Wednesday, January 04, 2017

An Indescribable Sandwich

This isn't the indescribable sandwich. I didn't take a picture of the indescribable sandwich because I was too harried and hungry to do even minimal styling or look for my phone. This is a salty fried bologna sandwich. Describable.
Indescribable doesn’t mean that something can’t be described, only that the describer knows in advance that any description will fall woefully short. With that in mind, here’s my description of the indescribable broccoli sub from Alton Brown’s EveryDayCook: A hearty, super-flavorful, meaty sandwich that contains no meat. On a toasted french roll you spread mayonnaise and then apply a layer of sweet pickle slices that you have briefly marinated in Sriracha, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Heap some roasted broccoli on the pickles, top with shaved ricotta salata cheese and crunchy onion rings (the bad-for-you kind out of a canister). Take a big bite. Die of happiness.

And it’s only 430 calories! That’s not half bad if you’re calling the sandwich dinner.

Brown based his weird, perfect sandwich on an even weirder sandwich served at Tyler Kord’s No. 7 sandwich shops in New York City. How weird is Kord’s legendary sandwich? Where Brown uses pickles, Kord uses lychees. Life doesn’t get weirder than lychees.

A few adjustments to Brown’s recipe:

-I would start with more broccoli, like two pounds. My broccoli shrunk a lot and it seemed a bit scant. Also, I would peel the thick broccoli stems before cutting them into coins. 

-Use less pickle brine. Try 1/4 cup. 


You have to make this sub. It’s more satisfying than many a meaty sandwich, including the fried bologna sandwich I ate the other night at a sports bar in Richmond, Indiana. When a broccoli sandwich is better than a fried bologna sandwich, you know you’re on to something.

Owen is looking at colleges in the Midwest, ICYWW why I was in Richmond, Indiana. My kids seem magnetized by un-picturesque small towns in the middle of nowhere. But then so am I.

33 comments:

  1. Thank goodness you clarified that a fried bologna sandwich was not THE sandwich! I ate a zillion of these when I was growing up, and they have lost their appeal. That broccoli sub sounds fabulous when you describe it. No so much when Alton described it. I will have to try it. Broccoli is my favorite veggie. I am mystified why a California guy would want to go the Midwest, but to each his own.

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    1. It is so freaking cold here I think he might be changing his mind.
      The broccoli sandwich is so good. Try it!

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    2. I spent a year in college in Iowa. The school was top-notch, but it was a totally miserable experience for this southern gal in her convertible. I was so glad to get out of there.

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    3. Interesting. I spent 25 years in seasonless Northern California (no, rain is NOT a season) and now I am back in my native Iowa, loving the distinct passage of time marked by real seasons. I am never as cold here as I was in my bone-cold SF apartments with their single half-assed heaters stashed away in some hallway. .... Have Owen check out Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. It's a wonderful private liberal arts college that counts Gary Cooper among its alumni.

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  2. As someone who doesn't like pickles, I think that's not the sandwich for me, alas. However, re: lychees--if you have not yet had lychee ice cream and are offered some, definitely accept it. It's delicious. It's easily available in India, where I have eaten it for years, but not so much here. Until I went into an ice cream place in NYC that turned out to have a number of Asian flavors of ice cream including lychee, so I had to have some immediately. Lychee ice cream is not indescribable, but it is lovely!

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    1. Oh no, now I have to put lychee ice cream on my list.

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  3. I am likely moving to Indiana for my husband's career and know the food will disappoint. This post does nothing to dissuade me. At first I thought the sandwich meat was pork roll. Have you ever heard of that? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_roll

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    1. The picture on that wikipedia page is nauseating. But I'm not sure bologna is that different.

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    2. I am actually from Indianapolis and when I go back to visit, I am very impressed by the food scene. It used to be a lot of chain restaurant and chicken-fried steak, but it has come a LONG way. They have a wonderful array of international restaurants and some really cool, innovative places. Not sure where you are headed in Indiana, but there is hope!

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  4. Just the words "Owen is looking at colleges" is freaking me out, so I can't even imagine how you feel.

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  5. "Hang on," I said to myself as I started reading, "a broccoli sandwich isn't an Alton Brown thing, it's a Tyler Whatsisname thing!" Note to self: get the dang cookbook already. I have heard so many fun interviews with Kord on the food podcasts to which I'm addicted.

