Thursday, October 16, 2014

52 sandwiches: considering construction

I read an enlightening article this week: NPR's Friction Can Save Your Sandwich, And Other Tips For Better Bites. The guest was Dan Pashman, host of the podcast The Sporkful (immediately added it to my favorite stations on Stitcher) and the author of the new book Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious. Dan Pashman describes himself as an "eater," whose mission is to eat "more better" and more deliciously. He says every bite is a precious resource and we only have so many in a lifetime. He also discussed something that is near and dear to my heart: sandwiches.

He discussed the travesty of the poorly constructed sandwich. A poorly constructed sandwich runs the risk of having ingredients- especially slippery ingredients- fall out of the middle. He describes this as the "sliced cucumber conundrum." He suggests slicing slippery ingredients like cucumbers and tomatoes thinly to remedy this conundrum. In addition to layering them evenly, adding a friction layer of greens also makes for better construction. (Noted!)

He also discussed the significance of the bread that's chosen for any given sandwich. He says that crusty bread may hinder good eating because the amount of force that you have to apply to break through the bread could cause the rest of the ingredients to fall out. The solution? A softer bread. Makes sense!

After reading the article, I overanalyzed the sandwiches I've made for my 52 sandwiches project. I agree with Pashman that slippery vegetables can cause construction problems like avocados, tomatoes (cherry tomatoes, though delicious, are troublesome), cucumbers, onion. Along with a the crusty bread issue, I add dense bread (like a low quality French bread) and crumbly bread.

There are a variety of factors to consider when making a good sandwich. (I'm sure he discusses this at length in his book, which I intend to read). I've looked over the sandwiches I've made, and have come up with a list of the best ones as far as construction (because they're all pretty tasty. My top 10 favorites are here though if you're curious).

Grilled cheese sandwiches offer sound construction. The cheese acts like a glue- binding all of the ingredients together making it easy to eat. Here are a few I have made:
52 sandwiches: considering construction
#18: guacamole grilled cheese
#39: lasagna grilled cheese
#40: pepper jack grilled cheese
#46: buffalo chicken grilled cheese on jalapeño cheddar bread

As far as good bread, crusty bread and dense breads often compete and overpower the ingredients inside. Sometimes you want the bread to be the star of the show- like with this cheddar jalapeno bread (my favorite). More often, however, I want to predominantly taste the ingredients inside. I find the breads in these sandwiches to be the best:
52 sandwiches: considering construction #9: egg sandwich on a plain bagel
#10: tomato & mozzarella in a whole wheat pita pocket
#15: jalapeño popper, bacon grilled cheese on whole wheat sandwich thins
#32: chicken + cheddar flatbread

As far as the meat (or protein component) in a sandwich, I like deli meats best because they're soft. Though I like bacon, I advise not leaving it whole, but rather adding it crumbled. It's easier to eat and gets distributed evenly. There's a savory flavor with every bite. Here are some of the sandwiches I consider to be the best:
52 sandwiches: considering construction
#6: apricot, turkey, & cheese
#13: classic pastrami sandwich
#26: philly cheesesteak
#31: smoked chicken panini

Because we're discussing even distribution, salads are a good option for that. You're sure to get every ingredient in every bite. Here are a few good recipes to consider:
52 sandwiches: considering construction
#8: Ina Garten's chicken salad sandwich
#27: stuffed mushroom
#28: turkey salad | cheese & jalapeño sub
#48: tuna salad

Consider adding tasty condiments to your sandwiches. They spread thinly and evenly and intensify the flavor. These are a few of my favorites:
52 sandwiches: considering construction
#4: pesto melt
#6: apricot, turkey, & cheese
#11: buffalo chicken
#22: salsa verde burgers

Like Pachman said, maybe some consider this to be trivial, but eating is a simple pleasure in life. He said a person could be having a bad day, but one or two good meals make a good day out of a bad day. I agree!

** I am attempting to make 52 sandwiches. Read more about how this project got started here. See all the sandwiches I've made so far here.**