Improve Your Sandwiches
May 14, 2024 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Simple Rules for Better Sandwiches [11m30s] is part of the Technique with Lan Lam series from America's Test Kitchen. From suggestions for contrasting ingredients to techniques like pressing, and other ways to examine the ways that sandwiches could be improved.

Personally I find both kimchi and avocados to be non-food, so one recipe in this video was horrifying to me, but I appreciate the principles that are being taught here.
posted by hippybear (50 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
The only way to truly improve any sandwich is to eat it.
posted by chavenet at 4:03 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Is a hot dog a sandwich?
posted by Czjewel at 4:04 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Sandwiches can't be improved. They've already been perfected by the Italian deli a few miles east of here.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:07 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]




Overthinking a plated bean sandwich
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:19 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I love avocados, but putting them on a sandwich like she did, even on grippy ciabatta, is a recipe for slippage. I always slice the avocado and then mash it up with a large fork so it becomes spreadable, precisely to avoid slippage. That technique also has the advantage of making even extra-firm avocados softer.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:19 PM on May 14 [12 favorites]


Haha there's good advice in here I suppose, but it's hard to take it to heart when the only sandwich she made I'd want to try was the one with sponges.
posted by GoblinHoney at 4:23 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


As long as there’s no butter on them.
posted by Captaintripps at 4:24 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I do want to speak out about restaurants that are serving "rueben" sandwiches that are not pressed and grilled.

I understand that a corned beef sandwich on rye with dressing and sauerkraut and swiss cheese is a nice thing to eat, BUT IT ISN'T A FUCKING RUEBEN!!!!

I will take a few deep breaths now.
posted by hippybear at 4:27 PM on May 14 [15 favorites]


I always slice the avocado and then mash it up with a large fork so it becomes spreadable, precisely to avoid slippage. That technique also has the advantage of making even extra-firm avocados softer.

In addition to the same mashup technique, I add a touch of avocado oil to help the smoothing process go more smoothly.

Then it is a bit of avocado spread on a toasted sandwich bun, followed with freshly-cracked pepper, flaky sea salt, heirloom tomato, and a very easily fried or poached egg for the yolk. Maybe a bit of prosciutto under the tomato, if I'm feeling fancy.

Clean-up is a snap with a pup who loves yolky plates.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:30 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


A hotdog is a taco. The Cube Rule.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:30 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Well that was very helpful. I've occasionally thought I should intern for a week at my local sub shop just to learn to make better sandwiches. But that sounds hard! Watching this video has given me new ideas, I really like those pickled avocados.

BTW a note of admiration for Lan Lam. She's one of the people in the post-Kimball ATK empire who has really stepped up and made their TV shows and magazines more interesting. I also like what Tony Tipton-Martin has been doing as editor of Cook's Country magazine. Everything's still focussed on teaching people to make good food with better techniques. But the flavors are more interesting and the world of recipes they are drawing from is a lot broader than it used to be.
posted by Nelson at 4:36 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


And pressing? Like I didn't know this was a good sandwich construction method.

I will have to experiment with this muchly.

I know my comment above was about ruebens that need to be pressed and grilled...

but a cold sandwich that you've wrapped and pressed???

OMG I have a deep need to experiment with this. I think there are sandwiches that I regularly love that could become transcendent if wrapped and pressed.
posted by hippybear at 4:55 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Love Lan Lam's videos. The only thing that would make me happier would be a ATK x SOH sandwich collab video. C'mon! Give it a gooo!
posted by angrynerd at 5:15 PM on May 14


I can't say I would happily devour all of the combinations posted, but user Stanczyk has been involved in a sandwich-exploring project in MeFi projects recently.
posted by Nerd of the North at 5:28 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


bacon
posted by philip-random at 5:44 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Normally I'm the one thinking the flavor combinations in the cooking videos are gross, but unlike you all haters* I thought all of these looked pretty tasty. The turkey one looked the least interesting by a long shot but probably is perfectly serviceable.

