Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chopped beef sandwich with a spicy barbecue sauce

chopped beef sandwich and spicy barbecue sauce

Last month, when I driving down 290 on my way to my cousin’s wedding weekend in Bryan, I passed my alma mater—Cy-Fair High School. School wasn’t set to begin until the following week, but I saw lights shining on the football field and the stands filled with people decked out in our school’s colors—maroon and white. It took me a second and then I remembered it was Friday night. I quickly exited the highway, turned around my car and headed back to campus to see what was happening.

When I pulled up to the field, I saw a sign announcing a pre-season scrimmage between Cy-Fair and Tomball. There were no cheerleaders, and the marching band was practicing its songs and routines in the parking lot, not in the stands. But it was Friday night and the lights were lit. And even if this game didn’t count—the level of energy and excitement was electric. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced since the last time I was at a Bobcat game my senior year in high school.

“Welcome home!” I said to myself.

chopped beef sandwich spicy barbecue sauce

Now, as passionate as my friends and I were about our 5A team back in the day, the true highlight of any game—besides the socializing—was the eating. Frito pies, chili dogs, roasted peanuts, dill pickles and popcorn were standard fare sold by the boosters at every game, a common menu found at high school stadium concession stands across the state. But some nights, the boosters would also offer their famous chopped beef sandwiches. And you know what? That night was one of those nights.

Chopped beef sandwiches are not only found at football games, but they're also found at most Texan barbecue joints, rodeos and local fairs, too. It’s a simple sandwich, as it’s just finely chopped brisket tossed in sauce and then stacked tall on a soft bun with pickles, onions and jalapeños. But when done well, a chopped beef sandwich is just as satisfying as a stack of sliced brisket and ribs on a sheet of butcher paper. Plus a sandwich is more portable, which makes it perfect for eating while watching a game.

Smoked brisket is the traditional meat of choice for a chopped beef sandwich. The sandwich I had at the scrimmage was no different, as before I even entered the stands I could smell the post oak smoke wafting from the portable smoker manned by the boosters. But I have a confession to make. Because this is a sauced sandwich, I can make them at home without a smoker and feel equally satisfied. This may get me in trouble with some purists, but when you have moist brisket, a spicy barbecue sauce, plenty of onions, pickled jalapeños and a tender bun, I believe you won’t miss the smoke.

For the brisket, I just slow roast it in the oven until it’s tender. While there’s plenty of flavor in the meat, I think the sauce is also important; I serve mine with a fiery, tomato-based sauce that was inspired from a recipe purported to be from Rudy’s. While I was intrigued that the recipe used both ketchup and tomato sauce, I ended up changing the rest of the ingredients to make it less sweet and more fiery. A spoonful of molasses, dashes of cayenne and cumin do their part. A generous helping of black pepper also gives this sauce plenty of power and life.

chopped beef sandwich and spicy barbecue sauce

Of course, you certainly don’t need a football game as an excuse to serve these chopped beef sandwiches, they are excellent at any time. But if you have a hankering for some rousing songs, a roaring crowd and the drama that can only be found on the field on a Friday night—eating these sandwiches might just take you back to that place, even if you haven’t visited in a long time.

Chopped beef sandwiches with spicy barbecue sauce

For the brisket:
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 3- or 4 -pound brisket, the flat cut, with some fat still on it
1 large yellow onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, cut in half

For the spicy barbecue sauce:
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Salt to taste

For serving:
8 warm buns
Sliced onions
Pickled jalapeño slices
Dill pickle slices

To prepare the brisket, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix together the salt, black pepper and cayenne, and sprinkle on both sides of the brisket. In a roasting pan, place quartered onions at the four corners and lay the brisket, fat side up, on top of the onions, so it’s slightly elevated. Place the garlic on top of the brisket, and add 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil and cook in the oven for five hours or until fork tender.

While the brisket is cooking, make the sauce. Mix together in a saucepan the tomato sauce, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, molasses, black pepper, cumin, cayenne and pinch of cloves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings and add salt to taste.

Once you take the brisket out of the oven (you might first check that it’s tender enough), let it sit covered for 30 minutes. Lift the brisket out of the pan and finely chop, adding some of the pan juices. Toss the brisket with some of the sauce until desired sauciness is achieved, and serve on warm buns with onions, pickled jalapeños and dill pickle slices, with additional sauce on the side.

