I’ve never been one to shy away from my likes and dislikes in the food world. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, while I appreciate a great meal made from by a talented chef and their crew, my true loves run to the more mundane items in the food world.
I’m not sure what’s the best part of a great sandwich. Is it the taste of the many different toppings and ingredients? Is it the texture of the perfect piece of bread? Or is it the convenience of not having to use a fork or knife? Screw it. I’ll be brave enough to say that it’s all of these.
The great thing about sandwiches is that there are so many varieties available. From gyros to reubens, from hot dogs to panini, there’s such a vast array of options available that I don’t think I’m aware of anyone who has said anything along the lines of “What? A Sandwich? Ewwww!!!!”
I’ve given sandwiches a great deal of thought of late, trying to come up with the most important characteristic that a great sandwich must have in order to exceed the mundane. Trust me, there are far too many average sandwiches out there.
It all comes down to texture. Without competing textures in a sandwiches, the flavors of the various components sort of meld together in mush of mediocrity. But if a sandwich has a bit a crunch thrown against a velvety smooth or spongy soft, it’s on the way to being something special.
The textures can come from surprising ingredients. Toasting the bread is an obvious way to provide crunch, but it can also be provided by everything from pickles to cabbage to even crispy bacon. This is why a true sandwich connossieur does not disdain bean sprouts, as they an interesting crunch to certain sandwiches. The great and fantastic Bahn Mi gets its crunch from both the baguette and the pickled vegetable within.
Included in the characteristics of textures is how dry or moist the sandwich may be. The key here is balance. A good sandwich is is neither of the two extremes. In fact, a good sandwich will have components that bring contrasting moisture ratios. The Primanti sandwich has several contrasts, from the sloppy cole slaw, to the slightly oily fries, to the drier bread, all work in concert with one another to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
So where do quality ingredients come into play? The great thing about sandwiches is that if the person has given any thought to texture and the moist/dry ratio, then they will likely pick good ingredients by default. One cannot get a good crunchy pickle without looking for it.
I’m particular about great sandwiches, and it is the rare one that makes it into the upper echelon. But the ones that do are unforgettable.