The French dip sandwich, a classic American creation, has a history rooted in the early 20th century. Legend has it that the sandwich originated at Philippe’s, a historic restaurant in Los Angeles. In 1918, Philippe Mathieu accidentally dropped a French roll into a roasting pan filled with juices from the meat he was cooking. Rather than discarding the soaked roll, he served it to a police officer, and the French dip sandwich was born. The popularity of this flavorful creation quickly spread, and Philippe’s, still operating today, proudly claims to be the originator of the French dip.
The hallmark of a French dip sandwich lies in its simplicity and the au jus dipping sauce that accompanies it. Typically made with thinly sliced roast beef or sometimes lamb, the sandwich is served on a French roll. What sets it apart is the technique of briefly submerging the entire sandwich or just the top half in the meaty pan juices, creating a delectably moist and savory experience. The au jus, a flavorful broth created during the roasting process, adds depth and richness to each bite.
Variations of the French dip have emerged over the years, with different meats, cheeses, and condiments making their way into the sandwich, but the essence of the French dip remains its succulent meat and the delightful au jus that elevates the sandwich from a mere lunch option to a culinary classic cherished by sandwich enthusiasts around the world.
Here are 10 fun facts about French dip to know more about it.
- Accidental Creation: The French dip sandwich was reportedly created by Philippe Mathieu at Philippe’s restaurant in Los Angeles in 1918 when he accidentally dropped a French roll into pan drippings.
- Double-Dipping Dilemma: The act of double-dipping, or dipping both sides of the sandwich into the au jus, is a subject of debate among French dip enthusiasts. Some argue it enhances the flavor, while others believe in a more restrained approach.
- Original Recipe Mystery: While Philippe’s claims to be the originator of the French dip, another theory suggests that a restaurant called Cole’s P.E. Buffet in Los Angeles also independently created the sandwich around the same time.
- Au Jus Origins: The term “au jus” is French for “with juice” or “with broth,” emphasizing the rich, flavorful dipping sauce that accompanies the French dip sandwich.
- Choice of Meat: While roast beef is the classic choice for a French dip, variations featuring roast lamb, pork, turkey, or even pastrami have gained popularity over the years.
- Cheese Additions: Some variations of the French dip include melted cheese on the sandwich, adding an extra layer of richness. Swiss and provolone are popular choices.
- National French Dip Day: November 12th is celebrated as National French Dip Day, honoring this iconic sandwich and its flavorful legacy.
- Dipping Rituals: Purists may prefer to dip only the top half of the sandwich into the au jus to maintain the sandwich’s structural integrity, while others embrace the full submersion for an extra juicy experience.
- Inspiration for Other Dishes: The French dip has inspired variations like the “French dip burger,” which incorporates the essence of the sandwich into a burger format, combining the best of both worlds.
- Popularity Beyond Los Angeles: While the French dip has deep roots in Los Angeles, it has become a beloved sandwich across the United States, with variations and interpretations found on menus nationwide.
The French dip sandwich, born from a serendipitous kitchen incident in 1918, has evolved into a culinary classic celebrated for its simplicity and rich flavors. Whether you’re savoring the original creation at Philippe’s in Los Angeles or enjoying a reinterpretation with different meats and cheeses, the essence of the French dip lies in its succulent meat and the au jus that elevates each bite. It’s a sandwich that transcends its accidental origins, captivating taste buds and becoming a cherished part of American sandwich culture. The debate over double-dipping, the choice of meats, and the variations across the country only add to the charm and enduring popularity of the French dip. With its delicious simplicity and a history that spans over a century, the French dip stands as a testament to the timeless appeal of a well-crafted sandwich.