegar and/or sugar as needed. An easy way to thinly slice beet, or any other leafy greens, is to stack about 10 leaves, roll the stack into a tight cylinder and thinly sliced the rolled greens- repeating until all greens are sliced. The Fancy French call this type of cut a “chiffonade”.
Kümmelweck Bun InstaRecipe. I don’t think I’ve ever seen kümmelwick rolls in the markets anywhere we’ve lived, but you can create an easy home version by brushing the tops of Kaiser or any sturdy burger rolls (whole rolls should be cut in half in advance to keep more seeds and salt on rolls) with a mix of an egg white and a tablespoon of water, sprinkling the roll tops with caraway seeds and coarse salt and baking the rolls on a sheet in a 325 oven until the toppings set- about 5 minutes.
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