The definition of comfort food
This story and recipe was inspired by the Facebook group, You Know You’re From Aberdeen If…. Several of the historic pictures that I restored and posted often pop up on this group. I love to watch the comments flow from all around the world as people are reminded of nostalgic places and people around Aberdeen. There are two particular restaurants that always seem to capture tons of comments when they pop up. One is Lu’s Pizza, the other is the Virginia Café. Any time the Virginia Café is mentioned, comments about their Hot Beef Combination spring up. I find it humorous that the memory of this dish is remembered differently by some, inspiring others to quickly correct them. A white-bread, roast beef sandwich served with mashed potatoes and covered in gravy reflects the memory of most, so that’s what we made.
Why do you need a recipe in a magazine to teach you how to make a white bread, roast beef sandwich served with mashed potatoes and covered in gravy? Good question. If you think about a diner or café, they would have huge chunks of roast beef slow braising and constantly make mashed potatoes and gravy for a variety of menu options. And if you go to the trouble to make a pot roast, do you really want to instantly convert it to a “left-over” type meal? After making this, I would vote every time to skip the lovely pot roast dinner and go straight to the Hot Beef Combo.
I don’t like to make meals from packages, so gravy mixes and cornstarch were out (one comment specifically said the Virginia did not use cornstarch), nor do I like to buy stock or broth. But, feel free to use beef stock/broth in this recipe and you should be fine. If you want to make beef stock, locate a recipe and go for it. I don’t have enough space here to get into it. I like mashed potatoes to be just that, mashed potatoes. Make it however you like, but keep it simple. Our lovely white bread came from Palm Garden, but any white bread will work. // By Troy McQuillen and Dani Daugherty
1 tbsp canola oil
3-4 lb Beef Arm Roast
4 cups beef stock/broth
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Celery Salt
Directions: In a skillet, heat the oil then add the roast. Sear on all sides to develop a nice crust. Meanwhile, in a large crock-pot, add garlic powder, onion powder and celery salt and stock/broth. Turn to high. When the searing is done, add the roast and cook on high for one hour, then turn to low and cook for six more hours. Test to see if the beef easily separates or shreds, if it does, take it out, try to keep it in one piece, set a side to cool. Carefully strain the stock liquid into a large bowl, let cool, then place in the refrigerator over night. Wrap up the beef foil and place it in the fridge over night as well.
When preparing for your meal, make mashed potatoes, take the roast out and slice it about an eighth-inch thick. Take the stock out of the fridge and remove and save the fat cap that has formed on top. Place the sliced meat in a large skillet, add a few tablespoons of yesterday’s stock and simmer on low until it heats through. Get your bread ready.
1⁄4 cup beef fat from stock
1⁄4 cup butter
1⁄2 cup our
1 tsp browning sauce
4 cups reserved stock from roast cooking
Salt and pepper
Directions: Melt the beef fat and butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour and whisk until the rue turns a tan/golden color. Should take about 20 minutes. Gradually whisk in the stock (I try to avoid adding all the sediment from the bottom of the stock). To amp up the color and add more flavor, add the browning sauce. Continue to stir until it reaches a nice consistency, adding as much stock as needed. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add a ladle full of gravy to the simmering roast beef to coat all the pieces. Be gentle, or the beef will fall apart. Place two pieces of bread on a cutting board, spoon in a bit of gravy to coat each side (like buttering with gravy), layer on the beef on one side, top the sandwich with the other piece. Cut in half, put on the plate. Add a dollop of mashed potatoes between the halves, then ladle on as much gravy as you can spare. A garnish of chopped parsley is always nice.
We’ve never had the privilege of Hot Beef Combinations from the Virginia Café, but it remains a popular dish on many menus around Aberdeen.