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The hot sandwich: sometimes not so hot


Fat Guy
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A comment on the slicing cheese for sandwiches topic got me thinking about the phenomenon of the hot sandwich.

I'm not talking about hot sandwiches like grilled cheese or a sloppy Joe, where hot is part of the definition of the sandwich. Rather, I'm talking about sandwiches that have, since the days of Rabbi Hillel and the Earl of Sandwich, been served at room temperature but have, in the modern era, started being warmed by various processes.

For example, I know a few people who have purchased panini presses or related sandwich presses, and no matter what sandwich they make they put it on that thing. In the commercial arena, Quizno's puts sandwiches through a conveyer oven before serving.

I'm not sure I think heat is always a positive thing for a sandwich, though. Toast is not always better than bread, melted cheese is not always better than cheese. Some ingredients are kind of gross when you heat them up, like really good salume just gets greasy, lettuce is just better cold and warm mayonnaise sometimes makes me nauseated.

I just wanted to speak out against the undiscriminating use of heat in sandwich-making. As with most things, sometimes less is more.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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hmmm the hot sandwich.

i did not grow up with the tradition of the toasted sandwich. my first experiences of cheese toast were as follows: place slice of cheese on bread, pop under the broiler, wait until it becomes puffy and crispy, eat. the result was a soft bottomed crispy-edged burnt cheese dream!

a few years ago i experienced the tuna melt. when it was described to me i thought it was going to be revolting.

but no.

a blanket of sharp-ish melted cheddar covering a cool-ish mound of tuna with pickles, onions and mayo was delicious. :wub:

more recently i enjoyed another incarnation of the tuna melt: the hot tuna pocket. there is a device that creates sealed half sandwiches-crispy on the outside and molten hot and tasty on the inside. my friend tells me the key is to be sparing with the mayo and not to over-stuff.

yum

what i don't understand is the reuben sandwich. i love the constituent parts but not the outcome. i can't imagine my schwartz's meat sandwich reheated with the addition of wet sauerkraut, crap swiss cheese and warm russian dressing. blasphemy i know, but i don't get it.

Life! what's life!? Just natures way of keeping meat fresh - Dr. who

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A comment on the slicing cheese for sandwiches topic got me thinking about the phenomenon of the hot sandwich.

I'm not talking about hot sandwiches like grilled cheese or a sloppy Joe, where hot is part of the definition of the sandwich. Rather, I'm talking about sandwiches that have, since the days of Rabbi Hillel and the Earl of Sandwich, been served at room temperature but have, in the modern era, started being warmed by various processes.

For example, I know a few people who have purchased panini presses or related sandwich presses, and no matter what sandwich they make they put it on that thing. In the commercial arena, Quizno's puts sandwiches through a conveyer oven before serving.

I'm not sure I think heat is always a positive thing for a sandwich, though. Toast is not always better than bread, melted cheese is not always better than cheese. Some ingredients are kind of gross when you heat them up, like really good salume just gets greasy, lettuce is just better cold and warm mayonnaise sometimes makes me nauseated.

I just wanted to speak out against the undiscriminating use of heat in sandwich-making. As with most things, sometimes less is more.

I'm sure you've had a 'Big Mac' that had been sitting under the lights. What's the difference?

Make your sandwich the way you want.

Edited by ChefCrash (log)
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A comment on the slicing cheese for sandwiches topic got me thinking about the phenomenon of the hot sandwich.

I just wanted to speak out against the undiscriminating use of heat in sandwich-making. As with most things, sometimes less is more.

But when a sandwich is toasted, it should be done wholeheartedly. I'm fed up with so-called panini that are really just lightly warmed under a sandwich grill. If you're going to toast a sandwich, it should be flattened, crisped, a little charred, and the interior should be seriously melted.

This half-baked panini thing could just be a UK flaw though - the panini I've had in Italy tend to be properly cooked.

Edited by Stigand (log)
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what  i don't understand is the reuben sandwich. i love the constituent parts but not the outcome. i can't imagine my schwartz's meat sandwich reheated with the addition of wet sauerkraut, crap swiss cheese and warm russian dressing.  blasphemy i know, but i don't get it.

You are not alone. I feel exactly the same way.

