Now here’s something I know a little something about. Me and greasy food go back a long time. We grew up together. We went to college together. We were at Woodstock together. I was best man at their wedding. I’m godfather to their kids. It’s been a long illustrious relationship, although not without it’s moments of destructive behavior and uncontrolled debauchery. But we’ll always be friends. #GreasyLifeForever
It was a hard holiday to pick the right celebration. I could have gone around town having greasy food from random places. Some cheese fries from Reidy’s. Maybe a nice double cheeseburger from Five Guys. A steak and cheese sub from D’Angelo’s. A bucket of chicken from KFC. I thought about that, but then I thought about my intestines, and my heart, and I thought better of it. I then started to think about some of the greasiest foods I’ve ever had. I say that with extreme reverence. I know grease isn’t good for you, but it sure tastes good and it brings extra flavor to the party. Not for every day, but on occasion.
As I started going through the rolodex in my head of all the great food I’ve eaten over the years, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Potato, Eggs, Hot Dogs and Cheese sub that I used to get from Andy’s Meat Market in East Haven, CT. That was the greasiest sub I’ve ever had. It would be wrapped in two layers of butcher paper and the grease would STILL seep through the wrapping. I’ve told Lola about this sandwich before and she was naturally curious too. How could you not be? But unfortunately Andy’s closed years ago. It was a local treasure in my hometown, right on the New Haven border right across the street from OTB and Patmart (that’s Pathmark if you don’t speak ‘Staven). Andy was a kind-faced, gentle man who walked with a little bit of a hunch and would always give you a nice warm greeting. The front part of the store was for groceries and they had a little bit of whatever you needed. You wouldn’t do your big grocery shopping here, but you could pick up what you needed for that day or meal. It was really a butcher shop and they had great cuts of meat and fresh poultry plus tons of Italian specialties. Everything was on display in big glass refrigerated cases and you would order what you needed from the bevy of butchers working on the other side of the glass who would always be happy to help.
The magic happened on the left side of the meat counter where you could order sandwiches. They were the best in town. Fresh made to order, all served on Apicella’s Italian Bread. If you went there at lunch time, the line would be down the produce aisle with everyone patiently waiting to order. Andy would be there to greet everyone as they came through. “How are you today young man?” The other gentlemen behind the counter would be taking your order and making your sandwich (I think one or two of them were Andy’s brothers – it was a family affair and the place had a family feeling). The line would be filled with people of all walks of life: construction workers, businessmen, policemen, housewives – all jonesing for a good lunch. They’s also be filling large orders too – lunch catering before that was a thing.
I always recall one guy who worked there that seemed to always make my sandwich (maybe he was the Potato, Eggs, Hot Dogs and Cheese specialist). He was younger than the other guys and had a thick mustache. He looked like a mix of Keith Hernandez and the captured photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (but with an Italian flair). I would order the sub and he would nod that he got it, then disappear into the kitchen behind closed doors. Ig uses that’s where the magic was. He’d come out five minutes later with my sub wrapped and ready to go. It would be heavy in your hand and you felt like you had something substantial to work on. When you put it down on the counter to pay for it, it would land with an authoritative thud. The cashier knew right away what you were having. She’d have to wipe the grease off the counter after you left. I would go home and eat the sub and then drift off into a coma for the next hour or so. So worth it.
I figured a great way to celebrate Greasy Food Day would be to recreate this sandwich at home. I’ve tried to do this before, and I’ve never gotten it exactly right. But if we were celebrating greasy, than this needed to be my tribute – my opus to a great sandwich and sandwich maker.
I started with a hot dog. I’m sure Andy’s used Hummel’s Hot Dogs (of the bologna maker Hummel’s) but I used one that I had picked up at Clement’s. I cut the hot dog up into disc shaped pieces and fried them up in a pan with butter. I browned one side then flipped all the pieces over to brown the other side. For the potatoes, Andy’s would use steak fries that I am sure they cooked fresh to order in a fryolater. I am not a huge fan of frying at home (I feel the smell of oil gets everywhere), but luckily I peaked at the hot buffet line at Clement’s and they had some potato wedges as an option (already cooked) so I picked some up. They are not steak fries, but they were pretty close and you when you bite into them, you get real potato taste. I added these into the frying pan with the hot dogs and let them cook together. After a bit, I added in two eggs that were beat together with some milk and let everything cook, scrambling the eggs up so it wouldn’t take an omelette form (this is more of a scramble). When everything was cooked, I topped it all with two slices of American cheese and put a cover on the pan to help melt it. I then cut open a sub roll and when the cheese was melted, carefully transferred everything into my sandwich. Done.
This was the closest I’ve come to recreating this sandwich and I think the potato wedges were the key. Not only did it give the sandwich the extra potato taste but it also added a little more grease (from the fry oil) to the combination and hence more flavor. The element that was missing however was the bread because the fresh Apicella’s Italian bread that Andy used made a difference. The sub roll I used didn’t have that crusty outside and soft, doughy inside that the Italian bread has. Had I used that, I think I may have nailed the whole thing. This is a great sandwich and I only wish more people knew about it. I savored every bite.
So that was my greasy food celebration. It was a good reminder to me about how food can bring back some memories. It wasn’t just the sandwich I was thinking of today, but it was being in Andy’s Market and all those sense memories coming back from the smell of the store to the feeling of waiting in line. Food can be a gatekeeper of memories, and worth the trip, especially when it’s delicious. Should you eat this every day? No. God no. But can you make it every once in a blue moon just to share what it was like to feast like this as an 18 year old kid? You sure can, and it’s a delicious trip to take.
Next Up: National Pumpkin Day