No, this isn't a post about a kickass tavern somewhere in Lincolnshire, though I would love to stumble across a pub called "The Huntsman and Shrub" and mingle with the locals. However, it is about a sandwich and a class of cocktails that both have roots in England. This is likely to be a long post, so we'll skip most of the history lesson and jump right in.
The Huntsman (also sometimes called "The Shooter") is a fairly basic sandwich made with steak and mushrooms. Its name comes from the men who usually ate it, as it was usually made to take out on a hunting trip. Of course, anything that was designed to be packed into a saddlebag and hauled across hill and dale is perfect for schlepping across parking lots in search of fellow tailgaters. This is also a monster of a sandwich, so it is great for sharing.
The Huntsman Sandwich
- 2 lbs steak
- 4 oz Worcestershire sauce
- 2-3 TBSP whole grain mustard
- 1 TBSP minced garlic
- 1 round loaf of bread
- 1 medium onion
- 8 oz mushrooms
- Splash of Brandy
- 2 TBSP Butter
- 1 TBSP Oil
- Salt and Pepper
I'm using a very loose term when I say "steak" in the ingredients list. I used eye of round for my sandwich, something very few people would ever ask for straight off the grill. Ribeye, especially the cheaper, thinly cut steaks, would be a good candidate here, as would those unmarked slabs of beef that have been in your freezer for a while. What I'm saying is, don't worry if there are still marks from where the jockey was hitting it. We are going to marinate this beef, and you can just marinate longer if the meat isn't exactly high quality.
Mix together the garlic, Worcestershire, and mustard. Season the steaks liberally with salt and pepper and cover with marinade. How long you marinate is up to you - a couple of hours, overnight, or if you get busy and don't get a chance to mess with them, even a couple of days will do. Do keep them in a refrigerator if you are going with longer than a couple of hours*.
This is a good time to mention that the whole process of building this sandwich can take as little as an hour (if you aren't interested in marinating) to as much as a few days if you marnate and let the sandwich sit for extended periods. I'd advocate for starting on Thursday for a Saturday game, but throwing the whole thing together quickly is going to give you decent results.
Now that we have the steak marinated, we need the mushrooms. Baby portobellos are my go-to, but anything you want to use will work. Slice or dice the mushrooms according to what texture you want. I like to bite into pieces, so I go with thick slices. Cut your onion to match, either slicing slightly thinner or dicing slightly finer than the mushrooms. Melt your butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add onions and saute briefly, then add your mushrooms. The mushrooms will start to absorb the butter, so keep everything moving so you don't stick and scorch. If/when the pan seems too dry, splash in some brandy. If it still seems dry, add a little more brandy. If you still can't get it right, drink the brandy and give up. Turn your heat to medium and add the marinade from your steaks*. Bring to a hard simmer, then place on low and cover until further notice.
*Be careful with all this raw meat. Everything I'm telling you is perfectly safe assuming you have fresh ingredients, a clean kitchen, and a good immune system. If you have any reason to worry, then certainly make sure you refrigerate your steak as it marinates and throw away the liquid it was in. Make a fresh batch to put in the mushrooms, or improvise with some other flavorful liquid.
To prepare your bread, cut the top off and remove most of the inside. Now, when I say cut the top off, I don't mean slice it in half. You want to leave a tall edge to hold everything in. Every loaf is different, but a good rule of thumb is to try to leave about a half-inch on the sides. If this is all too confusing, just drink some more brandy and invite me to your tailgate.
The last thing before building your sandwich is cooking your steak. I'm going to assume you all know how to do this, so I'm not going to say much about this. Once the steak is done to your liking, put one directly inside your hollowed-out bread. Don't let it rest or wait for it to cool, just slap it in. Cover this steak with your mushroom and onion mixture, and then cover that with more steak. Slather the top of the bread with as much horseradish as you can stand, and then a little more because there are two pounds of damn steak in this sandwich.
At this point, you technically have a sandwich, and if you just don't have the energy to keep working on it, I understand; I'm tired just writing about it. But the next step is definitely worth the effort, and I've even made it better through plastics!