Imagine peanut butter and jelly panini! :shock:

Edited by BarbaraY (log)
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I could never get into the whole toasting/panini phenomenon. I like my hot sandwiches deliberately hot. Hot filling, on a lightly toasted sub roll (like a chicken or meatball parm, cheesesteak, or sausage and peppers). Or, something thoroughly grilled, hot and melty throughout, like a good grilled cheese.

The only exception is a tuna melt, and that predates all this trendy sandwich toasting stuff.

I like my cold sandwiches cold. Icy shredded lettuce, cold juicy tomatoes, cool mayo. Nothing melted, warm or wilted, please.

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what  i don't understand is the reuben sandwich. i love the constituent parts but not the outcome. i can't imagine my schwartz's meat sandwich reheated with the addition of wet sauerkraut, crap swiss cheese and warm russian dressing.  blasphemy i know, but i don't get it.

Well, I can totally wax poetic on the joys of a well-made reuben, but that by no means requires you to do likewise if it doesn't sing to you. :smile: I will point out, however, that I've suffered through some pretty miserable exemplars of reubens. IMO the sauerkraut needs to be pretty mild, and very well drained--otherwise, yeah, its flavor will overwhelm everything else and its water content will make the rest of the sandwich too watery. And it goes without saying that you need good-quality corned beef, swiss cheese and rye bread--and I prefer it when they go easy on the Russian dressing. But when everything's done right, and the whole thing toasted on a diner-style griddle, it is a thing of beauty to those who love it.

But when a sandwich is toasted, it should be done wholeheartedly. I'm fed up with so-called panini that are really just lightly warmed under a sandwich grill. If you're going to toast a sandwich, it should be flattened, crisped, a little charred, and the interior should be seriously melted.

Amen to that. I too have run into some lame-ass excuses for panini here and there--it seems like a lot of shops jumped on the panini bandwagon without actually bothering to teach their staff proper technique with that shiny new panini press. And again, ingredient choice and prep is key IMO. There are some breads that take to the panini press much more readily than others--I really prefer the places that use a sturdy artisanal bread, sliced thin for optimum heat penetration and crisping. And if there's no cheese in the innards to get all melty, I think they've missed the best feature of this creation.

So it sounds like I'm coming down against indiscriminately grilling/heating/toasting just any old collection of sandwich fixings and calling it good, huh? :biggrin:

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Controversially, I'm going to stand up for toasted sandwiches made with really low-quality ingredients.

For example, I had a toasted ham and cheese sandwich on rubbishy white sliced bread in a hospital cafe recently that was... well, pretty good considering - and much better than it would have been cold.

To put it another way, if I've got to eat a sandwich made from uninspiring stuff (and what with work etc, I often do), toasting it really helps.

Edited by Stigand (log)
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Interesting discussion and observations. I agree that the heating of all things sandwich is running rampant.

Can you imagine being served a hot/toasted bahn mi? Ick. Or a muffaletta? Blech!

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Can you imagine being served a hot/toasted bahn mi?  Ick.  Or a muffaletta?  Blech!

Neither of those seems any more wacky than the old fashioned toasted hoagie, aka the grinder. They're classic sandwiches, and quite tasty when done right. The key is crisping the bread on the outside and maybe warming the meat a little, but leaving the vegetation inside cool.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Well, I've always liked most sandwiches on toast (tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, blt, etc.) but the toast rarely holds the heat long enough to be a detriment to the ingredients within. If I'm eating a sandwich "out" where warming or toasting is the mode of preparation, I much prefer to eat them there than to take them home, because if you want to rewarm them, the lettuce and veggies and most dressings get all icky.

And maybe I've just been lucky, but I don't really remember having a bad reuben, except one where the meat was a little on the fatty side. I prefer to make them at home, where I can toast them to my desired level of doneness, and stack the ingredients in a way where the kraut doesn't get a chance to make things soggy.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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Can you imagine being served a hot/toasted bahn mi?  Ick.  Or a muffaletta?  Blech!

A heated muffaletta is easy to find. Napoleon House in the New Orleans French Quarter normally toasts its version. Not that many people don't find it an abomination.

I can not imagine a hot bahn mi. The heat would kill the crisp, pickled vegetables.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Controversially, I'm going to stand up for toasted sandwiches made with really low-quality ingredients.