Yield: 6-8 sandwiches

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Nicole said...

That bun looks amazing - did you make it? I won't have time to slow roast a brisket by lunch, but I might have to go out for a sandwich now!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Nicole--Yes! I used this cemita bun recipe, without the sesame seeds.

Anonymous said...

if we can't do brisket, what is another good cut of meat to use for this?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Chuck roast would be good--I haven't tested this recipe using it instead of brisket, but I'd probably only cook it for 2-3 hours.

Paige said...

Good lord, I love chopped beef sandwiches. As a kid, that was always my BBQ of choice at our local BBQ place. Next time my husband smokes a brisket, I will be making these.

Farmer Jen said...

Yum! Brings back memories of my college days at UT Austin. I think I will make some this week.

Cindy Sue said...

just snagged your recipes for chopped beef sandwiches and the frito pie, this is going to be great for movie night when the kids come over, thanks!

Little Black Car said...

We (Klein Oak High School) played Tomball for our homecoming game my junior year. We lost spectacularly. I forget the actual score but it was something along the lines of 64-10. Hilarious. Don't mess with Tomball.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Paige--They are pretty wonderful, aren't they? Enjoy!

Farmer Jen--Happy cooking!

Cindy Sue--Sounds like a fun movie night!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Little Black Car--Tomball is fierce!

Susan said...

I didn't realize you went to Cy-Fair! I just moved back to the Klein area (from Boston). I can't wait see your cookbook. I ordered extras to share with my friends back east!

Mark said...

Central Texas has some good BBQ. However, I respectfully suggest that if you find yourself headed to Bryan again, stop in Hearne at Toodie's BBQ near the north end of town. Only open Thu-Sat, but it's melt in your mouth. If you don't like it. I'll pay.


Muffin Tin said...

Well, there's something I haven't heard in a long time: Post oak. ... Very atmospheric post. I do love brisket.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Susan--Yep, I'm a Bobcat! The Klein area is so pretty with all of the trees, I love it. And welcome back!

Mark--It's on my list of places to visit. Thanks for the tip!

Muffin Tin--Nothing smells as good as post oak smoke.

Jennifer said...

Bobcat Fight Never Dies!

Julie said...

A friend always puts the contents of a bottle of beer in with seasoning very similar to yours with her brisket. I must say hers is quite tasty. You've shared another quintessential Texas taste here. Thanks.

Johnna said...

Oh man. I'm adding this to my 'Texas-style Housewarming' party (served alongside Frito Pie, of course) in a few weeks. With these grey German autumn days, my friends will appreciate a handful of brisket and barbecue to warm 'em up a bit!

Russell said...

Bobcat Fight Never Dies!

Craziness. I knew from reading off and on that you had spent some time in Houston, but I had no idea that you were also a Bobcat. Small world.

I'm also a misplaced Texan, though I've gone to the other side of the country – California. You would think that I could find plenty of Mexican food to sate my cravings, but try as I might, I just can't find a decent fajita. Los Cucos is always my first estimation when I'm "home."

Fortunately, your blog has given me some inspiration. Looking forward to getting a hold of the cookbook.

– Russell, CFHS c/o '95

Anonymous said...

Love this sandwich. What year did you graduate? I was Cy creek class of 1989 and went to Cy fair prom. My mom actually teaches 11th grade english at Cy fair (started teaching when I was in college). And while we are still here and not homesick, I bought and think your cookbook is great. Now if my 15 month old twins only gave me time and energy to cook! Jennifer

Aunty Pol said...

HEH..oh heck yeah chopped beef brisket..with the price of brisket beaing so dear, I watch the prices between Sams and Kroger and usually buy extra for the freezer...oh and Stubbs spicy BBQ sauce works in an emergency/pinch/decent lazy last resort.

Waving from Houston.

leXi said...

I'm about to head down to Fort Worth from PA and Railhead Chopped beef sandwich is my first stop! Definitely can't get bbq up here! Now I can make some when I'm back up here! Thanks!

Stacey! said...

