Make better Subs and Clubs

A Sub is a Club I want to be a member of.

The turkey, bacon club is one of my favorite sandwiches. But much like a BLT, a club sandwich is dependent on the seasons. Today I want to write about how you can enhance your sub/club sandwiches and how to get past the seasonality issues these sandwiches have.

I’m not going to write about the Club sandwich backstory, because someone else has already done a fantastic job of that. If you want to get deep into the history of the club sandwich, I highly recommend reading this informative edible history of the club sandwich from the Sandwich Tribunal.

A big problem with the club sandwich or the BLT is the T. The tomato is only in season for 2 to 3 months a year unless you grow them yourself. How do we fix this? I have my favorite solution in the tips down below.

Keep reading to learn about the ingredients I use to make my turkey, bacon subs and clubs.

Turkey and bacon sub with provolone
Turkey and bacon club with cheddar and the third slice of bread.

Let’s make some sandwiches

Here are all the ingredients you need:

The two breads

I’ve written about my sub roll before. In fact, I covered it just last week with my shrimp po’boy post. It’s a solid recipe and it’s great for beginner bakers because there aren’t many tricky parts other than rolling and shaping the rolls. The liquid to flour ratio is such that it’s not too sticky or messy to work with which also will help novice and experience bakers alike. I’ve even made it without my stand mixer, so you don’t necessarily need any special tools to make this dough. Give it a shot on your next sub night.

Note: your bread will be better if you use a kitchen scale and weigh out the ingredients in grams.

3 hours
Sub sandwich rolls

This is sort of a French style sandwich roll. Not too crusty but with a good chew for a sub sandwich or po-boy.

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The bread I chose to make the club-style sandwiches was King Arthur Baking’s Harvest Grains bread recipe. Often, for sandwiches like these, I will just make a quick white sandwich loaf or a sourdough sandwich loaf, but I really like the texture that the nuts/seeds bring to the mix in this recipe.

Bounded by Buns Sub sandwich rolls
King Arthur’s Harvest Grains loaf

The mayonnaise

Get some good mayo for these sandwiches. Make your own or buy your favorite. This roasted garlic mayonnaise recipe is fantastic, and I used it for almost all of these sandwiches. Make this recipe.

10 minutes
Roasted garlic mayo

You like sandwiches. Sandwiches like you. You need this roasted garlic mayo to enhance your love with sandwiches.

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The roasted turkey

Sure, you can buy turkey from the deli for a sandwich, but I like thicker sliced turkey that I baked myself for these types of sandwiches. This Cajun turkey recipe is a super simple way to inject a little flavor into your sliced turkey sandwich. If you are buying your turkey from the grocery deli, I suggest asking them to slice it a bit thicker than usual.

1 hour and 5 minutes
Oven roasted cajun turkey

A little spicy and super seasoned moist turkey, ready for slicing. Sandwich turkey is at the next level right here.

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The bacon

Most likely, you already know how to make bacon. But if you don’t, it’s very easy if you want to bake it in the oven. With this technique, you can cook a lot of it at once or just a few slices.

The veggies

I often choose plain ol’ iceberg lettuce on these types of sandwiches. I believe that’s probably the classic choice, but if you want something like romaine or green leaf, go for it. In my opinion, if it’s not dressed, the lettuce is just there for the texture. When I’m making a sub, I like to shred or finely chop my lettuce and then dress it. When I’m making a club, I usually just use larger pieces.

Tomatoes are a huge part of a good turkey, bacon club. They’re only good a few months out of the year, so seize that season when you can. When it’s the off-season, I do have an alternative to the tomatoes down below in the tips section.

The cheese

Use cheese if you want. If you look back at club sandwich history, cheese isn’t really a traditional ingredient. Even so, I add a slice of cheese about half of the time when I’m making a turkey, bacon club or sub. Do what you want. Make yourself happy.

The sub

The staging ingredients for a turkey, bacon sub (except mayonnaise).
Cross section of the turkey, bacon sub.

The club

All the ingredients for a turkey, bacon club (except mayonnaise).
Cross section of a turkey, bacon club (including the third slice of bread).

Now that we have turkey, bacon subs or club sandwiches made, how can we improve them?

5 tips for better subs/clubs

  1. Third slice of bread?
  2. Tomato + mayo
  3. Wrap in paper
  4. Dress your lettuce
  5. Off-season tomatoes

Tip one: that third slice of bread.

I reached out to my Sandwich Friend, Jim from the Sandwich Tribunal, to get his feedback on the third/middle slice of bread that is often in the club sandwich on a restaurant menu. Here’s what he had to say:

“Historically, the club sandwich does not include the third slice of bread, but versions of it with three slices have existed for over 100 years. Historically, the club sandwich was defined by the presence of roast fowl and cured pork, but the three slices of bread are a potent visual symbol that is irretrievably associated with the club sandwich at this point. So, despite the fact that the “club sub” does not include a middle slice of bread–thank god, ’cause that would be stupid–and despite the fact that the ubiquitous fast food chicken club sandwich doesn’t include a middle slice–they just slap some bacon and Swiss cheese in there mostly–most people still think of that double-decker construction as the classic club sandwich. I have stopped fighting it. But when I make a club sandwich for myself, I leave it out.”