For example, I had a toasted ham and cheese sandwich on rubbishy white sliced bread in a hospital cafe recently that was... well, pretty good considering - and much better than it would have been cold.

To put it another way, if I've got to eat a sandwich made from uninspiring stuff (and what with work etc, I often do), toasting it really helps.

Interesting. I've found that heating tends to reveal subtleties - or more correctly, chilling tends to hide them. I always need to spice more heavily for something served cold (or noshed upon as a leftover that I'm too lazy to reheat).

Certainly, the convenience store fare that is meant to microwaved in-store would be pretty gross cold. (I plead the 5th as to whether I'd have tasted such a thing cold.)

David aka "DCP"

Amateur protein denaturer, Maillard reaction experimenter, & gourmand-at-large

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Interesting discussion and observations.  I agree that the heating of all things sandwich is running rampant. 

Can you imagine being served a hot/toasted bahn mi?  Ick.  Or a muffaletta?  Blech!

FWIW, I was served a warm muffaletta at The Nodding Head in Center City, Philadelphia, and found it delicious. No New Orleans fare, to be sure, but mighty tasty in its own right.

David aka "DCP"

Amateur protein denaturer, Maillard reaction experimenter, & gourmand-at-large

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'toasted bread + cold filling' - yes that seems more right to me, oh but not always. post easter holiday, i had two sandwiches: rare roast beef with wasabi and pickled ginger in a thick flabby 'wrap' style bread and a lamb and brie sandwich on toasted sour dough multi-grain.

the beef could never have been improved by heating i mean IMO yuck recooked beef turned grey and wet in a panino maker or aghhh a microwave disgusting!

but wasabi and pickled ginger with bleeding beef-yummy.

however: the barely warmed thick flabby flatbread was another disappointing element frankly. what is with the flatbread and wrap phenomena anyway???? between that and extra thick sliced bread i feel i can't get a decent sandwich anywhere anymore.

right, back on topic: the lamb and brie was very good. i should say though that the bread was thinly sliced, lightly toasted, and the lamb side was smeared with warm mashed mix my friend makes with capers, candied garlic cloves, anchovy, sundried tomato, fresh rosemary and few olives. the brie acted as a butter or mayo component :wub: .

i still tingle a bit when i think about it

Life! what's life!? Just natures way of keeping meat fresh - Dr. who

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A comment on the slicing cheese for sandwiches topic got me thinking about the phenomenon of the hot sandwich.

I'm not talking about hot sandwiches like grilled cheese or a sloppy Joe, where hot is part of the definition of the sandwich. Rather, I'm talking about sandwiches that have, since the days of Rabbi Hillel and the Earl of Sandwich, been served at room temperature but have, in the modern era, started being warmed by various processes.[...]

I'm not sure I think heat is always a positive thing for a sandwich, though.[...]

I agree with you, Fat Guy. I am always surprised when I go to a good paninoteca like Tarallucci e Vino and I'm asked if I want my panino heated. No, of course I don't! Why would I want a panino with salame, fresh mozarella, arugula, egg tomatoes, and pesto heated up? I just don't understand.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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hmmm the hot sandwich.

i did not grow up with the tradition of the toasted sandwich.  my first experiences of cheese toast were as follows: place slice of cheese on bread, pop under the broiler, wait until it becomes puffy and crispy, eat.  the result was a soft bottomed crispy-edged burnt cheese dream![...]

That's how my father made it, too. He sometimes put bacon on top, too. Toast was put on top, though.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Cool thread. What about the BLT? My personal favorite. I only eat these during the summer when my garden is producing truly great tomatoes. I use a good white bread, sometimes sourdough, always toasted. I then add , Hellman's (cold), iceburg lettuce (also cold), bacon (hot), and tomato (room temp). Its all pretty much room temp by the time i eat it. Bud during the season, I can put away 3 or 4 at a sitting. Come on Mid-July :rolleyes:

That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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You are not alone. I feel exactly the same way.

Imagine peanut butter and jelly panini! :shock:

If anyone reading this has not tried a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you absolutely must before replying. Toasted PB&J is one of those things you crave that nothing else can satisfy.

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Toasted PB&J is one of those things you crave that nothing else can satisfy.

Toasted peanut-butter and banana is even better - especially on toasted raisin bread.

BB

Food is all about history and geography.

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