Beautiful story today. There's nothing quite like a Texas town on a Friday night. I went to Smithson Valley, so I remember this feeling quite well. My parents still live in the area and go to almost all the home games. My dad will tell you with a smile and a wink that he's "just plum ate up with it". Mmm- chopped bbq sandwich. Now I think I'll get one from Bill Miller's from lunch today...extra pickles and onions, please!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jennifer--Indeed it doesn't!

Julie--What a great idea! Will do that next time.

Russell--Yep, I'm a bit older than you as I'm from the class of '87. Small world!

Jennifer--I just missed you by two years as I'm from the class of '87. And thank you for the kind words about the book. Hope you get some time to cook from it soon!

Aunty Pol--Good to know!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

lexi--Nope, they're hard to find outside Texas. Enjoy your trip to Fort Worth!

Stacey--You are so right--there isn't anything like it.

Anonymous said...

And did you celebrate with Friday Night Lights' Emmy awards.

Will plan these for pre-Thanksgiving supper.

Love the book.
Grandma J.

Nikki said...

Ok, what is the difference between a chopped beef sandwich with BBQ sauce and a BBQ Beef sandwich? Is it just the same thing with different names? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, I really am wondering if there is a difference that I need to be aware of.
Thank you!!

Jay W Cy-Fair '83 said...

Lisa, Such fond memories of Cy-Fair HS! I remember the Friday night rodeos every summer. Frito pie was my favorite. I had no idea you were a local. Great job with the blog!

AngelAggie said...

This week's post brought a tear to my eye! Being a native Texas I remember the Friday night lights, the roar of the AHS Wildcat fans, the feel of the grass I took my place amongst the rest of the band on the field, and of coarse the bbq! I'm excited to try your recipe, although Rudy's is right down the road! Thanks and Gig'em!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Great excuse to go buy a brisket for the weekend!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Grandma--These will be terrific for pre-Thanksgiving supper. I can't wait!

Nikki--BBQ beef sandwich could be sliced brisket instead of chopped.

Jay--Another Bobcat! I love it!

AngelAggie--There's just nothing like Friday nights in Texas. Love your memories!

Rocky Mountain Woman--Sounds like a good excuse to me!

Janus said...

Lisa, my first thought on reading this entry was that you need to donate a copy of your book to the school's library.

Kathryn | Dramatic Pancake said...

"less sweet and more fiery." Yes, please! The sandwich looks amazing and the sauce sounds to die for!

Anonymous said...

So enjoyed your trip down memory lane (even if the lane is 290). I have driven past Cy-Fair many times and there's something about that facade that makes it so distinctive.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

mmm, this looks pretty good indeed. One thing I have learnt to love about US sandwiches is that you use a lot of "noble" meat in them...and I LOVE IT.

Anonymous said...

Texan in the Bay Area here. I still have a house in Cypress and this post makes me miss home. Can't wait to get back. California is nice, but Texas is home... and a lot cheaper! - Rob

Anonymous said...

Oh, Lisa, you make me so heartsick for home on this Friday night. My family holds season tickets for high school football. Go Pearland Oilers!!!! They are playing at The Rig right now and I hope my boys are scoring big. And no matter how many BBQ places I try up here not one has had chopped beef. I am so making this! Lots of pickles...

Melissa in Connecticut

Shannon said...

So gonna make this next week!!!

Sally said...

I was planning to make brisket over the weekend, so made this with some of it. I used my own barbecue sauce, which is similar to yours, but smokier rather than spicier. I added some cayenne and black pepper to it when combining the brisket and the sauce. it was delicious! I'll be making this again -- and again. Thanks for sharing!

texichan said...

How funny! I went to Tomball for my last two years of high school, but grew up in Oak Ridge across from The Woodlands. Even when I went to Tomball I lived so far away from the actual school - right off Louetta and 249. I miss the area. I don't think I ever went to any football games with Tomball since I didn't know anyone there, but I love and miss Oak Ridge football games up in Moorhead Stadium in Conroe. And chopped barbecue sandwiches are definitely the best thing to eat while you're there!

Jimmie said...

When I left Austin for Prague I brought a 32 oz. bottle of Rudy's BBQ Sause with me. Priorities. :)

Anonymous said...