Jim Behymer – Sandwich Tribunal

I could easily let Jim’s very educated quote speak for itself, but instead I will also reiterate (in my words) the important things he said: The third slice of bread is bull hockey. Stop it! You don’t need extra bread in this sandwich.

Tip two: put your tomato next to the mayo

Club with no third slice and cheddar cheese. The lightly salted tomato on top of mayonnaise is currently making its own sauce.

The tomato and mayo smushed together start to make their own special sauce from the juice of the tomato. When you have an in-season, ripe, juicy tomato, this flavor combination can be a thing of beauty. Put the tomatoes directly on top of the mayonnaise next time and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Salting and black peppering the tomato when you put it in the sandwich also helps because the salt will help draw out the liquid in the tomato. Salting can help an out-of-season tomato, but for a better alternative to that, check out my last tip below.

Tip three: wrap your subs in paper

Wrap your sub sandwiches in paper. I like to wrap hot and cold sub sandwiches, even at home. Wrapping sandwiches was invented to make sandwiches prepared by a restaurant/deli easier to transport from the restaurant to the place where you plan to eat them.

The side effect of this is that it encloses the sandwich and tightens things up to help meld the contents and sauces together. Wrap your cold sandwiches and let them sit for just a few minutes for all the ingredients to mingle. If you’re eating a hot sandwich, you can use aluminum foil and it will keep more of the heat in. An aluminum foil wrapped hot sandwich will also help melt any cheese.

Tip four: dress your lettuce in oil and red wine vinegar

Dressing your lettuce with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar adds so much to a turkey club or sub.

Add olive oil and red wine vinegar to your lettuce or veggies in general. Typically, I grab a small bowl and add my lettuce to that. Pretend like you’re making a small salad and toss your lettuce in just a drizzle of olive oil followed by a splash of red wine vinegar. Add a small pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix everything around a bit and take a taste of a piece of lettuce to see how it tastes. If you like it, add it to your sandwich. Otherwise, now is the time to adjust your simple dressing.

The zing of the red wine vinegar will add so much to your sandwich. Your life will never be the same again.

Tip five: sun-dried tomato spread

A good sun-dried tomato spread changes some of the flavors up a bit, in a very good way. In the off-season when tomatoes at the store aren’t great, buy or make some sun-dried tomato spread and use that instead. Here’s my recipe, it’s quick and easy and adds huge flavor punches to the sandwich.

This is a good recipe to keep in your back pocket. Print it out and fax it to your grandma. Also: tell her you love her.

5 minutes
Sun-dried tomato spread

This spread is great on a sandwich with cheese and meat. A bagel sandwiched with cream cheese on one side and sun-dried tomato spread on the other is fantastic.

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Two halves of a turkey and bacon club stacked, and we substitute tangy sun-dried tomato spread for the out of season tomato slices.
The addition of sun-dried tomato spread is also a great option in the sub as well.

The sub club recap

Make more turkey, bacon subs and clubs! I’m not sure if anyone reads this part, but if you do, thanks for hanging out!

Check back next week when we roll out a breakfast sandwich.

Bacon, Love and Tomato

Lettuce talk about bacon and tomatoes.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato is one of the world’s best sandwiches. Even though there’s only 3 ingredients in the name, there’s actually two additional ingredients that need to be considered; the bread and the mayonnaise. During tomato season, it might actually vie for the best sandwich you can ever eat.

Does this mean the tomato is actually the most important ingredient in the success of this sandwich? Let’s make a bunch and find out.

The bread

For the bread in most of these BLTs I tried to keep things simple and went with King Arthur Baking’s Classic Sandwich Bread recipe. The only change or addition I made was adding some of their Harvest Grains Blend to the dough (I’m not an affiliate with King Arthur nor are they a sponsor, they just have good products and recipes). I added 1/3 cup of the harvest grains to the dough and then mixed/kneaded/formed it as usual. When the dough was almost ready for the oven, I beat an egg with a tablespoon of water, gave the whole proofed loaf a brush with egg wash and then sprinkled more harvest grains on the top and put it in the oven.

If you didn’t want to buy King Arthur’s Harvest Grains Blend, you could head to the bulk food section of your grocery store and get a few of these ingredients yourself. I think the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and the oat flakes are the most important part of the mix in my experience. Buy some and keep them on hand to mix up your breads.

Unsliced loaf of seaded bread

The bacon

For some of these BLTs I smoked some pork belly on my Weber Kettle. For others I bought bacon at the store.

Some of the store bought bacon I used and enjoyed.

I’ve grilled a lot but I’ve never smoked anything before, so this was sort of a learning experience for me. Baby’s first smoke, some might say. I started with this Michael Symon recipe for a pork belly dry brine. It’s fairly salty in the end product and some comments did mention that. Perhaps like some folks in the comments mention, I just didn’t wash off the salt/brine enough in the stage between brining and smoking. It was still really good, just a bit salty.

