In addition to star Jeremy Allen White's months of training at restaurants, including Santa Monica's Pasjoli, much of the realism so many have attributed to TV's "The Bear" is due to the culinary supervision of chefs Courtney Storer and Matty Matheson, who also played handyman Neil Fak on the show. The culinary producers devised on-camera dishes for the FX on Hulu series and also served as inspiration and sounding boards within the writers room.
For Storer, the onscreen depiction of the Italian beef would need to be perfect. The former Jon & Vinny's chef grew up eating the sandwich with Christopher Storer, her brother and the show's creator. It's an item that contains memories of celebrations, of game days, of family get-togethers. As a child, years before taking her first kitchen job at Sonny's Express in Park Ridge, Illinois, she would order a beef there and break it into pieces to make it last throughout the day. For years after moving to Los Angeles, she questioned whether she should open a beef shop herself — and whether Angelenos would embrace or even understand it if she tried.
Then came "The Bear," her brother's longtime labor of love, and a time for her beloved beef to shine. For some, it would be their first introduction to one of Chicago's greatest culinary exports.
She and Matheson created two versions for the show: one more traditional to a classic Chicago beef shop, representing how Richie and the crew would originally make it, then another using Carmy's fine-dining techniques, which he'd try and employ on Day One of his return. Carmy's method incorporated cheffier methods, such as browning the beef before roasting it to layer more flavor and deglazing the pan with red wine.
"I really enjoyed making the beef with Matty because we didn't look back at recipes," Storer says. "We were like, 'What would we want to eat?' Or, 'How would this chef that comes from fine dining come in and give a spin on something that's done a specific way all the time?'"
They shot the pilot at the iconic Mr. Beef on Orleans, in Chicago, then built a working kitchen on a stage in L.A. that re-created the space but gave themselves more room for easier camera maneuvering — all while still re-creating the cramped, claustrophobic kitchen feeling, which ratcheted up the tension throughout the season. Roughly 30% of Storer's role was sharing her years of restaurant experience, helping the writers and actors make the show as realistic to chefs' lived experiences as possible. The other 70% of her role was cooking on set, preparing the food that would appear onscreen — and every day there was a food shot. The scent, she says, was torturous to the cast and crew — especially on the day that called for braciole, a highly aromatic dish of rolled steak in tomato sauce that cooks all day.
They'd walk by and say, "We just wanna know that we can eat it."
So how do you make a proper Italian beef? Storer shared her recipe and gave us a demonstration in her kitchen (see the video above). She says the recipe is very forgiving. She used beef chuck in her demo, but she's also used top round or top sirloin roast. She suggests that you choose the cut of meat that best fits your budget. The bread, however, is a critical component. It should be soft, American-style French bread, not crusty sourdough. Storer uses baguettes from the Chicago-founded Turano Baking Co., which is sometimes sold locally at Aldi supermarkets. We also found that Gonnella and Amoroso sandwich rolls, available from Smart & Final, have a good consistency. As for the giardiniera, Storer chefs hers up by using fennel bulbs in addition to the traditional carrot, celery and cauliflower, but she says that what you find jarred in your local supermarket or deli should work fine.
'THE BEAR' ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICH
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus several hours chilling time
Yields: Makes 8 sandwiches
This is the home version of the renowned sandwich featured on the FX on Hulu series “The Bear.” Its onscreen recipe was developed by the show’s Chicago-raised culinary producer, Courtney Storer — sister of “The Bear’s” creator, Christopher Storer, and former culinary director for L.A.'s Jon & Vinny’s — alongside chef Matty Matheson.
Courtney Storer uses beef chuck in the video demonstration above, but she’s also used top round or top sirloin roast. She suggests that you choose the cut of meat that best fits your budget. Soft, American-style French bread, not crusty sourdough, is a critical component. Storer uses bread from the Chicago-founded Turano Baking Co., which is sometimes sold at Aldi supermarkets; we also found that Gonnella and Amoroso sandwich rolls, available from Smart & Final, have a good consistency. Storer browns her meat with a quartered onion and a head of garlic halved horizontally; she says you can also brown the meat separately and then sauté six sliced garlic cloves, or even skip the browning step altogether if time is short.
For the giardiniera, Storer says that what you find jarred in your local supermarket or deli should work fine. If you want to make your own, any basic giardiniera recipe will work — you soak your vegetables with enough water to cover them and about 1/2 cup of salt for 8 hours or overnight, then mix your drained vegetables with a cup of white vinegar and a cup of olive oil, plus garlic, dried oregano, red pepper flakes and black peppercorns, refrigerating it all for 2 days before using. Storer distinguishes hers by using fennel bulbs in addition to the traditional carrot, celery and cauliflower. Many use sweet red peppers as well. If you like it hot, add jalapeño, sport peppers or, Storer’s preference, serrano peppers. She also likes to heat the vinegar with the aromatics (the garlic, oregano and spices) and pour that over the soaked vegetables with the oil.
Pack as much of the thinly sliced beef as you can into the Italian sandwich roll before dousing it with jus and adding your choice of giardiniera.
1 (4-pound) roast of top sirloin or top round, trimmed of fat
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 onion, quartered
1 quart reduced-sodium beef stock
1 tablespoon beef bouillon, preferably Knorr
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon celery seeds, optional
1 tablespoon paprika, optional
8 sandwich rolls, preferably Turano, Gonnella or Amoroso, or 3 soft baguettes cut into thirds
1 quart giardiniera
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Pat the beef dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Sprinkle the mixture all over the roast and use your hands to rub the seasoning into the meat on all sides.
3. In a large, heavy-bottom, oven-proof pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the roast and brown well on all sides, using tongs to turn it as needed, 7 to 10 minutes total. Remove the meat from the pan and rest it on a plate. Leave any rendered fat in the pan.
4. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until very fragrant and just barely beginning to brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute, being careful not to let it burn. Immediately pour in the beef stock, and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck-on bits of beef. Stir in the bouillon, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, crushed chili flakes, optional celery seeds, paprika and the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and 1½ teaspoons of pepper.
5. Return the beef to the pan and turn it a few times in the broth to moisten it all over. Slide the pan into the oven and cook, covered with aluminum foil, until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 125 to 150 degrees, about 1 hour. Remove from oven, let cool and then chill the beef in the braising liquid — pan and all — in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
6. Remove from refrigerator and, if desired, skim the layer of fat from the top and discard. While still cold, transfer the roast to a cutting board and use a large, sharp knife to slice the entire roast as thinly as possible — ⅛ inch thick or less (the thinner, the better). Meanwhile, return the pan with the jus to the stovetop over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Place the sliced meat in the pan with the jus and cook gently until the beef is warmed through and no longer pink, 10 to 12 minutes.
7. In the meantime, heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the rolls lengthwise, partway but not all of the way through the equator, leaving the top and bottom attached to each other with a 1- to 2-inch “hinge.” Lay the rolls on the parchment, open side down. Toast them in the oven until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
8. To assemble the sandwiches, hold a roll in the palm of one hand with the opening facing up and the hinge resting in your palm. Holding the roll over the pan of meat, use tongs to lift a few slices of beef out of the jus and nestle them into the roll. Allow for plenty of jus to moisten the bread, spooning more of the liquid over the meat if the bread is too dry. Fill each roll with as much of the beef as you can fit — and then add a little more. Garnish with giardiniera to taste.
Adapted from a recipe by Courtney Storer.