    It's so hard to wrap my brain around the idea that Owen is old enough to think about college. Does he understand about winter in the Midwest?

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    1. He is understanding about winter in the Midwest. -4 degrees? We are about to head out of the warm hotel for our last college visit here in Wisconsin.

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  6. Ha! Half my family went to Earlham!! Son #2, who met sons-in-law 2 and 3, daughter #2, who married son-in-law #2, and that same daughter ran their vegetarian co-op for two years after she graduated. If you are hoping for a romance, Earlham is the place to go. We had lots of fun at Richmond's expense, but actually love all these Earlham grads.

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    1. I would love to hear more. He was a big fan of Earlham, though the town was pretty depressing. We then went to Chicago, which he hated, and on to Beloit, which he loved. Earlham and Beloit remain on the list, Chicago, no. He's a small town guy.

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    2. Also had two nephews who went to Beloit. Both schools worked well for the ones who went there. The Beloit guys settled in the Midwest, but also had grown up in Michigan. The Earlham crew moved east, NY and Maine where we are.
      My view is that Earlham is a world unto itself and there is not a lot of town interaction. Both my kids who went there spent a semester off campus (one was in the border studies program. She lived in Mexico and studied in Texas).'
      But Beloit and Earlham produced loyal alums, and have lifelong friends from their colleges. Hope that helps!

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  7. Tyler Kord's book on sandwiches is also worth a read, though more for its wit. The recipes seem improbable, but your post really put the lie to that. Try using the little fried shallots that you can pick up in Asian grocery stores, they really are better than the canned onions that Alton Brown uses. Good for you for checking out those Midwestern colleges in January. Anyone considering them should know what the experience is really like--snow and cold for more months than most Californians can fathom. That said, they are great, and really develop a different mindset than available here. Please don't overlook Oberlin, my alma mater, and also the alma mater of, you guessed it, Tyler Kord. I'm sure he learned his way around broccoli by cooking in the dining coops there.

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    1. Lena Dunham went to Oberlin, didn't she? And Liz Phair?
      The cold is miserable. I hate it. But I'm not the one thinking of going to college here.

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    2. This is my third time posting replies on this blog about Tyler Kord's "A Super Upsetting Book about Sandwiches." It is a great read, but it is also a great cookbook. I haven't made even one sandwich, but I have made roast beef, chicken breasts, and roasted sweet potato slices, and the recipes are solid. If this cookbook is not included in Piglet 2017, I am going to be super upset.

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    3. Perhaps I was not entirely clear in my endorsement of Tyler Kord's book by labeling the recipes in my post above as "improbable." The combinations of flavors are hard to imagine on the page, but as the poster above noted, if you cook the individual component recipes, they work extremely well. The raisin-scallion relish, for example, sounds odd on paper, but is so easy and so, so delicious. And it should be noted that the original broccoli sandwich recipe, which includes marinated lychees, really doesn't seem any more difficult than the Alton Brown variation with pickles. After reading Kord's book, I was not just super upset (in a good way) about sandwiches, I was super inspired and found myself really thinking about new food combinations.

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    4. And I neglected to mention that Tyler Kord's book has a really rad version of a fried bologna sandwich!

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  8. Missouri! That is all.

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  9. You inspired me to try this for dinner tonight. Such an improbable, delicious, satisfying meal! We were all kind of shocked at how good the sandwiches were, and I feel like I just pulled off a successful magic trick. Thank you for writing about it!

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  10. Sounds intriguing! There is a bistro in our town that serves a panini made with mortadella, Gorgonzola, and sautéed mushrooms. It sounds like a strange combination but it's delicious!

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  11. I am sure I'm in the minority, but I actually like fried baloney sandwiches. I grew up near Detroit and one of my happiest memories is my grandfather making me a fried baloney sandwich when I would stay at their house as a child. He cut slits in it exactly the same way it's shown in your photo. Two slices of baloney, fried, on white bread. That's it.

    And I agree, better to show the midwest in all its winter glory -- it would be a real shock otherwise. I'm finally in a four-season climate after eight years in south Texas where I was miserable every summer.

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  12. This sandwich has been on my radar since I read Tyler Kord's book but I finally got around to making it last night. I actually had lychees on hand, but substituted feta for the ricotta (too lazy to go to Whole Foods). It was so good! If you get the book, I really recommend "The Shadiest One"- the avocado-ricotta alone is worth it.

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