I get pretty excited for a day like National Sandwich Day because I am a fan of sandwiches. I’m really a fan of anything that you put between two pieces of bread. I also fancy myself a pretty good sandwich artist too. That title should have much more of a reverence in our society because the making of a good sandwich takes skill, passion and insight. Making a good sandwich is much more than just tossing together agreements. You have to think about every ingredient from the type of bread, to the condiment, to the filling. I hate that Subway has coopted that title for their employees because their sandwich making is far from artistry. It’s downright cold and mechanical. I know that the people making your sandwiches at Subway are working hard (and overworked), but their creations are literally assembly line products. They are paint-by-number creations using a recipe created in the lab of a statistician and a marketer. With due respect, let’s save the title of sandwich artist to those that truly earn it.
The hard part about celebrating National Sandwich Day is what kind of sandwich to have. There are so many options out there worthy of either making or purchasing. In the end, I decided to make a sandwich that Lola particularly enjoys: the French Dip. I was surprised when I first realized that she liked this particular sandwich but it delivers a lot of things Lola enjoys: a nice crusty roll, warm, flavorful beef, gooey melted cheese and the pièce de eésistance, a side of flavorful broth you can dip every bite of your sandwich in. It makes perfect sense especially with Lola’s affinity for soup. The French Dip originated not in France but in sunny Los Angeles in 1918 at a sandwich spot called Philippe the Original which is still in business today. The story goes that Philippe was preparing a sandwich for a policeman and accidentally dropped the sliced French roll into the drippings of a roasting pan. The policeman liked the sandwich and came back the next day with some friends to order it again. Another happy kitchen accident helps the world discover a gem. (Info from What’s Cooking America.com)
For my French Dip, I went on a bit of a scavenger hunt. I picked up the beef, cheese and broth from Trader Joe’s because I was there to do some shopping and then I picked up fresh crusty rolls at Clements on my way home. They are super easy to cook. I toasted the rolls in the oven, heated the roast beef in a sauté pan cooking it in beef broth (almost poaching it). When that got hot enough, I pulled out the beef and placed it gently into the rolls and then melted some cheese over the top. I kept the broth cooking adding in a hint more spice to it (garlic and pepper). When all was ready, I cut the sandwich in half and placed it on a plate and then poured out some of the au jus into a ramekin on the side. I served it with tater tots which seemed like a good pairing.
These were excellent as expected. The beef was hot and flavorful and the cheese added a hint of creaminess to every bite. The bread was nice and crusty which is key to a good French Dip because it still holds a bit of its crunch after you dip it in the au jus. The au jus was right too – salty and lots of beef flavor. We ate our dinner, dunking our sandwiches into the ramekin and sopping up all that juicy goodness in each bite. I hate to be Mr. Braggadocio, but these sandwiches were a work of art.
Artistry should not be limited to the canvas or the page. It comes from wherever you take your passion and express it. Making a good sandwich takes love and skill. It requires finding balance and an understanding of the parts in order to make the whole. It’s about wanting to make something remarkable rather than something mass-produced. There are true sandwich artists in the world and that’s who we celebrated today (I guess we specifically celebrated Philippe Mathieu). Anyone can make a sandwich, but it is the true artist that makes a wonderful creation (and they are usually not wearing a green Subway uniform).
Next Up: National Bison Day