In high school, when I was dating my first husband, we went to the drive-in movie twice a week. If you don’t know what a drive-in movie is, go Google it. I’ll wait. Ok, now you know that a drive-in movie is one that you watch on a giant screen from inside your car. When I was a kid the sound came from a speaker on a pole next to the car that you would pull through the car window. It had a little lip on the edge and you would hang it on the glass and roll up the window. There was a crank inside the car for rolling up the window. Years later, the sound came through the car radio. I think. But wouldn’t your battery go dead? OK, I just checked with my second husband and he says the key was just on auxiliary so the battery wouldn’t go dead.
Anyway, the point I was getting to, was not so much the drive in movie itself, but the concession stand at the drive-in movie. We always went to the local drive-in movie on Wednesday nights because it was a school night for me. On Wednesdays, we just had a soda and popcorn, because we had already had dinner at home. On Saturday nights we went to another drive-in theater about 20 miles down the highway. We ate dinner at the drive-in on Saturday nights. If you are old enough to remember, the concession stand had hamburgers, hot dogs, and nachos. None of that mattered to me. I didn’t care what movie was playing, or if we had already seen it on Wednesday night. I didn’t care if our speaker worked. I didn’t care if the line for the ladies room wound around the building, twice. I was there for one reason, and one reason only, the barbecue beef sandwich.
Let me tell you about it. It was a sloppy, barbecue-sauce-soaked bun with a thin layer of grainy shredded beef in the middle. The entire sandwich was shoved into a little foil pouch and kept alive under heat lamps. Some nights they were fresh, some not so much. But, I loved those sandwiches. Loved them. They had no redeeming qualities at all. I just loved them. Once in a while I would try one of the cardboard burgers shoved into little foil pouches, but it just wasn’t the same. There wasn’t enough ketchup and mustard in the world to make that thing right. I always went back to my beloved barbecue beef sandwich. Nearly fifty years later I still remember that sandwich.
Yesterday I decided fifty years is long enough without a drive-in movie-style barbecue beef sandwich. I had to right that wrong. Without a drive-in movie within driving distance, I was going to have to make the sandwich myself.
One chuck roast, slow simmered in the Crockpot all day, plus a doctored up Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce, and I nailed it!
It was sweet, tangy and messy with a sloppy, sauce soaked bun. It was everything I remembered, minus the foil pouch.
Michael and I liked these sandwiches so much, we ate the leftovers again tonight, minus the heat lamps.
I am not going on and on about this sandwich because the recipe is fresh and new. This thing is not complicated or innovative, its old school. That is the best thing about it. Food should evoke emotions and reconnect us with the past.
Quinoa, kale, and chia seeds are all the rage now, but do they have the staying power of this sandwich? Fifty years from now will my granddaughters be waxing poetically about edamame and Farro salad? I doubt it. But, if I make these drive-in-movie-style barbecue sandwich for them, and shove them into little foil pouches, then they’ll have something to talk about! I will move this to the top of my bucket list. The death of the drive in movie should not also include the death of the drive-in-movie-style barbecue sandwich!
I served the sandwiches with homemade double-fried French fried potatoes and spicy pickles. At the drive-in movie, I would have had a giant dill pickle, pulled from a big jar, and of course, bagged for the walk back to the car.
Memories, like the corners of my mind, misty watercolor memories…..oh, just make the sandwich!
- For the sandwiches:
- 1.5 pound chuck roast (cut into large cubes)
- 1/2 large onion finely diced
- 1/2 envelope McCormick pot roast seasoning
- 1 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue sauce (any flavor)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Hamburger buns
- Butter (at room temperature)
- For the fries:
- 3 russet potatoes (peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch sticks)
- Oil for frying
- Kosher or sea salt
- Trim excess fat from roast and cut into large cubes, about two inches square. Add the meat to a slow cooker or heavy covered, ovenproof pan like a Dutch oven. Pour in water just to cover the top of the meat and sprinkle on 1/2 envelope McCormick's pot roast seasoning. Cook slowly for several hours until the meat falls apart. Time will vary whether you use the oven or a slow cooker. If cooking in the oven, set the temperature for 300 degrees.
- When the meat is cooked and falling apart, use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the meat from the cooking liquid. Discard the liquid. Allow the meat to cool enough to handle, then shred it with your fingers, discarding any fat or gristle.
- To a small saucepan add the barbecue sauce, honey, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water. Cook over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Set aside.
- Butter the hamburger buns and toast under the broiler until barely golden brown. Watch them constantly.
- Reheat the sauce in the pan and add the shredded beef. Cook until the beef is just heated through. Spoon the beef onto the bottom half of the bun. If you like, add a little mayonnaise to the top bun before putting it on the sandwich. Shove the sandwiches into little foil pouches if you have them, or just place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm until the fries are ready.
- For the French Fries:
- Heat cooking oil in a large, heavy pot with straight sides. 2-3 inches of oil is fine. Test the oil by dropping in one piece of raw potato. If it sizzles and floats to the top add the fries in 3 batches. Fry just until the potatoes become limp. Remove partially cooked fries with a spider onto paper towels. Turn off the heat and let the fries cool. Turn the burner on and re-heat the oil. Drop the partially cooked fries into the hot oil and cook until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels. Stir the fries around to soak up excess oil and season with coarse salt. Should be served immediately.