Open-faced pizza sandwich

The Poor Man’s Pizza is an excellent sandwich.


wtf where are the triangle pepperoni!? Spoiler: these are all cut in triangles but not separated. I separated them and fixed it.

A man named, Bob Petrillose, invented a sandwich that he named the Poor Man’s Pizza in 1960 before restaurant delivery was really a thing. According to an article at Serious Eats, the Hot Truck at Cornell University was the home of the PMP or Poor Man’s Pizza which was two halves of French bread with sauce and melted cheese turned into a sandwich. Petrillose started his Hot Truck in the 60’s and ran it for 4 decades, working late nights to satiate the college students at Cornell.

Petrillose was not only the inventor of a fantastic sandwich, but he was apparently also an incredible person. This article from Cornell’s quarterly magazine in 2009 memorializes his death with very touching tributes from many students during his 40-year career selling sandwiches from his food truck.

The internet claims that Petrillose’s French bread pizza concept was licensed to Stouffer’s. Because of this, I figured I’d pay tribute to the inventor of French bread pizza by making Poor Man’s Pizza sandwiches and document the process with recipes.

According to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled article), Stouffer’s started putting their French Bread pizzas in the freezer aisle in 1974. Guess who else was born in 1974? GUESS!?

“Back to the Taste You Love.”
Seems like there must have been some New-Coke-style drama with the pepperoni at some point.

Petrillose’s Hot Truck is now permanently closed, so none of us can try a Poor Man’s Pizza from the source, but we can certainly make something similar at home.

We should talk about that, but first I want to revisit the French bread pizza that you can buy at the store.

The Stouffer’s French bread pizzas

I wanted to relive my history with the French bread pizza, so I bought some and baked them and imagined living in a cramped college apartment. These taste just like I remember. Each pizza is way hotter than you’d think, with extra crunchy edges and a super soft and cheesy center. The middle part of the bread, under the sauce and cheese gets a bit soggy and that sogginess along with the super crunchy and crispy sides gives you a lot of fun textures to enjoy.

I asked the only person I know who is basically some sort of pizza genius what he thought about French bread pizzas and he had this to say:

“I have a super soft spot for French bread and bagel and tortilla pizza in all its MacGuyvered forms” … “it’s a real opportunity to heighten the textural element. Pizza’s big and soft and comforting in the form most people are familiar with. Messing around with texture can heighten a lot of the experience.”

John Carruthers – Crust Fund Pizza

Check out John’s community focused pizza project, Crust Fund Pizza. And you can still buy one of his fantastic pizza cookbooks he created for charity: Pizza for Everyone.

These are Stouffer’s French bread pizzas, just like you might remember them, baked according to the directions. The crispy, sharp edges will destroy your mouth with the combination of searing heat and crunchy crust. But the memories taste so good. Be careful.

“Pizza bread” from the store

I was looking at the prepared foods section beside the deli in my local grocery store (shout out to Cermak) and I saw they had “Pizza bread.” I had been working on this blog post for a bit at the time, so I figured I’d give it a try since I didn’t have anything prepped for lunch that day.

There were ZERO instructions, but I figured for $3.99 I couldn’t really go wrong. All the pepperonis were whole instead of the fun little Stouffer’s triangles, so I fixed that with some kitchen shears.

Stouffer’s French bread pizza technique

In my research into the Stouffer’s French bread pizza, I found this Mashed.com article “We Finally Have Stouffer’s Iconic French Bread Pizza Recipe.” In that article, they suggest that a little fennel at the end is a required ingredient that a lot of people forget.

From that article they say that Stouffer’s actual ingredients/weights list/instructions is as follows:

  • 2.5 ounces (5 tablespoons) pizza sauce
  • Top each pizza with 1.5 ounces of shredded low-moisture mozzarella
  • 0.5 ounces of sliced pepperoni, cut into quarters
  • Bake your pizza at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until the cheese is melty and browning a little

I follow all of this in my recipe except for the baking time and temperature. 375 would probably work just fine though. I cook mine at 450 degrees F (232 C) for a shorter amount of time. All of this is in the recipe below.

The “French” bread

I’ve posted about this bread recipe a few times already. It’s my go-to long bread recipe now unless I need something really firm like a real French baguette.

This is also a super easy bread recipe. If you’re a beginning baker, it should be easy to jump in the deep end and become a baker with this recipe.

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 pepperoni

Boar’s Head pepperoni has a natural casing, which helps you get those pepperoni cups you see on pizzas that are cooked at higher temperatures than we’re working with here.

I try to buy Boar’s Head traditional pepperoni and slice it myself on a mandolin (WATCH YOUR FINGERS) but feel free to buy whatever pepperoni you like. The Boar’s Head brand has a natural casing which when cooked at high heat will produce the cupping pepperoni cups, holding pepperoni grease that people on Instagram like to see on their pizza. These French Bread pizzas will never get to that point, so buy the pepperoni that you like.

I’m a big pepperoni pizza fan, but for this pizza or sandwich or pizza sandwich you can use whatever toppings you’d like. Try it with mushrooms, Canadian bacon and pineapple or even just straight pizza sauce and cheese. If you have some leftover meatballs from spaghetti and meatball night, break some of those up on top and go to town.

The sauce

Here’s a big ole can of tomatoes.

My wife, Robin, has been making a similar sauce to this for a few years now.

Overall, this isn’t a copycat of the Stouffer’s sauce. It’s just a sauce that we both really enjoy, and it works great for a French bread pizza. Stouffer’s sauce is pretty sweet, and this sauce does have added sweetness that seems perfect for a pizza sandwich.

The sauce is easy to make, especially if you have a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you’re going to have to chop and mash up the tomatoes with all the other ingredients.

If possible, make your sauce the night before you plan to use it, because that will give the flavors extra time to meld.

40 minutes
Robin's pizza sauce

A slightly spicy, slightly sweet tomato sauce that's great for your next French bread pizza.

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The process

Let’s dive right in with this slideshow of the build process. This is how I build my French bread pizzas.

The French bread pizza recipe

Once you have your bread, sauce, cheese and toppings, this is a very simple recipe.

French bread pepperoni pizzas view printable page for this recipe

Much like the French bread pizzas you find in the freezer section of the grocery store, except you can tweak these to your liking with your favorite toppings and homemade sauce. Flip two French bread pizzas on top of each other for a great sandwich.

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Ingredients:

  • 6 inches of a French sub roll, split in half
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 to 10 tablespoons pizza sauce
  • 2 to 4 ounces low moisture mozzarella
  • 2 to 3 ounces pepperoni, cut into quarters
  • pinch fennel seed (optional)
  • grated parmesan (optional)
  • red chili flakes (optional)

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F (232 C)

Slice your French sub rolls length wise like you're making a sandwich. 

Spread a tablespoon of butter on each slice of bread and toast under the broiler until the butter is melted and the bread is browning and crisping up. This keeps the bread from getting too soggy under the sauce/cheese. 

Add each slice to a baking sheet or cookie sheet, buttered side up. 

Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of pizza sauce on each slice of bread. Make sure to get the sauce all the way to the edges of the bread.

Top the sauce with cheese. Make sure you have an even coating of cheese on each slice of bread. 

Add your toppings (in this case, pepperoni - but other pizza toppings would work well here too). Sprinkle the toppings around each slice for an even distribution. 

Sprinkle a pinch of fennel seed around the top. 

Add the sheet pan full of French bread pizzas to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melty and browning a little. Depending on your oven, you might want to take a quick peek at your pizzas around the 10-minute mark. 

If you want a really browned top, you can turn on the broiler for just a minute or two and broil the pizzas. BUT pay very close attention if you try this, it will go from epically toasty to tragically burned quickly if you're not paying attention. 

Remove pizzas from the oven top with grated parmesan and red chili flakes (if desired) and enjoy. 

Notes:

I like to take two French bread pizzas and flip them on top of each other to create a super comforting, melty and gooey sandwich. You should try it too!

With that recipe you can just make a bunch of French bread pizzas and go nuts eating them or you can flip each half together and make fantastically pleasing and comforting sandwiches.

I’m not sure why I never thought about turned these into sandwiches as a college student, but it’s a great idea.

Look below for how awesome French bread pizzas look when turned into sandwiches

A Poor Man’s Pizza with pepperoni and nice gooey cheese.
This sandwich is yelling “comfort” so loudly that you will surely need a nap very soon.
These are great with any toppings/fillings or just plain cheese and sauce.
This is a good sandwich to wrap up in paper or aluminum foil prior to eating. The foil helps to steam everything and soften some of the crispy edges, making all the sauce and cheese blend together.
A Pepperoni PMP. Or maybe it’s a PPMP? Whoa. What about a Personal Pepperoni PMP? PPPMP?

Make French bread pizzas. You heard me, just do it. They’re fantastic comfort food.

Pizza sandwiches are a whole different experience than pizza, they’re something else and they are great. Stick around for next week when we talk about leftovers.


Caprese what!?

This sandwich is named after Capri. The island, not the pants.


Once again I decided to turn to random sites on the internet to provide all of my fun historical facts about food. It appears that caprese salad is only about 100 years old. There’s a lot of speculation about when or who invented it first, but most sources believe caprese originated in the southern Italian region of Campania. More specifically, caprese is named after the island of Capri, which is an island in the Campania region.

Caprese as a salad is thought to have been first mentioned on a menu at the Hotel Quisisana in the early 1920s. If you’d like to read a good breakdown on caprese sandwiches (including pizza and salads) check out the Sandwich Tribunal’s caprese post.

At its simplest, a caprese salad or sandwich includes three ingredients; basil, mozzarella and tomato. Most caprese salads will also have drizzles of olive oil, salt and possibly some balsamic vinegar. Green, white and red are the colors of Italy’s flag and with the basil, mozzarella and tomato, caprese mimics the colors of the flag much like another very simply adorned Italian dish, pizza margherita.

This isn’t my first salad to sandwich post and it likely won’t be the last. Let us walk through the steps I took for this sandwich.

The focaccia

You can add all sorts of herbs or green things to the top. This one had fresh sage leaves and Italian seasoning.

King Arthur’s Blitz Bread is a very easy bread recipe. In my experience, focaccia is some of the best bang for your effort bread you can make. In less than two hours you can have this baked up and ready to eat or slice for sandwiches.

Focaccia is some of the best bang for your effort bread you can make.

The recipe mentions using a mixer, but you really don’t need anything to make this properly other than a scale (here’s the scale I use – Amazon affiliate link). The dough never really comes together like typical bread dough (it stays more like a thick batter) so you should make sure to have some olive oil handy to spread on your fingers if you need to handle it very much.

If you’re a rookie at baking bread, I suggest you give focaccia a try. This recipe gives you a great result with very little way to mess things up unless you incorrectly measure your ingredients. Use a scale.

Once you get your focaccia mastered, you’re about half way to one of the best types of pizza you can make at home, Detroit Style!

Prior to baking, add olive oil and poke the top a little to create small indentions for the oil and spices to pool up.
Post bake. This one is just Italian seasoning and flaky salt.

Part of why I love focaccia is the crispy almost fried texture you get from the bread frying in the pan due to the oil underneath. I’m also a big fan of the salted and seasoned top.

Soft on the inside but crispy on the outside with crumb for a good sandwich or to serve on the side of some soup or pasta.

GREEN: the walnut basil pesto sauce

Instead of just straight basil leaves, I decided to make one of the world’s best sandwich condiments, pesto. Pesto can be and has been made from almost anything green, but typically it’s basil. It’s also usually made with pine nuts, but my wife had a lot of extra walnuts left over from cake or brownies and I used those.

This recipe is solid and once you try it, you’ll want to put it on all of your sandwiches.

10 minutes
Walnut basil pesto

Pesto is a great option for a fresh spread or sauce for your next sandwich. The key is adding the oil slowly to help create the proper emulsified consistency.

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WHITE: the mozzarella

I’ve never made cheese and there’s no time like the present (or past since I made this in the past). So I decided to make my mozzarella.

I first watched this youtube video and then I followed this mozzarella recipe from thekitchn.com. Making your own mozzarella relies on buying two special ingredients, citric acid and liquid rennet (both Amazon affiliate links). The two ingredients together cost me around 20 bucks. Then after that initial investment I was able to turn a gallon of milk into two fairly large mozzarella balls and one smaller one. Enough for a weeks worth of sandwiches at least. In glancing at my local grocery store website, the cheapest ball of fresh mozzarella costs about the same as the cheapest gallon of milk, so if you plan to keep making mozzarella it should eventually pay for itself.

The whole mozzarella making process took me around 45 minutes to do. It’s a fairly active recipe and it requires you to hit certain temperatures, so you’re definitely going to need a probe thermometer or just get really lucky with your guesses.

Now that I have both citric acid and liquid rennet, I will definitely be making mozzarella again. Would I suggest you try? Sure. If you have the time and want really fresh really tasty cheese, I say go for it. But if you don’t have excess in your schedule you can always just buy fresh mozzarella at the store and slice it yourself.

I’M CUTTING THE CHEESE
The recipe requires you to hit certain temps so you’ll need a thermometer.
Finished balls of fresh mozzarella.

RED: the tomatoes

If you read my BLT post you already know that I like to support my Farmer’s Market in the summer. Growing up, my Dad had a fairly large garden and grew a lot of tomatoes, but as an adult I like to let others do my gardening and weeding for me and then I pay them for it. If you don’t have a garden, I suggest you do the same and buy a bunch of tomatoes during the later part of summer when they’re at their ripest and tastiest.

A red and an orange tomato ready to sandwich.

Let us put the colors together

Look how simple this sandwich prep looks. Don’t forget to add a tiny bit of salt to your tomatoes to help accentuate their flavor.

All the pieces arranged and ready to sandwich.

A good caprese sandwich with a ripe tomato is a fantastic experience. To make a sandwich like mine fully from scratch you really only need a food processor or blender and a thermometer. But if you didn’t want to go through the trouble of making your own mozzarella and you have a good source for focaccia (or other types of bread) you could have one of these sandwiches ready to go in minutes.

The sandwiches

It tastes like eating an Italian flag. This is not true. I’ve actually never eaten a flag. Yet.
It’s an Italian flag with some orange color splashed on it!
Back to the tricolor flag sandwich.

And an extra

Here’s another similar-ish to a caprese sandwich.

Grilled chicken thigh with melted cheddar, salted tomato and pesto on focaccia. No mozzarella, but still very good.

Make more caprese sandwiches and focaccia

If you take nothing else from my caprese ramblings today, I’d love for you to try to make your own focaccia. If you do, share a picture with me on instagram or twitter. Check back next week when I turn a thing that’s not supposed to be a sandwich into a sandwich. Again.


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.

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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.


Burgers three ways

I made some burgers and now you get to read about them (and look at them).


Two or three times a year I plan to delve a bit deeper and write about the toppings of the burgers I make at home. This week I made the following burgers:

All three of these burgers are simply 80/20 ground chuck with salt and pepper. I don’t like to mess around too much with spices in my burgers, but you obviously can if you want. That’s up to you. You are, after all, the Tina Turner of your own Hamburger.

Potato Buns

First we need to address the buns. The King Arthur Baking Hamburger Potato Buns recipe is one of my go-to bun recipes. You can use this for longer sub-like rolls or even weigh out pretty small sizes for sliders or hot dog buns. This recipe does require you to have potato flour and special dry milk in your pantry, but I make this bun style often enough to keep those items on hand. It also helps that both of these ingredients have a fairly long shelf life – even longer if you keep them in the fridge. The point of the potato flour is that it absorbs moisture in the dough and it leaves you with a more moist hamburger bun that will stay fresh longer.

Since I was making hamburger buns, I decided to add some toppings to some of the buns. That’s a super easy way to change up your hamburger rolls or hot dog buns. Just prior to baking, simply brush each bun with an egg wash (one whole beaten egg and a tablespoon of water) and apply your bun toppings liberally. I like to use Everything Bagel Seasoning (Amazon affiliate link), but you can use poppy seeds, sesame seeds or even something like dried onion flakes.

Sliced hamburger potato roll.

All American burger

This was a diner-style griddle burger, not a smash burger. I weighed out my ground beef into two 3 ounce portions and formed it into two patties. I typically use parchment paper and use my hands to form a round patty that is wider than my bun. In this case I flattened them into two fairly thin patties. You want to make your patty wider than your bun because the meat will shrink as it cooks. I like to form patties on a scrap of parchment paper because you can use that to flip them onto your hot griddle or skillet.

The ingredients for my All American burger are: two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, … tomato … on a sesame seed bun. The pickles I used were my MSG pickle recipe and the sauce I used here is a super easy sauce recipe I use for burgers and other sandwiches.

5 minutes
Special sandwich sauce

Great substitute for mayonnaise but way more flavorful. Perfect on a burger or even as dipping sauce for fries and onion rings.

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You can add finely diced pickles or onions to this sauce as well. And those seeking a little heat could opt for sriracha or another hot sauce to liven things up.

The All American burger. Two formed beef patties, American cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles and special sauce on a sesame seed bun.

Blue cheese and bacon jam

Blue cheese and sweet and savory bacon jam is a great combination of big flavors. I’ve shared my bacon jam recipe before and it is fantastic paired with blue cheese. For this burger I went with a hefty scoop of bacon jam and a wide but thin slice of blue cheese on an everything bagel bun.

You could go with blue cheese crumbles as well, but in my experience those end up falling off the burger and make a bit of a mess. Thinly slicing from a wedge of blue cheese helps your cheese stay in the mix.

Slice of blue cheese, bacon jam on a everything bagel seasoned bun.

Onion all the way

My onion all the way burger is very similar to a smash burger. I wrote about smash burgers a few months ago and most of those tips and tools apply here.

This burger is a lot like an Oklahoma fried onion burger. The burger historian himself, George Motz, can explain what that is better than I can. Here’s a video with Motz for Martin’s potato roll’s youtube channel where he explains and makes an Oklahoma fried onion burger. The simple explanation (if you don’t want to watch the video) is that this is a burger that is smashed and griddled along side sliced up onions.

The main difference in my burger is that I smashed the burger balls into the hot surface with thinly sliced onions. Motz’s recipe tells you to smash the onions into the burger balls forming patties with onions on the top side. Then when you flip, you end up cooking the onions while cooking the second side of the patty. I like to put the onions down first and smash my patties into the already cooking onions. It works great either way though, so experiment yourself and see what you think.

The slide show below shows the simple steps I follow to smash this onion burger.

Why make a burger with one type of onions when you can make a burger with two types of onions? Here’s my onion ring recipe.

Fried onion rings

Crispy and light onion rings are perfect as a side dish or placed inside a sandwich.

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Salt or season your fried onion rings right as they come out of the frying oil.

Here’s my finished Onion All The Way burger. I also used special sauce on this one as well.

Onion all the way burger. Two onion smashed patties, American cheese, two onion rings, special sauce on a plain potato roll.

And that’s it. Three burgers I made that hopefully will inspire you to make some of your own.

Don’t forget that Father’s Day is coming up. If you have the chance to see your Dad, offer to make him a burger. Pretty sure that Dads like burgers. If he also loves to cook burgers, I have several burger cooking tools listed in my smash burger post. Check those out. Next week I’ll be writing about another sandwich. I think this one may contain pork. Stay tuned!


Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.

‘Cause my peanut butter’s too bootylicious for ya, babe


Honey roasted peanut butter and Ritz crackers

Hello, my name is Jonathan and I’m a peanut butter fan. I think my Dad started it or maybe it just grew organically, but I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a kid or sometimes just peanut butter with no jelly.

My Dad used to come in on Saturday or Sunday afternoons after working in the yard or garden and he would ask, “want a peanut butter cracker?” I’m pretty sure that’s what he said, I could be mistaken (it was 30+ years ago), but he asked it like I might want only ONE peanut butter cracker. What he really was asking was if I wanted a few. When I (always) said yes, he would take about twenty Ritz crackers and spread – just the right amount – of peanut butter between them and we’d split five sandwiched crackers a piece.

This week I baked a loaf of bread and made a bunch of peanut butter and jam based sandwiches. I made a batch of honey roasted peanut butter, cashew butter, refrigerator strawberry jam and bacon jam. Keep reading to see what I did and find the recipes I used.

The toasted classic. Honey roasted peanut butter with strawberry refrigerator jam and love.

The bread

Pain de Mie loaf (click for larger)

The bread I chose was King Arthur Baking’s Pain de Mie recipe. It does require a special 13 inch Pullman Loaf pan (I own this one – this is an Amazon affiliate link) with a lid to bake it and make it this shape, but if you eat a lot of BLT’s or PB&J’s or grilled cheeses, you will get use out of this pan.

I like this shape of bread for sandwiches and I like baking it myself because I have full control on the thickness of my slices. The bread recipe comes out a slight bit cake-like in my experience so I really feel like it needs some toasting. I ate one PB&J untoasted just to get the right sample set, but it really is better toasted. For most of these sandwiches I simply heated up a skillet over medium heat, spread butter on one side of each piece of bread and lightly toasted. I then removed the toast from the heat and built the sandwich on a plate or cutting board. You could do this and griddle the sandwich the ingredients already between the bread, but that seems like you’d be risking all the insides heating up and sliding out.

Honey roasted peanut butter

I used store bought honey roasted peanuts for this nut butter, but you can use this same recipe for other nuts too. I also made a batch of cashew butter using the same steps with store bought salted cashews and it turned out great. I used it in some of the sandwiches mentioned here. If you want your nut butter to be chunky, you can hold back a few of your nuts from the food processor, chop them up roughly with a knife and stir them in to the pureed butter to turn it crunchy.

Honey roasted peanut butter

Smooth, sweet and salty peanuts are great on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or the topping on a burger. Or you can just buy some crackers and go to town for snacks.

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Strawberry refrigerator jam

This is the easiest jam or preserves that you can make. Just a little chopping and some time in a pot and you’ve got something really tasty that you can put on toast or a sandwich. I haven’t tried this with other fruits, but I’m guessing it will work. I will give it a shot in the future, keep an eye on this space.

Strawberry refrigerator jam

You don't need any pectin or canning experience to make this easy strawberry jam. Just three ingredients and a few minutes on the stove and you've got a great spread for your toast or pb&j.

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Bacon Jam

I’ve shared this recipe before. It’s a good one. Keep it in your back pocket for your next burger night too. A mixture of savory and sweet, this is good stuff. Savory and sweet bacon jam, plus peanut butter makes for a really fun sandwich combination. The texture in the jam also helps to change things up a little.

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35 minutes
Bacon jam

Bacon jam is fantastic as a burger topping but it\'s even better as a condiment in your next grilled cheese.

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Now to the business: the sandwiches

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
The classic untoasted.
The toasted classic.
Cashew butter and bacon jam lightly griddled. This was a pure winner. I will be making this combo again.
TWO jams: strawberry and bacon plus honey roasted peanut butter toasted. This was overkill. Still good though, but a lot of sweetness.

Ode to Hopleaf

I also attempted to recreate one of the best sandwiches in all of Chicago. The Hopleaf Bar in the Andersonville neighborhood has a sandwich on their menu called the CB&J. Here’s the sandwich in google image search to see what we’re working with. Their menu says it’s “housemade cashew butter, fig jam and raclette cheese; pan-fried.” Hopleaf’s is on sourdough, so I certainly didn’t get the bread right, but I had fig preserves in the fridge and bought some cheese. Raclette melts very easily, but I wanted to make sure it was melty so I sliced it, placed the slices on the peanut butter side and placed it under the broiler for a couple minutes just to give it a head start. Then I griddled it in butter over medium heat for about 3 or 4 minutes per side. I was left with this beautiful sandwich that was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had all year!

Triangles taste better!
Those fig preserves sliding out *chef’s kiss*

That’s all for the peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I’ll be back next week and maybe I’ll write about biscuit sandwiches and maybe I’ll write about burgers. No one really knows at this point. Stay tuned.


Italian submarine sandwich cross section

The Italian job

Which sounds better: a Maine Sub or an Italian Sub? Because maybe you could have both?


I recently spent a whole 20 minutes researching the Italian submarine sandwich. Apparently the Italian sub was invented in Portland, Maine in 1903. Wikipedia has convinced me that a baker named Giovanni Amato was encouraged by dockworkers to slice his long bread rolls and add meat, cheese and vegetables to it. The preparation section of the above linked Wikipedia article cites that “Italian sandwiches are typically prepared on a hard or soft Italian roll with the following ingredients: all thinly sliced to order meats including Danish ham, genoa salami and capicolla along with provolone, shredded lettuce, onion, oil and vinegar, cracked black pepper and dried oregano.”

The Italian sub from JP Graziano’s

After that lengthy Italian sub research, I made a trip to a well established and much loved sandwich shop in Chicago that specializes in sub style sandwiches. The number one entry on J.P. Graziano’s menu is the Italian. Hot capicola, genoa salami and mortadella make up the meat on the sandwich that is topped with sharp provolone, tomato and shredded lettuce dressed with red wine vinegar and dried oregano. All this between a 9 inch long portion of a roll from Damato’s Bakery and Subs.

The bread on these sandwiches is great. It really makes the experience. There’s just enough crunch on the outside, but the inside is still soft. There exists a fine line for bread in a cold cut sandwich with one side too soft and the other too dense or tough. If the bread is too tough, each bite requires you to exert extra bite force shoving around the sandwich fillings and you have to constantly rearrange it. Damato’s bread is just perfect for this sort of sandwich and I can see why J.P. Graziano’s values the bread to ingredients relationship so much.

“to me, every sandwich, 60% is the bread.”

Jim Graziano – CNN Travel “The secret art of a J.P. Graziano sandwich”

Obviously, J.P. Graziano’s has nailed this version of an Italian sub and I’m already looking forward to my next visit to pick up sandwiches. But first I wanted to think a bit more about how to make one at home. Read on for my version of an Italian sub you can make at home with some tweaks I made to change up the flavors a little. Or you can just stare at this gif I made of the process of making my first J.P. Graziano’s inspired Italian sub of the week.

J.P. Graziano’s slices their meat and piles it up so that the bottom roll is flipped onto the meat/cheese stack and then veggies are added. I tried to emulate that here.

My sub rolls

The rolls I make for subs is a recipe I’ve made many times with an end result of three rolls that are eleven or twelve inches long. I find this leaves you with the perfect lunch length where you can cut half for lunch or make a big one and share half or eat the whole thing if you’re feeling feisty. This bread recipe is written for those of you who have a stand mixer, but you can make it without one; you’ll just end up kneading for about 10 or 15 minutes to get a smooth, soft dough.

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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This sub roll recipe is great for all sorts of sandwiches. Don’t just limit yourself to Italian subs. Meatballs also work very well between this roll as do any other cold cut submarine, hoagie, grinder or whatever they call long sandwiches in your neck of the woods.

The meats and stuff

For my subs, I stood at the meat counter for a few minutes while my guy sliced up some Genoa salami, mortadella and hot capicola (capocollo for Americans – also sometimes referred to as gabagool – especially on the Sopranos). I specifically tried to copy what J.P. Graziano’s uses as meat in my sandwiches. I bought some provolone, a head of iceberg lettuce and vine ripe tomatoes (that weren’t really ripe since it’s April – but good enough). Dried oregano, olive oil and red wine vinegar were already in our pantry, but I used those too.

Because this sandwich is so simple and because it’s mostly cold cuts and commonly found veggies, it’s pretty easy to recreate at home. As long as your deli meat counter at your local grocery stocks these varieties of meat, and you can find good bread, you can easily satiate any itch for an Italian sub experience.

Lily thinks that she loves Italian subs. This was the first one I made this week. Just meats/cheese, tomato and lettuce tossed in red wine vinegar and oregano.

Giardiniara

Comparison in J.P. Graziano’s and my giardiniera recipe.

J.P. Graziano’s also sells their own giardiniara and it is really good. I bought some of their hot variety to test against mine (mine is much less spicy). Theirs has LOTS of pickled serrano peppers in it. I added some of it to the second half of the Italian sub I ordered and it really steps things up. It does make a pretty interesting addition but it also overwhelms some of the spicy flavors of the meat choices. I think a slightly milder version melds a bit better for me.

I did a small sampling to compare theirs and my recipe (linked below) and found theirs to be super savory and seriously hot, making my version more of a mildly spicy condiment. You can see the obviously differences in color and visual differences in this comparison photo. J.P. Graziano’s hot version has a savoriness that reminds me a lot of the oil on top of a pizza, but also packed with heat. I personally really like the cauliflower and olive percentage in mine and enjoy that it’s not quite as pepper focused as some hot giardiniara versions. But there’s a place for both versions in my fridge.

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Giardiniera

This giardinara recipe is spicy but not super hot. I'd list it as between mild and medium heat. Add more pickled jalapenos (and the pickling oil) or leave them out entirely to adjust the heat level for your sandwiching experiences.

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Addition of giardiniara turns this into something a little more exciting. This is one of my earlier batches of giardiniara minus the red pepper.

Dressing

Most of the Italian subs I made used red wine vinegar mixed with oil and tossed into shredded lettuce, but on the last day and sandwich of my five day Italian sub journey I was inspired to toss my lettuce into some caesar salad dressing I made. Turns out this was a fantastic choice. Even though caesar dressing was first created in Mexico, it still seems to work well with the flavors of an Italian sandwich that was invented in Maine. The recipe below is for my caesar dressing, but store bought would obviously work well too.

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20 minutes
Caesar dressing

Great for a salad or used as the spread on a sandwich. Caesar dressing is a super garlicy and tangy sauce to dress your sandwich veggies.

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My favorite version. Caesar dressing and giardinara really bring some fun new flavors to the game. But neither addition overwhelm the flavors of the meat.

The final version was my favorite version of an Italian sub. I know some purists would be upset, but I think the giardiniara and the addition of an interesting caesar dressing for the vegetables made all the difference in the world for my at-home version.

One last pro tip for folks who read to the end: tightly wrap your sub in a piece of parchment paper or aluminum and you’ll end up with an experience much more like you get in a deli or sandwich shop. I also feel this sort of cold cut sandwich benefits from sitting wrapped up for a few minutes before eating allowing the oil and vinegar or dressing to soak into crevices in the bread and coat the meat and cheese.

If you have a great sandwich shop like J.P. Graziano’s making good Italian subs in your area, go support them. If you don’t you can use some of the tips and recipes from my experiences to make your own. Report back here and tell me how it all worked out.