Pastrami-Spiced Tri-Tip Sandwiches on Homemade Rolls

I love pastrami, but there are some real drawbacks to the good stuff.

1) The places with the best pastrami in NYC are crazy expensive. It’s worth every penny, but I can only eat $25 sandwiches so often.

2) So much salt. I mean, that’s part of why it’s good, it’s cured, etc., but I need to drink 10 gallons of water over the next two days to get back to my water-salt equilibrium

3) Pastrami is made from brisket, which is a pretty fatty cut. Fat = flavor, but when you eat a lot of red meat it’s good to try and eat some of the leaner cuts sometimes too.

4) Another note on brisket: it has to be cooked low and slow to get truly tender. Sometimes I want all that flavor without all that process, and I really do love me some medium rare beef.

So in order to combat these drawbacks, I took some tri-tip and rubbed it down in a pastrami-style spice blend. First things first: tri-tip. When I was growing up in CA, tri-tip was a pretty common cut to see at backyard bbqs. But for some reason, it’s not nearly as popular on the east coast; I had to call my butcher a couple days in advance and have him hold a couple for me. Why isn’t it as popular? I have no idea. But even without a grill handy, it’s an awesome cut that cooks quick and is perfect for slicing onto sandwiches.

The other thing we’re doing here is making some rolls. This was my first foray into baking rolls, so I’m hoping you can learn from some of the things that I learned. Also, a serious note on baking rolls at home; while these rolls were really good, and could definitely pass for store-bought, it’s tough to beat an experienced baker from some of the local bakeries around here.

Pastrami Spice Rub (for 3 lbs of tri-tip)

– 3 T olive oil

– 2 T ground coriander

– 1 T ground yellow mustard

– 1 T ground brown mustard (can do 2 T yellow mustard if brown is not available)

– 1 T smoked paprika

– 1 t salt

– 1 t granulated garlic

– 2 T ground black pepper

– 2 T honey

– 2 T worcestershire

– 3 lbs of tri-tip

Homemade Rolls

– 2 packets active dry yeast

– 1 T honey

– 2 T melted butter

– 2 t salt

– 4 c bread flour

– 1 egg beaten

– sesame and poppy seeds to top (optional)

– First, mix all your pastrami spices together, and then slather onto the meat. Cover and put in the fridge while you mess around with the rolls. If you decide to buy rolls instead of baking them, just make sure the meat has about 2 hours to marinate (longer is fine).

That's right, rub me reeeaaal gooooood.
That’s right, rub me reeeaaal gooooood.

– Now onto the rolls. Mix your yeast with 3/4 c warm water and the honey. Let sit for about 15 minutes, or until nice and foamy.

Yeast starts here...
Yeast starts here…
... and ends here.
… and ends here.

– Combine the rest of the ingredients with the yeast (but NOT the seeds or the egg), and knead until smooth,, stretchy, and cohesive (~5 minutes or so).

– Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

– Punch the dough down, and divide into 6-8 even pieces (depending on how big you want your sandwiches; the ones pictured were divided into 8).

– Shape into rolls, and place on your greased baking sheet a couple inches apart.

Don't be a fool like me: lay these out on the pan you're going to bake them on so you don't have to try and move them later.
Don’t be a fool like me: lay these out on the pan you’re going to bake them on so you don’t have to try and move them later.

– Make a shallow incision along the top of each roll.

“You piss me off you gonna get CUT,” I said to these rolls.

– Preheat your oven to 400 F.

– Cover rolls loosely, and let rest an additional 20 minutes.

– Pull your tri-tip out of the fridge while those are resting.

These have risen... these have riseeeeeen...
These have risen… these have riseeeeeen…

– Brush the rolls with your egg, and sprinkle some seeds on top.

– Bake for about 15 minutes (give or take 3-4 on either side, depending on your oven and the size of your rolls), or until golden brown. Let them cool enough to touch before you force one into your mouth.

“You know you want me.”

– If you have access to a grill, go ahead and grill that tri-tip over medium high heat for about 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 135 F. If not, use a cast iron pan with roughly the same instructions (will take slightly longer, but you can use foil to cover while it’s cooking to sort of emulate the lid on a grill).

Tri-tip sizzling away.
Tri-tip sizzling away.

– Let the tri-tip rest for 10 minutes, then slice it as thin or as thick as you want. As far as thickness goes, I wouldn’t go too far over the thickness of your index finger, otherwise it can be a bit toothsome on a sandwich.

Now you’ve got fresh rolls and fresh beef. You can go straight up with meat and bread, or feel free to top it however you want. I tried 3 variations:

  1. Caramelized onions and some gruyere or swiss cheese work excellently and was my favorite iteration.

    That stuff that looks like molasses is actually caramelized onions.
    That stuff that looks like molasses is actually caramelized onions.
  2. A little blue cheese coleslaw really lit up my tastebuds, and offered a little more contrast than the previous version.

    That coleslaw is just begging to get into your mouth.
    That coleslaw is just begging to get into your mouth.
  3. The classic: mustard, mayo, horseradish, and pickled onions. Amazing. Really let’s the pastrami spices shine.

    Did I get enough horseradish on there?
    Did I get enough horseradish on there?

And whatever you do, make sure you have some fresh dill pickles on the side.

FOOTNOTE: If you want to prepare you’re own horseradish you can, but I’m not sure it’s worth. Just grate about 12 inches of horseradish root, salt heavily, and add enough white vinegar until it’s saturated (a couple tablespoons should do it). Tastes EXACTLY like store bought (which is why you can rest easy just buying some).

Horseradish for days.
Horseradish for days.

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