10 December 2012

Eats: Grilled Italian sandwiches

When Mr. P and I first got married, and I started meal planning, I’d often ask him what he wants to eat that week and hear him reply, “Sandwiches.”

Umm... what kind of sandwiches?

“I dunno. Any kind! Sandwiches would be good.”

Any kind? For dinner? I don’t understand! Sandwiches for dinner?!

“Never mind. No sandwiches. This is clearly stressing you out.”

Yup. My husband asked for sandwiches for dinner and I felt like I couldn’t accommodate what is quite possibly the simplest dinner request outside of ordering a pizza.

But the reason I was giving off “does not compute” anxiety was because my sandwiches repertoire hadn’t really extended much past a PB&J or bologna and cheese. And that just sounded sad to plan peanut butter sandwiches for dinner – that’s what you eat for dinner when you run out of other food, right? Time to up my sandwich game!

And I have recently, with this! This, my friends, is a spectacular sandwich. It was inspired by the most delicious sandwich I’d ever eaten in my life, an Italian sub from the single grocery store in Woods Hole, Massachusetts:

That sandwich was so delicious, I knew I’d have to up my game to good-quality ingredients to repeat it and make a dinner-worthy sandwich. So we skipped our usual store-brand meat and cheese and paid a little more for these:

(Yeah, yeah, taking photos after dark in bad lighting, you know this song and dance.)

We did find all that at Schnucks, though admittedly, we shop at the one in the Italian-American neighborhood. As a matter of fact, this stuff was made just around the corner:

But while good meat and cheese and bread are the core, it’s the condiments that make this sandwich special. I remembered that my inspiration sandwich (that’s right, we have ”inspiration sandwiches” here now) had some sort of oily, peppery relish, likely made of marinated bell peppers and hot peppers. For my take on it, I found these:

On the left, we have giardiniera! Don’t worry, I’d never heard of it either (if you don’t count the double-take in which I mistook the name for Giardia oh gah grossss). It’s a relish of pickled, peppery vegetables that I used on my sandwich. If you’re wary of buying a whole jar, know that it’s also tasty as a pizza topping!

Mr. P doesn’t care for peppers, though, so he instead got olives, diced up a bit to resemble my not-giardia:

I don’t like ‘em, so I left them off mine. If you like peppers and olives, though, I strongly encourage you to pile both of these ingredients on your sandwich!

Gathering these ingredients is most of the battle to create a delicious Italian sandwich! It comes together in a snap. First, very lightly butter the bread on both sides:

Light is key here because you’re going to be adding oil as a condiment, and you don’t want a soggy, overly greasy sandwich.

Then just grill the bread for a few minutes over medium-high heat. I just used a dry (nonstick, non-greased) pancake griddle, but you can use an indoor or outdoor grill if you wish.

After grilling one side, flip the bread (as shown above) to grill the other side. At this point, you can grill the other side by itself, or turn down the heat to medium-low and dress the sandwich to your liking while the other side of the bread browns. Either way works, though grilling-while-dressing is tricky. This particular day, I ended up transferring the toasted, dressed bread to a cookie sheet, as you see below, to pop under the broiler.

Both Mr. P’s and my sandwiches got basic store-brand ham well as the fancy salami, mortadella (similar to thin-cut bologna), and coppa (similar to prosciutto). My sandwich got giardiniera with its spicy oil, and his got diced olives with a bit of olive oil drizzle and a few shakes of red pepper flakes:

Oh, and cheese, of course. Essential! I added provolone as well as some shredded store-brand mozzarella:

If you’re grilling the bread while dressing the sandwich, the other side of the bread may be nearly done grilling. If not, leave the sandwiches open-faced like this to let the cheese melt while the bread browns. But if the bread is getting a little toasty, just pop it under the broiler to melt the cheese. Or if you lack a broiler, turn the heat down more, put the sandwich together, and flip frequently so that neither side gets too brown while the cheese gets melty.

And that’s it! Took me all of fifteen minutes! Super easy!

This sandwich wasn’t exactly like the inspiration sandwich (haha, “inspiration sandwich” still makes me laugh). I used sliced bread instead of a hoagie bun, and the relish I used lacked the tasty pimentos that made the other sandwich so good. Also, I didn’t get to eat it while sitting on the beach at Cape Cod.

But that didn’t stop me from “mmm”-ing every few minutes and exclaiming to Mr. P how delicious my dinner was. A sandwich! For dinner!

While I think Mr. P probably would have been just as happy with a peanut butter sandwich (dude is a serious PB aficianado), Mr. P’s version with olives was delicious as well, he assured me. I served our sandwiches with a Caesar salad and balsamic roasted red potatoes, which I reasoned were like fancy french fries for our fancy sandwiches.

So if you’re looking for a fast dinner during this busy season, don’t overlook sandwiches! Mr. P, he’s full of good ideas, once I figure out the execution. Team P hopes you enjoy this one!


Christal said...

HA, funny you should mention PB&J. We were watching Breaking Bad last night, and the main character was making a PB&J. The Swiss Mister WIGGED OUT and half-screeched, "Oh my GOD, he makes the EXACT same sandwich that YOU MAKE!" And when I told him it was a common thing, he admitted he thought I invented them. If only...