I made this recipe over the weekend and loved the brisket. The sauce, however, tasted too little like BBQ and too much like taco sauce to us. No worries, though. We simply switched to another BBQ sauce for the sandwiches and saved the other sauce for tacos the next day!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I forgot to put my name on my comment I just posted. It's Brandon - and I made the comment about tacos. I was't trying to be anonymous. I just didn't have time to sign up with an account to post with. :) Love your blog, by the way, and many of your recipes have become my favorites - Grandma's chocolate pie, especially.

perudelights said...

This BBQ sauce is delicious, very different from the flavors we are used to in Peru. The chuck roast is a good idea and I will try it next weekend. Thanks for the recipe.

Curt said...

You're making me homesick. I graduated for Robert E. Lee in San Antonio. in '74. What memories. Frito pie, chopped beef sandwiches. Oh yea!!

Kelsey said...

I'm an Oklahoma girl (now living in Phoenix) who made friends with two Cy-Fair grads during our college years in Washington, D.C. I miss those Friday night lights and the energy that goes with them. I recently won a copy of your cookbook in a blog giveaway and I can't wait to make a whole bunch of deliciousness that will remind me of home. I'm gonna chow down while I watch some good ol' college football!

Anonymous said...

I'm a former Bobcat myself, now living in Redondo Beach. We were the 50th anniversary graduating class, so we got to have gold in our tassle's at grad.

I serve this quite often, and it's served more frequently during football season!!

Nhiro said...

Holy cow, I graduated from Jersey Village HS. I'm upping your foodie cred by 400%. :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Janus--That's a good idea!

Kathryn--I'm always all for more fire!

Anon--I love that old facade.

Tuscan--We love our noble meats!

Rob--Ha! Texas is indeed cheaper!

Melissa--The Oilers are quite a team! I saw a bunch of fans with decorated cars heading to Dallas last year when I was home for the holidays. It made me happy.


Sally--So glad you liked it!

Texichan--Louetta and 249? That is far--perhaps you should have gone to Cy-Creek instead!

Jimmie--Priorities indeed!

Brandon--Sounds like you had a feast! Thanks for writing!

Perudelights--You're very welcome.

Curt--Yep, you can never forget that Friday night food!

Kelsey--Congrats on winning the book! I hope you enjoy it. Happy cooking!

Anon--Hurrah! Another Bobcat!

Nhiro--Why thank you!

Tara said...

Bobcat represent!! C/O 2003!! Glad we have some serious talent being churned out!

I guess it will always be home sweet home.

Leslie said...

Ah, Friday nights in Texas! Sure miss them here in Boston (Cy-Creek alum & Aggie here). Maybe I'll cook some of these yummy sandwiches and go watch Friday Night Lights reruns to steep in my homesickness. Keep up the fantastic blog!

lulumusing said...

I love the title of your blog. I'm away from Texas (Houston) part of the year, and, yes, there are things I miss about it. I've enjoyed perusing your posts and look forward to more.

Sherry said...

Cy-Fair was where my oldest daughter went to high school! Then they build Cy Falls and the other two went there..... We NEVER missed a football game...even had 'season tickets'!
Maryland doesn't understand Texas passion for high school/college football......

Class factotum said...

My college roommate, Anita Johnson, taught math and comp sci at Cy Fair until a few years ago. I knew when I was driving from Austin to Houston to visit her that I was getting close when I saw the footprints on the road.

Francine said...

I am making this tonight for dinner. The meat has been in the oven for 4 hours and the house smells great. Quick question: the apple cider vinegar goes in as part of the sauce? That is what I am going to do. Thanks for the recipe. We will be eating well tonight.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Tara--Bobcat fight never dies!

Leslie--Sounds like a perfect cure!

Lulumusing--Thank you!

Sherry--My brother went to Cy Falls!

Class Factotum--What a small world!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Francine--Yes! Thank you for spotting that. Recipe is now corrected. Enjoy!

Kelly Fisher said...

Lisa, I have been reading your blog for quite awhile but Greg Webb told me that you went to school with us...I could not believe it. How cool is that? I am from the class of 1983 and you are right....BFND!

Kelly Fisher said...

By the way, did you know there is a Rudys on 290 now? And, they are building a new one on Katy Freeway in Katy, too. Yippee!

Crissy Smothers said...

