John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was a piece of work himself, but the sandwich was born when he came up with the idea of putting meat between two slices of bread so he could continue to play cards without interruption or without getting the cards greasy from eating meat with his hands. Great story. True or not, it doesn’t matter, because the word “sandwich” is now an important part of our culinary inventory. At its simplest, a sandwich is bread with something in between. Simple, yet so complex. Today, the sandwich takes on many forms and pseudonyms: Grinder, hero, sub, hoagie, torpedo, bahn mi (Vietnamese sub sandwich) and po’ boys are all sandwiches in one form or another.
Because I have so many personal favorites, I was a troubled soul for a week or more trying to narrow my sandwich choices down to only a handful based on the space allocated me for this story. Some of my favorites are those that are thrown together using leftovers. For example, when I was growing up, Sunday night was sandwich night. I would take some of that eggplant parmigiana leftover from Sunday dinner (which was always at 12 noon) and slap it between two slices of Italian bread. No heat to this one, just a simple (yet simply delicious) eggplant sandwich .
Any great sandwich starts with the bread. White House Subs in Atlantic City uses a special unique-in texture- and-flavor-bread (made at a bakery within the same block) for its subs. This hole-in-the-wall shop sells upwards of 500 subs a day –– they’ve gotta be doing something right. In Chicago, the sandwich of note is the Italian beef sandwich. Any place worth going to for an Italian beef uses a first-rate Italian or French bread roll (or a three-foot long baguette, cut to size) that is crusty on the outside with a soft texture underneath (the soft texture helps to sop up some of the “juice” of the beef).
In New Orleans, the famous muffuletta requires a certain style of bread to carry it off. The round sturdy loaf (about 10 inches in diameter), similar in heft to a focaccia, has to hold up considering the load of cold cuts and the olive salad that goes into its makeup.
In that regard, the five WOW! Sandwiches I came up with all use good bread (or in the case of the turkey wrap, an excellent fl our tortilla). And, of course, some tasty stuff to fi ll it up. Where do you get the bread? Sample, try, taste and test, until you get exactly the right stuff. A great sandwich is nothing without great bread. Otherwise eat the cold cuts with your hands, or stop playing cards. Now, onto the recipes. Note that all of these sandwiches make one serving. All can be scaled up in direct proportion.
1⁄2 cup each green and black olive, pitted, coarsely chopped
1⁄3 cup diced celery
1⁄3 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fl at-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine and toss all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. * If making the olive salad is too daunting, simply purchase any good brand of mild giardiniera.
One 10-inch round loaf of bread, thick enough to cut in half horizontally.
Scoop out some of the soft dough from the bottom half of the loaf to form a well for the olive salad.
4 slices mortadella
4 slices Genoa salami
4 slices provolone cheese
Spoon the olive salad into the well of the bottom half of the bread. Layer on the meats and cheeses. Cover with the top of the bread. Press down to fl atten the sandwich a bit. Cut into four wedges. Serve. (Sandwich, including olive salad, can be made ahead up to 30 minutes without refrigeration.)
Terrific Turkey Wrap
1 large flour tortilla
2 large leaves of romaine lettuce
½ avocado, mashed with
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 slices of fresh tomato
4 ounces thinly sliced turkey
2 ounces shredded mozzarella
Layer the wrap in the order given, starting with the lettuce. Wrap, roll, cut in half on the diagonal. Garnish the plate with olives. Serve.
Chicken and Pesto Panini
1 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded, grilled
3 tablespoons pesto mayonnaise (combine equal parts of pesto sauce and mayonnaise)
3-4 pieces of roasted red bell pepper
4 ounces mozzarella, sliced (or shredded if sliced is not available)
2 large slices sourdough bread or good Italian bread
Brush both sides of the cooked chicken breast with the pesto mayonnaise. Lay the chicken on top of one of the bread slices. Add the roasted pepper and the cheese. Top with remaining slice of bread. Grill until the bread is toasted and cheese is melted. Cut in half and serve with olive garnish.
My Abbondanza Italian Sub sandwich
1 8-10 inch sub sandwich roll or ciabatta, cut in half horizontally
3 tablespoons giardiniera
3 slices each mortadella, capocollo, salami, and provolone, folded in half 2 slices grilled eggplant
Scoop out some of the soft portion of the bottom slice of the bread and spoon the giradiniera in that well. Layer on the meats and cheese in the order shown. Add the grilled eggplant. Cover with the top half of the roll. Cut in half, garnish, serve.
Meatball Sub Sandwich
1 8-10 inch sub roll, split but not all the way through
¼ cup (more or less) heated pizza or marinara sauce
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3-4 (relative to size) meatballs
¼ cup (more or less) shredded mozzarella or provolone or blend
“Paint” the inside of the roll with some of the pizza sauce. Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese. Lay in the meatballs. Add some more pizza sauce. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.
Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.