* Obviously I kid, we are all sandwich lovers together.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 PM on May 14


Avocados are the wrong texture without enough flavor for my deviated-septum-crippled sense of taste, and kimchi has a thing about it that makes me want to vomit. I'm not happy about either of these situations, because I'm sure there is delicious food hiding behind them unavailable to me.

I am, however, a sandwich lover. I'm surprised there wasn't more addressing of... well, dressing.
posted by hippybear at 6:04 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Mustard always needs to touch the meat...
posted by Windopaene at 6:10 PM on May 14


But, and I want to emphasize this, only in a food-related context.

That's hard-won knowledge, ignore it at your peril.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:20 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


But, and I want to emphasize this, only in a food-related context.

There you go, kink-shaming again.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:28 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Greg is the most vanilla of vanilla. I'm surprised he even made the leap to assuming there was a "touching the meat" other than food context.
posted by hippybear at 6:30 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


When I opened my restaurant, I refused to make my own sandwiches and instead relied on sub-contractors.
posted by waving at 6:42 PM on May 14 [12 favorites]


I'ma let you finish but jaffle irons/brevilles make some of the best sandwiches of all time.
posted by neonamber at 6:51 PM on May 14


I refused to make my own sandwiches and instead relied on sub-contractors.

They are the real heroes.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 6:56 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


The thing non-Chileans don't understand is that a) it's called palta (not 'avocado'), b) you're not putting enough on it and, c) I don't make the rules, Pedro does.
posted by signal at 7:46 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Seriously, that pan bagnant recipe from the start of the video is amazing. I love sandwiches, and that was a top 10 sandwich. Key is an amazing baguette, we did it a few times and a really nice crisp baguette was clutch. Also a great tuna, I think you want something that's meaty enough.
posted by Carillon at 7:47 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Finally, a place to talk about the sandwich I had yesterday! There's a newish sandwich place near me. I tried their version of an Italian hoagie (various Italian style meats, provolone, shredded lettuce, onion, tomato, vinegar, oil). It was on a nice solid semolina roll rather than the sometimes too squishy Italian rolls that some places use. However, they committed a cardinal sin in sandwich construction - they put the lettuce, tomato, and onion in the roll first, and then put in the meat and cheese. Once the roll was folded, there was an unpleasantly solid mass of meat and cheese in the middle. I took it apart so that I could put the lettuce, tomato, and onion in the fold of the meat and cheese, separating it in the way nature intended. There just needed to be more contrast in texture, and putting the veg in the fold of the sandwich accomplished that.

The sandwiches in the video look pretty good to me, although I think that's a bit too much avocado for my taste.
posted by mollweide at 8:05 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised he even made the leap to assuming there was a "touching the meat"

He don't know me vewy well, do he?
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:08 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I refused to make my own sandwiches and instead relied on sub-contractors.

They are the real heroes.


Hoagie Carmichael even wrote a song about them.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:09 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I make no assumptions when it comes to touching your meat!
posted by hippybear at 8:09 PM on May 14


My three-year-old daughter told me that she wants to sleep in the grownup bed if she has bad dreams, and this category includes "sandwich dreams". Of course I was confused, because sandwich dreams are a good kind of dream! I asked her what kind of sandwiches she dreams about; she said M&M sandwiches. Apparently in her dreams the M&M's roll out of the sandwich and this is a problem.

(Other categories of bad dreams include lion dreams and tiger dreams, which at least makes a little sense?)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:11 PM on May 14 [12 favorites]


Lions and Tigers and M&Ms, Oh My!
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


The best sandwiches are from the banh mi food truck in University City, Philadelphia, about five years ago before the pandemic. I miss those.
posted by biogeo at 8:17 PM on May 14


I've been watching the Sandwiches of History channel and I find myself thinking about how I would "plus up" a sandwich now. A recent favorite: The Sardinegg
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:32 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


The most important ingredient in a sandwich is generosity.

Add another slice of cheese. And another. More ham. More yet. A big dollop of chutney and then some more.

The person eating the sandwich should feel not-quite-overwhelmed by the quantity and qualityof ingredients.

The second ingredient of a sandwich is focus.

