The Great New Orleans Ferdie Po’ Boy

These are so over-the-top you don’t even find them at every po’ boy restaurant in New Orleans.  Pioneered by Mother’s Restaurant, this classic is variously interpreted as a roast beef po’ boy with ham and cheese or a ham and cheese po ‘boy with roast beef debris.  Mother’s didn’t have cheese — it was just a slice of ham thrown on under the generous roast beef and gravy.  Here we went VERY light — too light, in any traditional sense — on the gravy, because the teak-staining risk of serving soupy sandwiches underway was just too high.  We made it more of a rich roast beef sandwich with the ham and cheese topping.  Dressed, of course.

Ferdie Po’ Boy (Ham & Cheese With Roast Beef Debris)

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For Roast Beef Debris
3-4 lbs beef chuck roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, quartered
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon seasoning salt
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs each parsley, thyme and oregano (or other compatible fresh herbs)
1 cup beef broth (can be made with bouillon)
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2/3 cup red wine
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
10-15 dashes hot sauce (Tabasco or Crystal)

For Sandwiches
French bread
Deli ham and provolone cheese
Lettuce, shredded
Tomato slices
Pickle slices

Start by following Pirate Caroline’s recipe for pressure cooker roast beef, with a few regional alterations: first, it’s not “any seasoning salt you happen to have in your locker”…in New Orleans it’s Tony’s.  I SAID IT’S TONY’S.  Sprinkle liberally on both sides of the pot roast while it sits and comes to room temperature for a few minutes.  Heat the oil in your pressure cooker and sear to brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side on a medium-high stove.

A few additions to the “everything else” list to be added to the seared meat before sealing up the pot: I like to add a bit of tomato paste, and because I was using a sort of wimpy beef bouillon, I threw in a few fresh herbs (a couple sprigs each of parsley, thyme and oregano) as well as an extra bay leaf to liven things up a bit.   A little soy sauce helps deepen the flavor as well, and it’s obligatory to hit it with your hot sauce; we are Crystal people.  Seal up the pot and bring it to a high-simmer, then down to a low simmer for about 45 minutes.

Key is the french bread.  Most will say, and I can’t disagree, that you simply can’t make a po’boy outside of New Orleans because — like San Francisco sourdough or New York bagels — you really can’t get our light but crisp-crusted french bread anywhere else.  Go with the closest you can find, and if the bread is too dense, pull some of the white out of the middle after you’ve sliced it, which allows for more filling and a better bread-filling ratio anyway.

Working on a lunch like this when tacking up wind might not have been my best idea, but you do what you must, including EVERYTHING you can do on a serious heel, while the roast finishes.

When the roast should be done, turn off the heat and either let the pressure dissipate or, if yours has a handy release button like mine does, reach a long spoon handle in there and let it blow off some steam so that you can open it.  The meat should be falling apart fairly easily when pulled at with a fork.  You will have A LOT of liquid left — a truism of pressure cooking; if you are with extra time and a more stable serving environment, you really should consider turning this into a New Orleans style debris: shred about 1/3 of the meat into the juices, removing the rest to a plate to shred or break into bite-sized chunks (also remove the herbs to the extent you can find them floating around intact).  Bring the juices back to a boil, reducing a bit while adding a few teaspoons of cornstarch (dissolved first in a few tablespoons of the hot liquid, then added to the pot) to thicken into a meaty gravy.

For each sandwich, put a few slices of ham on one side of the bread, top with some chunks of beef, then provolone cheese.  Stick this in a 350 degree (or so) oven or under the broiler to melt.

Delicious, right?  And the cheese helps hold the whole thing together if you’re eating underway.  At this point you can add a good dollop of gravy if you’ve got that luxury.

Dress your po’ boys if desired: standard offer is lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayonnaise.  We dropped the tomato today because they didn’t look any good in the produce section and the paste in the sauce made up the difference.  I also go long on pickles because I can.

You will serve this to happy crew, even if it’s a challenge to eat!  Welcome to the Fellowship of the Ferdie, y’all.

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