Hyde Park, N.Y. Sandwiches have been part of virtually all cuisines since well before any written records were kept, but they have not always been called sandwiches.
The honor of naming this favorite lunch and all-purpose snack item goes to John Montague (1718-92), the fourth Earl of Sandwich and an infamous gambler.
According to legend, this gentleman refused to leave the gaming tables because he didn't want to break his winning streak. He asked for some bread filled with meat to be brought to him and the rage for sandwiches was born.
In 1940, Louis P. De Gouy published his book "Sandwich Manual for Professionals." His thorough approach to the assembly of sandwiches, based on his work as chef at New York City's famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel, included descriptions of hundreds of sandwiches, organized into specific categories.
This classic work has stood the test of time; it's still a valuable resource, full of practical information and inspiration.
Sandwiches range from delicate finger and tea sandwiches served on doilies to "pan bagnat," traditionally served wrapped in plain paper, sold from stalls in open markets in southern France.
A sandwich can be an elegant bite-sized morsel of foie gras served on toasted brioche, or a meal-sized offering, such as a grilled Reuben on rye, served with potato salad and a pickle.
We can choose among a variety of culinary traditions, from Scandinavian smorrebrod or American regional favorites like the po'boy, to Italian bruschetta and panini, or Mexican tacos and burritos.
What unifies the term "sandwich" for the chef is that in all cases it's a tasty filling served on or in bread or a similar wrapper.
Cold sandwiches include standard deli-style versions made with sliced meats or mayonnaise-dressed salads. Club sandwiches, also known as triple-decker sandwiches, belong in this category as well.
Hot sandwiches such as hamburgers or pastrami of course feature a hot filling. Some hot sandwiches are grilled, as the Reuben sandwich is. In other cases, a hot filling is mounded on the bread and the sandwich is topped with a hot sauce, too.
Finger and tea sandwiches are delicate items made with fine-grained bread, trimmed of their crusts and precisely cut into shapes and sizes that can be eaten in about two average bites.
The breads you can use to make sandwiches run a fairly wide gamut and include many ethnic specialties.
Sliced white and wheat fine-grained sandwich bread is used for many cold sandwiches. The tight crumb of this bread makes it a good choice for those delicate tea and finger sandwiches because it can be sliced thinly without crumbling.
Here are two sandwiches to try. One is a straightforward classic turkey club; the other is a little more complex, panini with an Italian-Mediterranean flavor.
All recipes are adapted from "Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen" by The Culinary Institute of America, Wiley, 2000.
Turkey Club Sandwich
12 slices white fine-grained sandwich bread, lightly toasted
8 tablespoons mayonnaise
8 leaves green leaf lettuce, washed and dried
1/2 pound roasted turkey breast, sliced thin
1/2 pound cured ham, sliced thin
8 thin slices tomato
6 strips bacon, cut in half, cooked until crisp, drained
For each sandwich: Spread 3 pieces of toast with mayonnaise. Top one piece of toast with a lettuce leaf and a quarter of the turkey and ham. Cover with a second piece of toast. On this place 1 lettuce leaf, 2 tomato slices and 3 half strips of bacon. Finally, top with the remaining toast slice, secure with 4 club frill picks, and cut in 4 triangles.
Makes 4 sandwiches.
The following panini sandwich is delicious and can easily be adapted as a finger sandwich. Make sure to allow at least 3 days for the eggplant to fully marinate; it is well worth the wait.
Eggplant And Prosciutto Panini
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
Marinated Eggplant (recipe follows)
1/4 pound prosciutto, sliced thin
4 teaspoons oil reserved from marinated eggplant
4 Italian hard rolls
In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese and seasonings and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
For each sandwich, split a roll lengthwise and brush the inside with oil from the marinated eggplant.
Spread a quarter of the herbed ricotta mixture on one half of the roll and top with a quarter of the eggplant and prosciutto. Top with the other half of the roll.
Makes 4 sandwiches.
In the recipe for the Marinated Eggplant, the eggplant is not cooked, so it needs approximately three days to marinate. This allows the eggplant to completely denature and take on an almost cooked texture and flavor.
1/2 pound Italian eggplant
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon coarse grind black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Slice eggplant into 1/8-inch slices. Layer slices in a colander, salting each layer liberally. Let sit 1 hour. Rinse off bitter liquid and dry slices with paper towels or in a salad spinner.
Mix remaining ingredients. Toss eggplant slices in marinade, cover and refrigerate for 3 days to 4 days. Stir every day. The eggplant is ready when the flesh has become relatively translucent and no longer tastes raw.
Makes enough for