Corrupted Palate: Those Classic Summer Sandwiches
I prepared a luncheon for 16 last week. As I ran potential menus through my head, I kept coming back to that old-fashioned, old favorite, the BLT. (In younger days, my siblings and I disliked the Ts and were fond of just the BL part. Lots of B really, and just a thin layer of L. Well, sometimes we left off the L. Now I’m more mature – cough! – and like the red fruit, that T.) That luncheon ended up with some sliced turkey and lobster salad on the side, but the big hit was the bacon, lettuce, and tomato. It’s the perfect sandwich: crunchy, salty, sweet, squishy. And HEY! It’s got bacon! Every taste bud is humming. The whole thing made me nostalgic for those sandwiches that used to be on every menu, but disappeared for a few years. They’re newly fashionable again, and for good reason.
I made about a million turkey clubs at the Algonquin during the 70s. (Hey! I’ve told you a billion times not to exaggerate!) Layer of toast schmeared with mayo, layer of turkey, more toast with mayo, BLT layer, more toast, more mayo. Everything held together with a very long, frilly toothpick, it was a true triple decker sandwich. I thought that was the epitome of a turkey club, but I found a restaurant that makes the truly perfect triple decker. Each layer has turkey, lettuce, bacon and tomato, but in just enough quantity that you aren’t going to have to crane your mouth open to get a bite. Beyond its sandwichy perfection is the fabulous fact that I can only eat half of it. Leftovers! (The dog is not getting any of this doggie bag.)
The Reuben is one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. Grilled corned beef, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut, it’s got all those same mouth-firework characteristics as the BLT. But when you’re eating a Reuben, you’re walking a little more on the wild side; you’re a little more afraid for your cholesterol level. I’ve been on the kitchen end of trimming that corned beef. It was great fun when asked if the corned beef was really lean to be able to look the customer in the eye and cross my heart that it was. I love all the Reuben iterations – with turkey or pastrami, with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. Damn, I’ve even seen a recipe for a Reuben egg roll. Oh. My. Stars. I’d have to say that in my informal sampling of restaurant menus, this is the sandwich most enjoying a comeback, in one or another of its variations. And for good reason, it’s a damn fine sandwich. Just take extra Lipitor.
There are other classic sandwiches I adore, the Monte Cristo, the tuna melt, the chicken salad, the lobster roll, and they are all enjoying a new-found popularity as well. In fact, I’m off to make another favorite, the Western egg sandwich – get out of my way.