Finding a regional specialty is harder then ever these days, due to hours and hours of programming on various food channels on the topic of what seems to be every food stand and Greek diner in the mainland United States. This process has largely democratized regional cuisine, which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing. It’s just hard to find something new, and discovery is legitimately exciting. Fish tacos? Now showing at your local Houlihan’s. Buffalo wings? Pick them up at any sports bar. Chicago-style hot dog? Pretty routine food at any decent-sized airport these days. But every so often, whether it’s sandwiches featuring french fries and coleslaw in Pittsburgh or fried peach and apple pies in the less heart-healthy parts of the South (which is to say, the entire South), we find something amazing and new to add to our bag of cooking tricks. And truly, that is a sweet day. This recently happened to me with the Buffalo specialty that no one outside of western New York seems to know about – beef on weck.
To answer your first question, beef on weck is a sandwich of rare roast beef, roasted and coated in its own jus, served topped with horseradish on a kummelweck roll. To answer your second one, a kummelweck roll is a Kaiser roll with pretzel salt and caraway baked into the top. The name comes from the German (Black Forest Region) for caraway (kummel) roll (weck). It was invented by an enterprising Buffalo tavern owner who rightly figured that a salty bun with horseradish and caraway would inspire his patrons to buy more beer. It’s currently championed by a number of Buffalo natives, including local restaurant owner Charlie the Butcher, whose excellent video helped me a great deal during early clumsy attempts.
It’s a simple recipe that yields almost inexplicably delicious results. Ever hear anyone call Buffalo Wing Wings “BW3s”? That’s because the original name of the place was Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck. That didn’t last long, and now they only sell weck in the western New York franchises. It’s our loss. Or it used to be.
The size of the roast is up to you. Obviously, you’ll get more jus from a larger roast, though it will take a bit longer. You can always go with a smaller 2lb roast and enhance the roast drippings with some demi glace or even the prepared beef jus that you can find is some stores. Buffalo-style weck comes with a lot of natural jus, but they have the distinct advantage of cooking off 40 pound roasts every day. Just make sure there’s a bit of flavorful liquid to complement your sandwich.
As for the Kaiser rolls, you’ll get a much better result with a bakery roll than the Wonderbread-style packaged rolls in the bread aisle. You can find good Kaiser rolls in the bakery section of any chain grocery store, so don’t slack on this. The roll is half the point of this dish.