Two ingredients plus a tracklement. Three ingredients is the limit. Four elements would be excessive. Ham and Cheese. Pate and tomato. Egg and cress. Cheese and onion.

If your sandwich is generous and focused it will be a success.
posted by Combat Wombat at 9:06 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Generosity, yes, but the ingredients must be balanced with respect to each other. There are definitely sandwiches that are ruined by too much of something overwhelming the other things.

I was kind of surprised she didn’t cover the #1 sandwich killer: dryness. A sandwich cannot be too dry! I had a $20 sandwich at a hipster gastropub the other day and it was dry. Just a trace amount of oil and vinegar failed to properly lubricate the chicken katsu patty.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:16 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Two ingredients plus a tracklement

That is a fantastic word.

Also that phrase is a fantastic username.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:26 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


> The best sandwiches are from the banh mi food truck in University City, Philadelphia, about five years ago before the pandemic. I miss those.

@biogeo, head to fu-wah market, 47th and baltimore.
posted by Clowder of bats at 12:13 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Captaintripps: As long as there’s no butter on them.

Well, here we have an opinion that misses out on butter as glue, butter as waterproofing to stop bread going soggy, and butter as flavour amplifier with the fats it brings to the game. If you can't have dairy items with lactose, there's goat butter and other fat-based spreads.

As an Englisher, I tend to always butter and understand the USA has a different FDA than the UK's DEFRA or EU regulations, so what I mean when I talk about butter might not be what you imagine I mean.
posted by k3ninho at 12:44 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


I cannot comprehend the composition of a grilled cheese sandwich that does not include butter or some facsimile thereof.
posted by Token Meme at 1:17 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


To save a vegan from watching a video full of dead stuff, does this link cover how people actually manage to get a reasonable amount of salad into a sandwich without the whole thing popping open or immediately sliding apart?

When the NYT article about the resurgence of sprout/vegetable sandwiches was shared here a few years ago, I found myself wondering, yeah, but how the fuck do they cram all of those vegetable bits into the sandwich and still keep it looking recognisably like a sandwich, rather than like a salad with some bread that fell off to one side?

Is pressing the answer? Is there some magic way to origami baby leaves that stop them from immediately unfurling again, at the expense of the structural integrity of the sandwich?

I've seriously considered spending an Ask question on this issue...
posted by terretu at 1:31 AM on May 15


does this link cover how people actually manage to get a reasonable amount of salad into a sandwich without the whole thing popping open or immediately sliding apart?

I pre-press my lettuce just before loading it by getting a whole bunch of leaves and gently rolling them into a tightish ball and then flattening it a bit. Not tight but firm enough to keep it dense and together. My bad sandwich dream is lettuce falling out all over the place, especially in my car.
posted by waving at 2:06 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


A sandwich must take under a minute to construct. Hence, the bologna (or olive loaf if you're fancy) sandwich on Wonder bread with ballpark mustard. One and done.
posted by Czjewel at 2:14 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


does this link cover how people actually manage to get a reasonable amount of salad into a sandwich without the whole thing popping open or immediately sliding apart?

Yes, it does, specifically.
posted by signal at 4:35 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


terretu, the solutions offered are 1) pressing (the loaded sandwich in the video gets an hour under a weighted pan!) 2) scooping a trough out of the bread if it's something like a baguette and 3) using "grippy" items like "shredded lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, arugula, and potato chips." Patting dry wet ingredients like tomatoes and pickles and using fatty spreads like avocado also seems to contribute to cohesion and integrity.
posted by jy4m at 6:40 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


The video also mentions (for things like hoagie or ciabatta rolls, not flat slices) hollowing out the bread to create a trough for the contents.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:39 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


It would take a lot for me to wait an hour while the sandwich is getting pressed.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 8:14 AM on May 15


Lan Lam is a total gem.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:55 AM on May 15


"When X does a thing, I watch the thing because I will learn a lot". Where X includes:

- Lan Lam
- Sohla El-Waylly
- J. Kenji López-Alt
posted by weft at 10:25 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


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