Friday, August 24, 2007

Soliloquy to the Sandwich

I hate to sound like a snob, but I can’t eat at Subway. Every sandwich, from the Chicken Teriyaki to that damned Classic Italian B.M.T. (does anyone really know what B.M.T. stands for? I don’t think so) tastes exactly the same. Even Subway’s lame attempt to be artisan by offering specialty breads like Parmesan Oregano and Honey Oat fails miserably in trying to up the flavor quotient in their misguided sandwich artistry. The sandwich has been manipulated, degraded, and bastardized. I feel as though a setting straight of the record is in order.

The sandwich, whether or not it really was invented by The Earl of Sandwich, is a part of history, and therefore should be respected for its purpose and function within the social strata. The sandwich is a portable juxtaposition of flavor, texture, and color. Take, for example, the classic peanut butter and jelly combination. This has remained a favorite for a reason. It isn’t decadent; far from it, but peanut butter goes with jelly for a specific purpose. The acids and sugars in the fruit jelly, cut through peanut butter’s creamy richness to form a perfect symbiosis. The dance is complete when these smooth textures are placed between two pieces of white Pullman toast. The crunch of the toast against the sweet and tangy jelly and fatty peanut butter harmonize perfectly. Not only texture and taste work this way, color is an important factor as well. Cut through a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and admire the even layering and vibrant color of the jelly against the orange-brown peanut butter. That’s the way food works, people. The perfect harmonization of taste, texture, color among mingling ingredients.

Unfortunately, it has been reduced to a marriage of convenience for unhappy breads, cheeses, meats, and vegetables – kind of like if Andy Dick were to marry a woman. They’d both be unhappy, and both be trying to hide something. Like a bad sandwich. Even if the ingredients are of excellent quality, if they are mounded haphazardly on top of each other, they come off as just being in bad taste. Like Brangelina.

Coming from Florida, I’ve been spoiled by Publix (our local chain grocery store) and their gargantuan sub sandwiches. Pile on a full pound of quality Boar’s Head meat and cheeses (I recommend the Cajun Turkey and Jalapeno Pepper Jack cheese) and eight times as many vegetables as Subway. If you have to eat it with a knife and fork, it’s a Publix sub. But it still leaves something to be desired. It’s big, yes. But does it taste different than any other corporatized sandwich? Not really. It just requires more utensils and a drop cloth.

I must own that sandwiches are neither made better or worse by their size. A “fat” or “horizontally challenged” sandwich could be just as worthless as one made with two slices of bread and a thin layer of pimento-cheese spread.

The true nature of the sandwich is so often abused, and unappreciated that finding a sandwich that truly fulfills the expectations of fine food is an event in itself. I am, myself, exhausted with the search and have given up for the time being. I have resorted to my own kind of Jackson-Pollack-esque sandwich artistry. The latest creation to come out of my kitchen is an Applewood-Smoked Bacon-wrapped Salmon Sandwich with Basil Aioli, Arugula, and Tomatoes on Whole Wheat Toast. The recipe follows.

1 4-5 oz salmon filet

2 slices of applewood-smoked bacon

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 slices whole grain bread, toasted

1 cup arugula

½ tomato, sliced

For Basil Aioli:

¼ c. mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tbsp garlic puree

1 tbsp lemon juice

¼ c. fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Season salmon filet with salt and pepper and wrap in bacon slices until completely engulfed in bacon. Lay on baking sheet and place in oven for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through. Poke the salmon with your finger (or a fork, if you’re a fraidy-cat). If it is firm to the touch, it’s done.

Mix ingredients for basil aioli together in a separate bowl while salmon is resting. Spread aioli evenly on both sides of the toast. Place ½ c arugula on each slice and follow with three slices of fresh tomato. Place sizzling bacon-wrapped salmon on top of one slice and flip the other half on top. Prepare for liftoff.

Indulge, and enjoy this sandwich with a full, heady glass of 2004 Freemark Abbey Chardonnay, my salmon-pairing wine of choice these days. About $13 from Total Wine.


Jess said...

You almost convinced me to eat a sandwich. Something I don't do. But seriously, you were close. I've never heard a PB&J sound that good.

Best Boars Head meat: Aroastica Chicken. It's divine.

Ktastic said...

Your blog makes me feel like a bad person for eating shitty food all the time! Don't judge my frozen meals!

I will link you up too, once I understand how to link to someone. But... maybe only if you feed me pastries.

Sean said...

Great post. Thanks for making me rethink my thinking on sandwiches. Even though I probably won't be cutting into any salon wraps for lunch anytime soon, I'll make note of your (what I'll call) killer sandwich. Cheers ~~ S

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I've hated Subway for years! If I wanted terrible bread, I would have made it myself.

And that was the most beautiful description of a PB&J I've ever read.

Restaurant Maven said...

Ooh, ooh, I know what B.M.T. stands for! I used to be a Subway "sandwich artist" during summers when I was going to college (back then, we were called "employees"). B.M.T. was originally a main line of the NYC subway but then Subway took it and repurposed it to "Biggest, Meatiest, Tastiest" - I kid you not! Speaking of Earl of Sandwich, have you tried Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney in Lake Buena Vista? Pretty good sandwiches - I like the All-American sandwich (they add cranberries to a turkey sandwich to jazz it up).