In order to make take The Huntsman out on the trail without it being befouled with horse hair and bubonic plague, the whole thing was wrapped up and tied up like a Christmas present. Even today, most recipes show a very intricate process involving foil, plastic, parchment and string (not "piece of string") that yields a sandwich worthy of Pintrest. This is all lovely, but also a lot of work and a waste of time. Instead, we need three large pieces of plastic wrap, our hands, and something heavy, like a cast iron frying pan.
Wrap the sandwich in the plastic wrap, one piece at a time. You'll want to have the seams on top, and you'll want to alternate directions, because the next step can get a little messy. Once your Huntsman is secure, push down on the whole thing with your hands. Keep moving around the top, pushing down to mash everything together. If the sides get a little out of round, push them in as well. The whole point is for the sandwich to become one with itself. Once you are done mashing it down and pushing it back into a mostly-round shape, set your big pan on top, weight it down with whatever canned goods you have handy, and walk away. An hour should be plenty of time, but you can leave it as long as you'd like. Again, the refrigerator might be good if you are doing this a day ahead, but make sure you let it all warm up before serving.
Since you have at least an hour to kill and a mild buzz from all the brandy, let's go ahead and finish the drill with a cocktail.
I'll either be accused of being a hipster or a lunatic for suggesting vinegar as in ingredient for a cocktail, but damn if it doesn't work. Hearkening back to Colonial times, shrubs can refer to either the base (fruit, sugar, vinegar) or the cocktails that are made with them. Technically, there doesn't have to be any alcohol in a shrub, so if any of you are looking to experience all the tedium of mixology without any of the fun, this is as good a place as any to start.
To make the base, you can either use a hot or a cold method. I've only tinkered with the cold method, as everything I've read says it gives you better flavor. Start with about a cup of chopped fruit (fresh, not so fresh, frozen). If you are using berries, either cut them or mash them up a bit. What we want is to draw the juices out, so the more exposed they are, the better. Cover with an equal amount of sugar, mix and refrigerate. How long? At least 2 days, or up to a week. The longer the fruit sits, the more juice you get. Shake your mixture daily to redistribute any undissolved sugar.
Once you have waited as long as you care to, strain the liquid off your fruit. I recommend a chinois to help extract as much juice as possible, but a spoon and a fine strainer will work fine. If you have one of those Jack LaLanne Juicers, you could probably ruin it putting all this mess in there. Reserve the liquid and any sugar still left undissolved. The spent fruit would probably be good on ice cream, but that's another post.
We are pretty deep into this post, so I'm not going to say a whole lot about vinegar here. I will say that most things I've read suggested a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar to vinegar, and that most of the people who wrote said things are sadists. You are going to want to measure the liquid you harvested from the fruit, and then add at most 3/4 as much vinegar to it. You'll get plenty of the refreshing bite without masking the fruit or making it taste like cleaning solution. As to the type of vinegar, I'd start with either red wine or cider. I've dabbled a little with white and balsamic, and there are a million other types to try, but red and cider are pretty safe and work with just about everything. For the recipes below, I used a 2:3 ratio of cider vinegar to peach juice and a 1:2 red wine:blackberry since there was less sugar in the berries. Much like the blintzes last week, you're probably going to have to screw up a time or two before you get the hang of it.
Traditionally, these bases would be mixed with some sort of booze and/or seltzer water to make cocktails. Though I'm not usually one for sweeter drinks, I would definitely recommend that you steer toward some extra sugar if you decide to experiment on your own. The vinegar adds a refreshing bite that can be very clean, but it can also be very overpowering, especially the first time you taste one.
Now that you have your base, here are a couple of recipes to try.
The Funky Navel
A good intro to shrubs is through a modification of a classic, The Fuzzy Navel. The addition of tangerine brightens the drink and helps hold off that first hit of vinegar until the end of the first sip.
- 1.5 oz Peach Shrub
- 1 oz Vodka
- 3 oz Tangerine-Orange juice
Mix over ice. Garnish with fresh orange or tangerine slices.
I don't have a name for this or a picture, as I've sampled too many iterations to really give a damn at this point. However, I will say that blackberry and brandy are a natural pairing, that the fizz of the club soda is a nice compliment for the darker flavors, and the simple syrup is a must. I also tried this with a base I made using blackberry preserves, and it was surprisingly serviceable.
- 1 part blackberry shrub
- 1 part brandy
- 1 part simple syrup
- 1 part club soda
Shake together shrub, brandy and syrup. Pour over ice and top with club soda.