Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Family Adventures: The Perfect Club Sandwich

As noted in previous posts, the club sandwich is my standard order at diner-type restaurants, especially when trying a new place.  My feeling is that if a diner can get a club sandwich right, it's pretty safe to order anything off of the menu in future visits.  On Friday night, we had dinner at Bridge Street Cafe, one of our regular spots.  They have a wonderful club, and while enjoying it, I pondered my quality requirements.

Photo via What's Cooking America

The beauty of the club, I think, is its elegant balance of both flavors and textures.  As with any dish, quality begins with the ingredients.  The bread of a sandwich is crucial.  Bridge Street has their own homemade white and wheat - both excellent. 

I once spent a summer (pre-parenthood, of course) trying to build the perfect sandwich myself and came to the conclusion that managing moisture is the key.  The toasted bread should be dry, but not too crunchy.  The tomato and the condiments bring the moisture but, again, too much is not desirable.  My lettuce requirements are minimal.  A little is nice to add color and a slightly drier leaf is good for offsetting the juicy tomato.  But for me, too much lettuce kills a sandwich.

The key, for me, is the turkey.  The crucial variables are saltiness, moisture and volume.  The turkey need not be too salty - that's the bacon's job.  Too much turkey can overwhelm the rest of the sandwich.  But the most common flaw in a club is the turkey being too dry.  With bread, bacon and lettuce on the dry side, you've gotta have tomato, turkey and mayo firmly on the wet side.  If the turkey is too dry, the sandwich is too dry.

A thin mayo layer is sufficient.  You don't need a whole lot of flavor from the mayo.   The meat elements and the tomato will bring enough to the party but the mayo is nice for tying everything together.  I once had a club sandwich at a Denny's in Yokohama.  They used horseradish - not a good choice, in my opinion.  It's all you taste, ruining the flavor balance entirely.

Sides are not to be discounted.  A sandwich ain't a sandwich without a pickle - dill, please.  Bridge Street serves theirs with chips.  Fries can be nice, too, though potentially too heavy.

Obviously, Bridge Street passed my club sandwich test a long time ago.  I never was able to perfect my own.  Maybe that can be a future daddy-daughter summer project.

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