What a SMALL world! A co-worker of mine turned me on to your Homesick Texan cookbook. I am a "misplaced" Texan living in Charlotte, NC. I tried your Tacos al Carbon and Uncle Richard's red salsa last night...what a hit! I nearly cried when you said you were driving down 290 heading towards Bryan. I went to the high school on the "other" side of 290's tracks...Cy-Falls! I am terribly homesick (although the weather here in NC is wonderful) but reading your blog and making meals from your cookbook really helps!

Those chopped beef sandwiches...makes my mouth water just thinking of them! I went to Sam Houston State in Huntsville...we had an amazing BBQ place called McKenzie's. They have the BEST chopped beef sandwiches! My girlfriends and I had a ritual of visiting McKenzie's every Tuesday! Makes my heart ache that I miss Texas so much!

I'll be trying your chopped beef sandwich recipe soon...yummmm!!!

Anonymous said...

As with most recipes, I make it the first time exactly as the directions say. This needs no modifing. Really, really good! it's funny what a difference those pickle slices make.

Marci said...

Thanks for taking me down memory lane with you. I felt like I was right there with you (except I was out with the band in the parking lot!!) I haven't been back to Houston in probably 15 years but I can still envision all you wrote about. Congrats on the great success of your book, thanks for the amazing recipes and thanks for dedicating so much time and care to all of us Homesick Texans scattered about. These sandwiches, like everything on your blog, look great and will have to be made here soon! Bobcat Fight Never Dies Class of '87

Ron said...


I'm wondering if a 3-4lb brisket can really serve up to 8 sandwiches. I've seen other pulled brisket recipes that say a piece that size only serves 4.

Will I really be able to feed 7-8 hungry guys with a 4lb brisket?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Ron--Your yield will be about 2 pounds of pulled brisket. It depends on how hungry your guys are and how much meat you want to put on the sandwiches!

Ron said...

Thanks for the quick response.

1/4lb per person - that seems like a normal serving. Do you think that amount of meat would look generous on a hamburger bun sized bun?

For a point of reference, how much meat is on the sandwich in your picture?

Sorry for being so dense, but Ive never made anything like this and I want to make sure I have enough.

I just discovered your blog/book a few days ago. I want to make everything! Thank you so much!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Ron--Thank you for the kind words about the blog. If you are concerned with having enough perhaps you should make more just to be safe. It makes for fine leftovers! If you go up in pounds on your brisket, plan for adding 30 minutes per pound, but still continue to check it after 5 because not all briskets are alike in terms of juice content.

Ron said...


Just wanted to let you know how great this turned out. It was my friends birthday, and him being from Houston, I wanted to do something special for him.

I made these sandwiches, along with the cilantro and jalapeño slaw, and strawberry sheet cake.

I had more than enough brisket for 8 sandwiches, with enough for a few of the guys who wanted a second. The slaw bowl was practically licked clean and I was only left with one small piece of cake (I ate it this morning for breakfast).

Thank you so much for your advice - definitely buying a cookbook today.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Ron--Hooray! I'm so pleased the recipes turned out well for you and I know your friend from Houston really appreciated your kindness. Thank you for asking such good questions and enjoy the book. Happy cooking!

Ben said...

Hey Lisa,
I found some Australian brisket-cut. Not too sure if it's is the same as your Texas cut. Anyways, I quickly bought tEhem and searched for recipes in here. But i think my brisket has too little fat on it. I'll see if the butcher can give me more fat to play with. So for now, i'm testing to see if i can just get tender brisket. I also have your book and I miss Texas cooking!

Anonymous said...

You might want to note that, to make a Rudy's-esque sauce, the black pepper in the sauce should be coarsely cracked black pepper.

This is simply my opinion but the big, spicy chunks of black pepper is my favorite part of the Rudy's sauce!

Bill Austin said...

Yes.. doing this tomorrow. I have some awesome pull pork I did recently in the freezer and a garden bulging.
Luckily I have been back in Texas for 10 years after a 10 year hiatus. So I do know what it's like to be away. I went to Lamkin (I believe as I am class of '85 old age :)) elementary but moved many time from Jr high on wards and didn't go to CF did catch a year at JV. I will be doing the strawberry ice cream with guajillo chile and lime along with peach ice cream for the 4th.

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