After seven days of brining pork belly in the fridge, I set up my Weber Kettle for smoking. This is a very clear video on how that process should work. It’s pretty much what I did step for step.

In the end, my first attempt at smoking worked ok. Not perfect. The temperature of my closed/smoking grill kept rising over 300 degrees when I wanted it to stay in the 250 range. I need to work on my technique for the next time. I don’t plan to do any long smokes on a kettle grill, but I do expect to do a couple of shorter ones before the summer ends. One day I’ll buy a smoker but currently I don’t really want (or according to my wife – NEED) a third grill on our roof deck.

Here’s a quick slideshow of how I set things up for smoking three small pieces of pork belly. The time span would have been longer with a larger piece, but this is what my market was selling the day I went through. My full smoke after the meat hit the grill grates was about an hour and a half. I used this fairly cheap “Veken” brand four probe thermometer (Amazon affiliate link) to keep an eye on the temps and it seemed to work fairly well.

Here’s some bacon that I sliced after I had smoked it for an hour and a half. At this stage it still needs to be fried in a pan or baked in the oven to complete the normal baconing process.

Post-smoke, pre-fry homemade bacon. These strips are a little longer than half of your normal grocery store bacon strip, but thicker and in most cases tastier.

Will I brine and smoke my own pork belly again? Yes. Will I ONLY eat my own pork belly instead of buying store bought bacon? Absolutely not.

Super thick cut bacon that you made yourself is great. But it’s also something different from thinly sliced bacon you get at the grocery store. They both have their place for me and I think most people would feel the same.

If you’re cooking grocery store bacon or bacon you smoked yourself, the easiest way to cook it is in the oven. BUT you have to remember that some bacon has more sweetness than others and might brown in the oven faster than others. This Michael Symon recipe that I used for example cooked/browned faster than the typical grocery store bacon I’ve cooked because of the sugar content.

So you just need to keep an eye on it in the oven if that’s how you’re cooking it.

The lettuce

No one wants to write or read about lettuce.

Just kidding. I have some opinions. The lettuce in a BLT definitely adds some fresh crunch and texture. I used mostly iceberg in these sandwiches because it maximizes crunch over flavor (none). One tip I do have is to toss or dress your lettuce with a small amount of olive oil and red wine vinegar to add a bit more excitement to the lettuce portion of your sandwich. Maybe save this dressed lettuce tip for non-tomato season to jazz things up.

The tomatoes

This week we hit the Farmer’s Market. I love the Farmer’s Market in summer, especially when the tomatoes are starting to show up (they should be there when you start reading this). For my sandwiches this week I bought a few heirlooms and put them to work.

Once sliced and placed on the sandwich, don’t forget to season those tomatoes with salt and pepper.

The mayo

Dukes and Homemade

BLT on homemade sourdough sandwich bread with Duke’s Mayo.

Ok, I’ll admit this isn’t much of a competition. I made roasted garlic mayo from scratch and while Duke’s is pretty much top tier mayonnaise (especially in the South Eastern US), it can’t beat mayonnaise that you made at home.

The mayo recipes I’ve shared are easy if you have a stick/immersion blender. I have a Cuisinart hand blender (Amazon affiliate link) that works well, but this should work with any model. With a blender and the right size mixing container, you can make mayo at home in less than five minutes. If you don’t have one, you’re going to get a bit of arm exercise whipping the ingredients into the proper mayonnaise consistency. I’ve done it both ways, but the blender how I made this batch.

Here’s my recipe for roasted garlic mayonnaise (some would say aioli if they were fancy). If you’re not a fan of roasted garlic, you can omit that and just make plain (but still better than store bought) mayonnaise.

If you do like roasted garlic, you really should try this recipe.

10 minutes
Roasted garlic mayo

You like sandwiches. Sandwiches like you. You need this roasted garlic mayo to enhance your love with sandwiches.

Get Recipe

A step-by-step gif of the mayo making process
All the sandwiching ingredients in one spot.

Some finished BLTs.

Bread I made, bacon I made, roasted garlic mayonnaise I made. This is better than you can imagine.
The BLAT: Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado and Tomato. Bread here is toaster oven toasted, not griddled. This was store bought bacon.

Final BLT thoughts

Always toast your BLT bread. I tried two toasting techniques and I definitely prefer griddling the bread in a pan vs toasting it in a toaster oven. Both options are good and they both provide an entirely different experience.

I know I said at the beginning of this post that tomato could be the most important ingredient in a BLT and I still think that’s mostly correct. I think it’s two ingredients together that can make or break the BLT experience. For me it’s the combination of a juicy tomato and the mayonnaise that create what is almost a special sandwich sauce. Obviously bacon is important, but for me it’s not nearly as important as the combination of a ripe tomato and the mayonnaise.

Last sandwich

Homemade bacon, lettuce and heirloom tomato on griddled seaded loaf bread.

Make more BLTs. And check back next week when I most likely get cheesy again.