Many people who grew up outside the South think that all Southern food is the same. But this is far from the truth. You can live one county away and your food experience and your definition of Southern food is completely different.
Sheri Castle is my favorite Southern cook of that nature. I have known Sheri for many years. She is a fellow North Carolinian. She is a generous person and cook with a wry sense of humor and an extensive food knowledge of her Southern foodways. And those Southern food traditions differ in many respects from my Southern food experience. One day, we are going to get together and cook our respective Souths - me the Piedmont triad and her, the mountains of North Carolina.
Sheri is the first person to introduce me to Chocolate Gravy. I thought that it was a joke, but no, it is a very real thing and she is famous for popularizing it outside of Appalachia. She is also the first to introduce me to Pickled Pepper Pull-Apart Beef. I have to admit that once again, I had never heard of it until I was leafing through her new cookbook, titled "Instantly Southern." It is a book of Southern recipes adapted to today's newfound love of multi-pots and pressure cookers.
What appealed to me about this recipe - besides the fact that I had never heard of it before- is that it is super simple and a recipe that uses a pressure cooker to its best advantage. It's essentially a beef chuck roast that is pressure cooked and flavored by the brine of pickled peppers. Sheri told me that "it's the kind of recipe that you tell to your sisters and your neighbors and then everyone gives it their own little tweak!"
My tweak was to add beef broth to the pickle brine and use both mild banana pepper rings and spicier pepperoncini. And in the end, I opted to make mine into a hot "hoagie" with Muenster cheese and lots of crunchy pickled peppers. This is one "ugly delicious" sandwich! If you like an Italian Beef sandwich, you will love this one made heartier with chunks of tender chuck. I don't dip the bread because I don't like my sandwiches too soggy, but if you like to dip your bread, serve extra jus on the side. It is a perfect fall option when you've had your fill of chili and chicken wings.
PICKLED PEPPER PULL-APART BEEF
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes
This sandwich is adapted from Sheri Castle's recipe in her cookbook "Instantly Southern."
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
3-4 pound chuck roast
1 1-ounce package of Ranch Dressing and Seasoning mix
1 cup pickled banana pepper rings, divided
1/2 cup brine from peppers
1 cup beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
6 Hoagie Rolls
6-12 slices Muenster cheese, at room temperature
Condiments as desired
Place butter evenly over the bottom of the pot. Add the chuck roast. Sprinkle the top with the package of Ranch seasoning. Scatter the pickled peppers over the roast. Add the brine and the beef broth.
Cover and cook on High Pressure for 50 minutes. Let the pot release naturally which will be about another 20 minutes.
Uncover and let rest for 15 minutes. Spoon the fat off the top, or alternatively, let come to room temperature, cover the top of the pot with foil and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove the fat disc from the top and re-heat in your multi-cooker.
Break the roast into chunks. When ready to serve, place the cheese on either side of the bun. Add chunks of steaming hot meat to the bun. Top with uncooked pepper rings. Place a drizzle of the beef jus on the meat and serve extra on the side if desired. (If you prefer melted cheese, you can melt the cheese open-faced on the bun in a toaster oven or regular oven and add the hot beef and peppers to the melted cheese.)
Nutrition information per serving: 687 calories; 204 calories from fat; 23 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 160 mg cholesterol; 1780 mg sodium; 39 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 56 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."
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