What makes a great sandwich? Ask 10 people and you’ll likely get 20 answers. In my hometown of Chicago, it’s all about the Italian beef sandwich. In Philadelphia, it’s about a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. In Texas, it could well be a barbecue sandwich. In New Orleans, it’s all about the famous muffaletta. In New England, a well made lobster roll tops the popularity poll of great sandwiches. And the fun and flavor goes on and on.
In the past 10 years or so we have seen the rising popularity of the panini (pressed hot sandwich) and the continuing demand for a finely made sub sandwich (also known as the hero or grinder). The fact is that unless you are offering your customers a sandwich or three or more, your competition is eating your lunch (literally). It doesn’t take a whole lot of work to put together a sandwich menu. You don’t have to shell out major bucks to buy a decent press for making panini, and it’s a simple matter to line up a good suppliers or submarine rolls.
Now all you need to do is to take a look in your pizza prep table or walk-in. Or better still, bring in one or two extra ingredients and you will be on your way to putting some very tasty sandwiches on your menu.
Wen tasked with developing Five Great Sandwiches for this article, I took several factors into consideration. I went for those that were not too difficult to assemble, that had broad appeal; that had relatively low food costs, and that you could put together with many of the ingredients that are already in house. Also, I took into consideration sandwiches that can be delivered without too much difficulty.
First, let’s consider the eggplant parmigiana panini. Take a look at the recipe for the chicken Parmesan sandwich that follows. If you substitute breaded eggplant cutlets for the chicken, and sliced Italian bread for the roll, you will be serving one fine eggplant Parmesan sandwich. Once the sandwich is assembled, put it in the panini press until toasted and the cheese melts. If you do not have a panini grill, simply put the sandwich in a frying pan or sauté pan and weight it down.
Second, if your menu offers spaghetti and meatballs, you have almost everything you need to make a fine-tasting meatball sub (you will need a good submarine or grinder roll). Use your pizza sauce. Brush some of it on both sides of the roll. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan or Romano cheese over the tomato sauce. Put two or three (relative to size) meatballs in the roll. Spoon some hot pizza sauce over the meatballs. Sprinkle on some shredded mozzarella. Presto —you’ve created the perfect (and easiest) Meatball sub sandwich.
Now let’s take a look at what you already have in your pizza prep table: cheese, tomatoes, sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers, mushrooms, olives etc. Why not a pizza sub sandwich? Pizza sauce on the inside of the sub roll, add the cooked sausage crumbles, slices of pepperoni, mushrooms and olives. Add some shredded cheese on top. Give it some heat, and here we have another tasty sandwich.
Beyond using what you already have in house, consider a few of the classics like the muffaletta or an Italian wrap. For the wrap come up with a tasty and enticing name, like “Tuscan Wrap” or La Verdure. And you can actually use your pizza dough to create the wrap. You have to sheet the dough as thin as possible to about 10 or 12 inches in diameter. Now brush the dough with olive oil and throw it on the grill or give it a couple of minutes in the oven to cook it just a bit. Let the wrap cool. (You can make a stack of wraps and have them ready to roll.) The wrap should now be able to fold without cracking. To finish, lay some sliced mozzarella or provolone (about three or four slices) in the center of the dough (laying down the cheese first helps to prevent the wrap from getting soggy). Add cold cuts or arugula or vegetables or chicken –– use your culinary creativity. Now simply add some garnish (peperoncini, olives, etc. ) and serve.
Finally, here’s a recipe to try. For this chicken parmesan sub, prep as many chicken breasts as needed and hold. When the order comes in, assemble the sandwich and finish it off in the oven to melt the cheese and warm the sauce.
Chicken Parmesan Sub
Yield: One sandwich
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast ( 6-8 ounces) lightly pounded
3 tablespoons flour
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup bread crumbs (Panko works best)
1 soft submarine roll (7-8 inches long) split horizontally
Pizza or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
Dredge the chicken breast in the flour, dip in the egg (let the excess drip off). Press the bread crumbs into the chicken all over to coat. Saute in hot oil (or deep fry) the chicken breast until it is cooked through and golden brown.
Brush or spoon a small amount of sauce on both sides of the sub roll. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the sauce. If necessary, cut the cooked chicken breast to fit neatly into the sub roll. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the chicken. Put the sandwich half (open-face) in the oven to melt the cheese. Put the top on the sandwich and cut in half. Serve.