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The Roll of the Sandwich

March 25, 2014

Next time I’m going to invite more of you out to dim sum in Flushing. The problem was that I didn’t have that much time, and it was good to spend it with my downstate family.

On Albany Jane’s recommendation we went to Jade this past weekend. Good place. Hands down they served the best har gow I’ve had in a long long time. Should you decide to go there, hold out for a table in the main dining room downstairs. Even if that means they will seat you with another party. That’s where the action is, and where a few of the specialty carts tend to remain.

Our time in the city was so short that we didn’t even stick around for dinner. However, the sting of our departure was soothed by promises of banh mi in New Jersey. The place was called Baguette Delite and I really should hop on Yelp to write up something positive.

I was encouraged early on when I learned the name of the restaurant referenced the roll required for their signature sandwich. Because the role of the roll is absolutely critical.

Mind you, I’m not just talking about banh mi when stressing the importance of the bread that surrounds a specific subset of ingredients. Imagine for a moment a beautiful pile of thickly hand-cut juicy pastrami, stacked high, between two slices of brioche. It just doesn’t work.

Famous sandwiches are famous because of how everything works together. It’s true that not every Philly cheesesteak comes on an Amoroso’s roll. However, that bakery is among the best for producing a roll with a tender crumb to soak up delicious grease, but that still has a sturdy enough crust to prevent the whole thing from falling apart.

A muffuletta isn’t a muffuletta if it’s not served on a traditional muffuletta round. You take the same ingredients and put them between two slices of rye and I don’t know what you get. I’ll tell you what it’s not though. It’s not the famous sandwich that was created at the Central Grocery in New Orleans and named for the bread upon which it is served.

The crimes committed against Cuban sandwiches are far too many to mention in a post about rolls. Roast pork, ham, swiss and pickles can make a delightful panini, but it’s only a Cuban sandwich when it’s pressed in between two pieces of Cuban bread. This loaf, made with lard in the tropical humidity, has very little crust to speak of. It’s pretty soft and dry, with just a delicately crispy exterior. The relative austerity of this bread really balances the richness contained within.

Sure, some sandwiches are famous for taking a non-conventional path. I’m thinking specifically of the hamburger sandwich at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut. I’ve still yet to have one of these, mostly because I’m always heading out for pizza when I’m in that part of the world. But Louis’ Lunch is famous for serving its hamburger on toast. The restaurant can do it that way there because it has been cranking out burgers like that for a million years. It’s tradition. And while even the casual observer is keenly aware of just how unusual it is, Louis’ Lunch will refuse to make its hamburger any other way.

Of course there are the outliers that have the decency to call themselves something different when they go changing the program. I love a great patty melt, but grilled rye bread isn’t for hamburgers. It’s an entirely different specimen. I know that in some ways it looks similar. I mean, it has the same thing inside. But it’s fundamentally another sandwich.

And in honor of Raf, I must continue to say that no sandwich should ever be served on something trying to pass as a bagel. If it’s really a bagel, its crust would be toothsome and its crumb would be remarkably chewy. Both of these factors would produce a sandwich that is impossible to eat. Even assuming you had super human jaw muscles and could bite through the thing without its filling squirting out the back, the effort required would render the exercise entirely unenjoyable.

Now sometimes the right bread just isn’t available, and you do the best with what you’ve got. This seemed to be the case with the banh mi in Edison. These are traditionally made on rice flour baguettes that shatter when you bite into them. They aren’t easy to find outside of large Vietnamese communities. But to get a similar effect at least the shop made sure to toast all of its rolls.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to get back there and try a few more sandwiches, as they were the best versions of the form I’ve had in some time. At four to five dollars a pop they were far better (and less expensive) than anything one might find from a national chain.

I even came back with an extra half that Little Miss Fussy couldn’t finish. On the second day, it wasn’t quite as good, but I still found a way to crisp up the bread after the sandwich had spend the night in the fridge.

Previously, I would have had to rely on the advice from Chopsticks Optional and put the whole thing in a 350 degree oven for four minutes. But this year we have a microwave. And as much as I hate that thing, it does allow for this surprisingly effective method of warming up a sandwich on the inside while restoring the roll’s dangerously crispy crust.

It’s a good trick to know just in case you stumble onto a treasure trove of banh mi.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    March 25, 2014 12:08 pm

    While not for a sandwich, this method worked really well for reheating a stale baguette.

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