Saucy Beef-Filled French Bread

I made up dinner last night sort of as I went along, but it was based loosely on this stuffed french bread Pizza filling I’ve posted about before. I used to make it often when the family was smaller, but cans of chicken gumbo soup just aren’t that cheap, and our guests for dinner last night do not eat shrimp or other shellfish (or pork), so I had to improvise.

The results were very popular- All but one small child had seconds. A couple of the boys had four generous servings.

Here’s what we did:

I cheated and bought a largish packaged mix of something called Jumbalaya Rice (sort of like Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Jambalaya with Cheese, 8-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12) , but different. Ours didn’t have cheese, for one thing-) it was really just a spice rice mix, but I wanted to get a baseline for flavor, and this box made about three or four cups of very flavorful rice. Jenny started it cooking for me.

Start some ground beef and diced onions browing in a pan. I *think* I used about three to four pounds of ground beef. My 12 year old peeled two onions and my husband diced them.

Previously, I bought several loaves of French bread at the grocery store over in the corner where they put the day old/surplus/marked down bakery items.

These were 1.13 each.

Slice off just enough of the top to make a ‘lid’, and set them on a cookie sheet or a sheet of aluminum foil. Then hollow out the loaves. I do this by taking a serrated bread knife and cutting around the edge down to about an inch from the bottom.

Then use your fingers to tear out the inside of the loaf. Safe the pieces you rip out for a bread pudding, bread casserole, or croutons later.

I left the ‘lid’ semi-attached, but that isn’t at all necessary.

I continued to brown the ground beef and onions in a pan, a little at a time, removing the browned meat and onions to a bowl as the pan I had wasn’t big enough to do three or four pounds at once. We had a lot of peppers from the garden (ours and other people’s) and the HM diced them up for me (he used a zyliss food chopper)
I sauted the chopped peppers in the oil left from the fried ground beef.

Now, the gumbo soup in the original recipe moistens the meat and makes it nicely saucy. We have a basket of tomatoes from the garden, so my 12 year old took over browning the meat while I stuck four or five tomatoes (I think it was four romas and one small beefsteak) in the blender, coarsely chopped it with a knife (yes, while in the blender) and then ran the blender until the tomatoes were juice. I then simmered the juice on the stove to thicken it a bit. If we hadn’t had fresh tomatoes, I would have used some tomato sauce from a can.

Now comes a part that you just have to ‘by guess and by golly’ it, and I didn’t get a picture. Mix the cooked rice mixture, the ground beef, the cooked peppers, some ketchup, mustard, and some of the simmered blended tomatoes together, adding garlic and chili powder to taste as you go. I did not end up using more than about a cup of the tomatoes, and about 2/3 of the peppers you see above (I simmered the leftovers together for pasta sauce tomorrow).

Ladle the filling into the hollowed out French bread loaves. The filling we made was enough to fill four hollowed out French Bread loaves, and I had enough for one extra one, but I set the filling aside in the fridge for later.

Top with grated cheese. The general consensus is these were delicious but would be even better if the cheese had been mixed in with the filling or at least layered. Next time, that is what we’ll do.

Now either wrap each loaf in foil, cover the cookie sheet in foil, or, if you have a large enough pan, invert a baking pan over the top and bake the loaves at 350-400 degrees just until hot through the cheese is melted. This should take 20 minutes or less.
When done, remove from oven, remove covering, and slice:

You can eat these with your hands, but I prefer a fork. They are good hot or cold. As I said, certain young men (the 12-15 year olds) had four slices each, in addition to very healthy helpings of the beautiful salad our guests brought.

To recap (for ease of copying some semblance of a recipe, ingredients are approximate), for one french bread sandwich:
about a pound of ground beef
1/2 an onion
about a cup of diced peppers
1 cup of cooked rice
tomato sauce, either blended from fresh tomatoes or from a can- about 1/3 a cup- more or less, enough to make the mixture moist, but not soupy
spices to taste: There is a cajun spice mix you make from scratch here
extra garlic
Ketchup to taste (about four tablespoons)
mustard (about two tablespoons)

Brown meat with onions and spices in a pan.
Brown peppers
Simmer tomato sauce if you made it fresh by blending garden tomatoes
Combine all ingredients except bread in a bowl, mix well.

Slice off the top of the roll of French bread. Hollow it out. Fill with meat mixture, return top slice to the loaf. Wrap all in foil or cover with baking pan and bake until heated through (about 20 minutes at 350).

We had enough filling for five loaves, and because the tomatoes and peppers were free, this came out to about 3.70 for each loaf. On the other hand, that price is based on buying a packaged mix for the rice instead of making the rice from scratch as I normally would, so probably the price is about average (keeping in mind that ALL the ingredients in this recipe were purchased on sale or given to us for free). I only ever buy meat that is on sale.

This would be good with mushrooms, too, I think, though Jenny would disagree.
We fed 11 healthy appetites with this (there were only six of us here, and the Cherub couldnt eat it because of the bread and the packaged rice mix) and only ate two full loaves and about 1/2 of a third- we have an untouched loaf leftover for lunch and enough filling to make another loaf (I figured the cost of the extra loaf into the cost of the meal).
It’s a very flexible recipe, so you could add or delete ingredients based on what is in your hand, and you could also make the french bread from scratch. I never make French bread, but you probably could.=)


Another variation here.

Linked at Tuesday Tastes at Crazy Daisy
Also linked at Beauty and Bedlam’s Tuesday Parade of Foods for Tasty Tuesdays.

Dining With Debbie’s What’s on the Menu Wednesday is another great source of good eats.

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