Thursday, March 17, 2011

Smoked Pastrami & The Blue Max

It's St. Patrick's Day so we are supposed to be eating corned beef, drinking green beer, and pretending to be Irish even if we don't have an ounce of Celtic heritage in our DNA, right?  

When I think of corned beef I can't help but remember European Street Cafe in Jacksonville, FL and their huge deli sandwiches.  Stacked with piles of meat and accompaniments, their double and triple decker sandwiches were as delicious as they were tall.  One of my favorites was the Blue Max, a variation of the Rueben.  It was piled high on rye bread with smoked pastrami, hot mustard, corned beef, melted swiss, sauerkraut, and blue cheese dressing. 
"Only" a double decker...
To make my own smoked pastrami, I used one of those standard corned beef brisket flats that you get at the supermarket.  You know the ones -

To cut the salt content, I soaked it in a bin of water for half a day.  I kept it refrigerated and swapped out the water every 4 hours.

Next I dried it off and heavily applied the dry rub:
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp espresso salt
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp corriander, ground
1 1/2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp tri color peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp mustard, ground
1 tsp dried minced garlic

I smoked it in the Big Green Egg using cherry wood and coal.  I went a little higher temp of 275f until it reached an internal temp of 165f.  You could do the same thing on your grill if you set it up for indirect cooking and add wood chips, chunks or "smoke bombs" (wood chips in foil packs). 
Lining your drip pan with foil makes for easy clean up.

Then I switched to direct heat, opened up the vents to increase the temperature and did a reverse sear to get a darker color.  It only took a few minutes per side to accomplish that.

I put it in the fridge until I was ready to use it and then steamed it to warm back up.  This is a trick I picked up over at the BBQ Addicts.  They say it makes a more moist and tender pastrami like the NY delicatessens do.  I ended up steaming mine about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get it up to an internal temp of 190f. 

Sliced nice and thin, it is hard not to eat it all right then and there.

The Blue Max
adapted from European Street Cafe
3 slices rye bread
4 oz smoked pastrami
1 Tbsp sweet hot mustard
2 oz corned beef
2 slice swiss cheese
1/4 cup sauerkraut
1 Tbsp blue cheese dressing

Top one slice of bread with the pastrami, one piece of cheese, and another piece of bread.  Heat with the cheese side down on a hot griddle for 2 minutes. You are trying to crisp what will be the center piece of bread and melt the cheese here.  Remove from griddle.

Put back on a plate with the toasted piece of bread facing up.  Slather it with the sweet hot mustard.  Top with the corned beef, sauerkraut, blue cheese dressing, the other piece of cheese and the last piece of bread.

Place on a hot griddle for two minutes.  Flip and toast the other side for 2 minutes.  You could use a flat top griddle inside, but tonight I used my griddle insert for my Craycort cast iron grill grate system.  I figured that the pastrami was cooked with live fire so the sandwich might as well be grilled that way!

Quarter the sandwich and serve with chips.  Unhinge your jaw and eat it like a snake.
One quarter was missing for uh....quality control, yeah, that's it.
Now if only I had one of European Street Cafe's two hundred beer brands to wash it down!

Speaking of brisket, here are a few tips for smoking brisket that I learned from Chris Lilly at Kingsford University this month.
  • He cooks competition briskets to a higher temp (200f) because he is only concerned about getting one part of the brisket to the right temp.  But when cooking for friends and family, he pulls 185-190f because it gets the whole brisket done better.
  • Chris doesn't separate the point for burnt ends until after the whole brisket rests for an hour after the initial cook.
  • Chris doesn't inject his brisket.
  • Three words:  Worchestershire sauce powder.  I have to find this stuff.  
  • Robyn of Grill Grrrl carries a thermapen in her purse.  A pink one.  
And here is one of his recipes for barbecue beef brisket courtesy of Kingsford Charcoal and Chris Lilly.  


  1. I will have my version in the smoker in the morning. I will be using the WSM because I am Eggless. How did it taste before the steam treatment? I was wondering about pulling it at 165?

  2. It looks like the dreamiest club sandwich EVER!

  3. I have a friend who is Irish (born and raised there) who runs a specialtly cheese and sausage shop in Denver. I was so surprised when he told me the Irish don't eat corned beef for St. Pat's. Seems it's an Irish/American thing. Go figure.

  4. That sandwich looks to die for! I wish you guys lived closer, we would have so invited ourselves to dinner :)

  5. Love that first photo. What a wonderful looking sandwich. The addition of blue cheese is so interesting on this. I had pizza and chicken wings for St. Paddy's day. With some green a bowling alley. :/

  6. You have now reached Demi-God status with this sandwich!

  7. that is a SERIOUS flavor fest! delicious. this was actually my first year having corned beef, where has it been my whole life?

  8. This is totally my kind of sandwich!

  9. Your right about pan seared, the sauces are awesome!

    This looks good! A friend made a corned beef last night and I actually thought she meant she made it from scratch, but once I tasted the salty'ness of it, I knew it was a packaged thing. My mom made them each year, and I loved it. I may have to break down and make another one, this time I will freeze some portions for my meals. Hubby is not a fan, so I do not do it often.

    The grill is screaming at me today, so I am off to the market now!

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  11. This looks amazing my friend. You know how to bring a corned beef sandwich to a new level. Those New York delis have got nothing on you. Awesome.

    Have a great weekend.

  12. I probably wouldn't have been able to hold out for the sandwich. I would have made a meal out of those pastrami slices. No bread or condiments needed.

  13. You know Chris I don't even especially like pastrami but as always you have me drooling and craving that sandwich straight out of your photo (it reminds me of the delis down in Ft. Lauderdale where I was raised) - and then you just had to mention beer too didn't you, I give up alcohol for lent every year and I'm not even catholic! Corned beef for the non-Irish and lent for the non-Catholic, hmmm.

  14. I died in a fit of laughter when you said "unhinge your jaw and eat it like a snake." On the very same day I wrote in my post "eat it like a shark." We must have been thinking the same thing. LOL!

    That is a serious sandwich, Chris!

  15. The sandwich looks incredible - pastrami is one of those things I love and you rocked it. The blue cheese is unique!

  16. You had me at Pastrami and then again at Bleu Cheese and now I'm openly drooling! Awesome!

  17. OMG - That pastrami looks amazing. I am going to have to try this soon. Thanks for the recipe Chris!

  18. Still trying to get caught up on my reading, but I had to comment on this post! That sandwich looks amazing - and I would never have thought of steaming it. Great idea! I want to know more about smoke bombs and hope they'll work in my gas grill. Lastly, I used to watch my snake eat and I think I prefer a fork and knife. Have a "grate" day. :P


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