Ever wonder where the French Dip Sandwich came from? Contrary to the name, the sandwich does not have French origins, and was developed in Los Angeles in the early 1900s. Two restaurants claim it was first served by them – Philippe’s and Cole’s (both opened in 1908) – but there is strong controversy, even more than 100 years after the sandwich came about. Both restaurants are still in business, so if you happen to be in LA, you can check them out. It is thought that the name came about because the beef was served on a French roll, but there are a few other theories even about the name. The one fact that is certain is that this popular sandwich is absolutely All-American.
The original French Dip sandwiches did not come with dipping sauce on the side; rather the cut sides of the rolls were dipped in beef drippings or juices, making a “wet” sandwich. Nowadays, dozens of versions are served, most with a small bowl of dipping sauce. This classic sandwich is rarely made at home, and when served in restaurants and fast-food joints, is highly variable as to quality and taste. In fact, at most establishments, sliced roast beef (often pressed deli beef rather than the real thing) is served on substandard day-old buns which are dipped into au jus made from a packaged mix.
I once saw Caprial Pence do her version of a French dip on PBS, and her sandwich looked so good, I bought her book and made it at home. It was a hit. It was also a lot of work. I have since adapted her recipe for use in the slow cooker. Now that the multi-cookers are available, the meat is much easier to cook, since it can brown in the same pan as it is cooked. No worry if a multi-cooker isn’t available. The end result is the same if the roast is browned in a skillet and the meat is cooked in a standard slow cooker.
Slow Cooker Chipotle & Herb French Dips are a bit different from the classic, in that the cooking juices are much more flavorful and there is no need to use a mix; the slow cooker makes plenty of rich au jus for dipping. Make sure you use impeccably fresh rolls for your sandwiches; they should be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside – in other words, purchased or made the day of serving and not stored in a plastic bag to change the texture; soft rolls make for soggy sandwiches.
2 1/2 pounds top round roast
Coarse sea salt
Coarsely cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons granular beef bouillon
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
2 dried chipotle peppers, (2" long each) soaked in hot water for a few minutes and finely choppe
8 crusty French rolls
- Press a generous amount of coarse sea salt and coarse pepper on all surfaces of the roast.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or the pan of a multi-cooker (easiest).
- Brown the roast on all sides. If not using a multi-cooker, transfer the roast to a 4-6 quart slow cooker; scrape any dripping from the skillet into the slow cooker.
- Add the garlic, red wine, water, beef bouillon, thyme springs, shallots, and chipotle peppers.
- Cover, set the slow cooker to low, and let cook 4-6 hours or until tender.
- Remove the roast to a cutting board and let stand a few minutes before slicing into thin slices; return the meat to the slow cooker to stay warm.
- Pour the juices through a strainer over the meat slices.
- Slice each of the rolls and toast them (or not, as you prefer).
- Divide the meat slices between the rolls.
- Serve each sandwich with a small cup of the juices for dipping.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 287 Calories from Fat 65
Percent Total Calories From: Fat 23% Protein 51% Carb. 26%
Nutrient Amount per
Total Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Cholesterol 90 mg
Sodium 388 mg
Total Carbohydrate 19 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 37 g
Vitamin A 3% Vitamin C 1% Calcium 0% Iron 23%