Sandwich. Panini. Grinder. Hoagie. Submarine.
Do you sense a theme here? Yep, my brain is stuck in sandwich gear. You can blame the Saveur Magazine sandwich issue if you want, or maybe the Tom Colicchio cookbook ‘wichcraft. Both of which are living on my desk this week.
But in truth I have been a sandwich fan since I was a kid. Because one things kids know about sandwiches is this: less is more. And today that adage is truer than ever.
I realize Jared Fogel and the rest of the Subway franchise are looking at me askew right now. But I am sorry it’s true. Nobody needs a 12-inch sandwich loaded up with 16 ingredients to be happy. I don’t care how much weight he lost eating those things. That sandwich doesn’t pass the muster in my opinion.
It’s the super-size mentality that has destroyed so many great foods in the past few generations. Did you realize that a standard bagel used to be about 3‑inches in diameter and contain about 140 calories? Today they have more than 350 calories with out the schmear!
Remember when McDonald’s introduced the Quarter Pounder? (Yeah, well I do…)
A quarter pound of meat seemed obscene at the time. But a quarter pound of beef no longer shocks anyone. In fact you can hardly find a 10-inch dinner plate anymore– ‘cuz a burger won’t fit on it! 12-inches is the new norm in plate size.
Well these behemoths are not sandwiches. They shouldn’t even be food.
A sandwich is a balanced and concentrated meal unto itself. It doesn’t need to have 2,000 calories and weigh nearly a pound to satisfy. Because a good sandwich is a well-considered marriage of taste and texture.
To prove that I bring you a decadent little sandwich. It’s not the sort of thing I would recommend eating in an obscene size. In fact you can hold it in one hand if you want to because it has just 2 components. Pork and endive. But each one of these elements is prepared to bring out the best qualities. The flavors are intense and concentrated. It’s quite rich, though it contains less than 1/4 pound of meat once cooked. Because it’s made with pork belly. To me if you are going to eat fat, you might as well eat fat that tastes good. Real good. Besides a properly-sized portion of pork belly has fewer calories than that super-sized bagel even without the schmear. It’s all about proportion.
Well, proportion and balance. And, yes a sense of style and purpose. Have a plan when you make a sandwich. Concentrated flavors or rich ingredients means you can get away with a lot less. Making the adage less is more– truer than true.
Take condiments. Do you really need mayonnaise and mustard? What about cheese? Now I am not against these additions on a sandwich. But they must serve a purpose. They must increase my enjoyment of the sandwich and not merely be more is more just ‘cuz there’s room on the bun.
Tom Colicchio puts it this way, “If you took the bread away would it still make sense to match these ingredients?”
Which makes my ‘wichcraft inspired Pork Belly and Braised Endive Sandwich make perfect sense. Its beauty lies in the pleasure of its simplicity. Pork and endive. Both carefully prepared so that their best qualities come forward. Every bit of it a step towards the balance and proportion that makes it completely satisfying.
Pork Belly and Braised Endive Sandwich serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe