Chicago’s vegetable club

A sandwich from the City in a Garden.

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Read Time: 6 minutes

In 1837, when Chicago officially became a city, it adopted “Urbs in Horto” as its official motto. Urbs in Horto is a Latin phrase that translates to “City in a Garden.”
Who says you don’t learn something new every day? Read more about Chicago’s park system.

The Parson’s Vegetable Club in the wild. I left my house to go eat this!

Nestled in a Chicago restaurant menu alongside fried chicken sandwiches, fried fish and shrimp baskets, and hushpuppies stuffed with pork, you’ll find Parson’s vegetable club sandwich.

This vegetable club is a veggie-focused sandwich you can order at a place called Parson’s Chicken and Fish. Parson’s is a small chain of four locations throughout the northern part of Chicago that focuses on (you guessed it) chicken and fish and frozen negronis.

If it weren’t for my wife, I don’t think I ever would have tried this sandwich. She’s been ordering it for years and has turned several friends onto the flavors and textures that the sandwich has to offer. When we visit Parson’s, I typically order either the regular or hot chicken sandwich, but recently we made a special trip (Parson’s original location is an easy 10 to 12-minute walk from our house) and ordered several sharable appetizers and we split the vegetable club.

This sandwich is fantastic and we’re not the only people that feel this way. This week, I wanted to attempt to make a Parson’s vegetable club copycat sandwich at home and share how you can make one at your house too.

What’s in the Parson’s Vegetable Club?

The focus of this sandwich is pickled beets, but there are some other thinly sliced vegetables and a vinaigrette that pulls some serious weight in this sandwich as well.

A screenshot from Parson’s sandwich menu.

In other words, this seems like a fresh and summertime-y sandwich. Or at least “fresh” is what you might experience at first. The beets are pickled. Radishes, cucumbers, and greens are easy to get in most markets year-round these days, so this sandwich also works well for a winter meal when you’re begging to enjoy something fresh.

Is this a club sandwich?

I’m not sure.

By the definition on Wikipedia? Definitely not. Does this matter? No, I don’t think it does.

Is this a good sandwich?

Yes, it absolutely is.

Let’s focus on that and then make some of these vegetable clubs at home.

Wikipedia’s short definition of a club sandwich doesn’t include beets. Yet.

The pumpernickel bread

To tackle this sandwich, first, we need some pumpernickel-style bread. I made King Arthur Baking’s Pumpernickel Boule recipe. It’s a solid bread recipe. I’ve made it one other time and I’ve made a similar King Arthur marble rye recipe before and the secret ingredient in the color for pumpernickel is black cocoa. You can use regular cocoa, but you will not get the extra dark pumpernickel color without this extra dark cocoa. You get no real chocolate flavor from this addition, but the color difference is huge.

The second special ingredient is deli rye flavor. I have bought King Arthur’s deli rye flavor and I can say that it contributes a big punch of flavor.

There’s a third specialty ingredient in the recipe that I have never bought or used and that’s the Rye Bread Improver. A bread improver typically will help your bread rise, but both times I have baked it, this recipe has performed very well in the rising department for me, so I’ve never tried it.

Black cocoa. This stuff makes your pumpernickel go from brown, to almost black. Apparently, it’s great for brownies, but those are usually dark enough already.
This ingredient adds massive flavor to your rye bread that you just can’t get easily otherwise.

The King Arthur pumpernickel recipe is for a round “boule.” But I prefer more of a loaf or torpedo shape and that’s how I formed this bread. I believe that you could probably bake this in a bread pan if you really wanted that shape.

Right before baking.
Right after baking.
Sliced pumpernickel has a beautiful, dark color if you use black cocoa.

The herbed cream cheese

You can buy herbed cream cheese if you want, or you can control your future and turn plain cream cheese into your own herby-flavored spread.

Here’s a roasted garlic cream cheese recipe I’ve shared in the past when I wrote about the Bruegger’s Herby Turkey bagel sandwich. It’s got great flavors, but as I said above, this is an ingredient that you could easily purchase and save yourself some effort.

1 hour
Roasted garlic herby cream cheese

Creamy with herby freshness and sweet roasted garlic, this spread is great on bagels or toast. You can even enjoy this on crackers as a snack.

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The pickled beets

I’m normally not the biggest fan of beets, but these pickled ones really work great in this sandwich.

These are beets. They look like they could be purple potatoes or pears or something. But I’m pretty sure they are beets.

First, you must roast the beets for an hour or an hour and a half to get them softened a little before thinly slicing and then adding to hot pickling liquid.

A very important tip on this sandwich is to place the beets right on top of the cream cheese. Much like tomato and mayo in a BLT, the combination of the cream cheese and the pickled beets combine to make something better than the sum of two parts. It’s almost like it makes a sauce, which makes me think maybe one day I’ll make beet-flavored cream cheese. But that’s for another day. Here’s the pickled beet recipe (which also is included in the full sandwich recipe down below).

Recipe Card
1 hour and 55 minutes
Pickled beets

This recipe yields tender sliced beets that still contribute texture and sharp flavor to a sandwich or just as a snack.

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The other veggies and dressing

This is one of our mandolines. This is our “Japanese mandoline.”

The beets are the focus here, but there’s other stuff in this sandwich as well.

You need thinly sliced cucumbers and radish. For this, I use a Japanese mandoline and slice both vegetables about the same thickness. When you are placing them on the sandwich, I like to try to remember to salt the radish and cucumber a little because it does bring out the cucumber flavor.

That Japanese mandoline is a bit of an investment, but you could buy one like this OXO mandoline for quite a bit cheaper. As long as it’s a reputable brand like OXO, you’re likely to only need to buy one mandoline in your life unless you plan to live past 90.

Health tip: if you want to keep all your fingers, you should also buy some NoCry Cut Resistant gloves. My wife and I refuse to use the mandolines in our house until we’re wearing these gloves. If you’re new to chopping veggies, you could wear a glove on your non-knife hand to protect yourself.

Be safe! Use a cut-resistant glove when using the mandoline if you do not like emergency rooms.

Dress the arugula and pea shoots with the vinaigrette in a bowl first like you are making a salad and then spread onto the sandwich. You put the dressed arugula and pea shoots on top of everything else because dressing flows downward to season the rest of the sandwich.

Sandwich assembly

Let’s build this thing.

Here’s a simple slide show of the sandwich stacking and assembly. You can stack the ingredients in whatever order that you want, but I chose to do it like they do it at Parson’s. See the photo way up at the top of this blog post if you want a second glance at those layers.

The vegetable club sandwich recipe

Is this a pretty vegetable sandwich, or what? Please comment below if you agree or disagree or have any emotions.

Here’s the full vegetable club sandwich recipe. Once you have the beets pickled, you’re pretty much home free after you slice the rest of the veggies.

Pickled beet and vegetable club sandwich (Parson's copycat) view printable page for this recipe

Here's a fantastic sandwich, stolen from the menu at Parson's Chicken and Fish in Chicago.

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by Jonathan Surratt

Ingredients:

Pickled beets
  • 4 medium sized beets
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 13 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • 5 black peppercorns
Mustard vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 13 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Sandwich assembly
  • 5 to 7 slices of cucumber
  • 4 to 6 slices of radish
  • 12 cup arugula or other type of greens
  • 14 cup of pea shoots
  • 3 tablespoons mustard vinagrette (from above)
  • 2 slices of pumpernickel bread
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons herby cream cheese
  • 2 or 3 slices of pickled beets

Directions:

Roast and pickle the beets: preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C).

Wash beets with water and dry with a paper towel. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and roast on a pan in the oven for 1 to 1 and a half hours. You'll know the beets are done when a knife slips in and out of one very easily. 

Allow the roasted beets to cool for at least 30 minutes and then slice them into even, thin slices. This is a good opportunity to use a mandoline for slicing if you have one. 

In a small pot over medium high heat, bring cider vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and ground mustard to a boil in a medium pot and stir/simmer until sugar dissolves

Add 5 peppercorns and the sliced beets to a jar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the top of the beets in the jar. 

Allow the jar of beets to cool to room temperature for about an hour. Add jar full of beets to the refrigerator and store for up to a month. 

Make the mustard vinaigrette: in a bowl, whisk the Dijon mustard and both vinegars together. slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking until the dressing comes together. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Add more if needed.

Prepare the vegetables and build the sandwich: thinly slice cucumber and radish. 

Add your arugula/greens to a small bowl with pea shoots and toss. Pour over 3 tablespoons of mustard vinaigrette and toss everything together to dress this simple salad.

Toast both sliced of bread.

Spread a nice layer of cream cheese to both slices. Add at least two slices of beets to the bottom slice of bread.

Top the beets with sliced cucumber and radish. Top the slice veggies with a small handful of dressed greens and pea shoots and then top the whole thing with the second sliced of bread, cream cheese side down. 

Serve sandwich and enjoy. 

Check out some other vegetable clubs that I made this week.

Here’s a nice close-up of some sliced vegetables that you probably need in your life.
The cream cheese and beets combine to become a sum greater than their two parts.
It’s important to dress the greens in the mustard vinaigrette prior to placing them on the sandwich. You get a lot better dressing coverage that way and if you have any extra dressed greens that won’t fit on the sandwich, you just got yourself a free salad.

When you need a veggie sandwich, this is it

Even if you’re skeptical of vegetarian sandwiches, give this one a shot. I won’t even try to tell you that the beets replicate meat or protein in some way because they don’t. This is an unabashedly vegetarian sandwich and it’s fantastic with its combination of flavors and textures.

Thanks again for reading! Check back next week when I’m once again full of boloney.


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