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.


Alice Springs chicken sandwich

This might or might not be the National sandwich of Australia.


Alice Springs on the map.

G’Day, sandwich enthusiast! According to google and wikipedia, Alice Springs is a remote town in the Northern Territory of Australia. Home to 25,000+ mates and ZERO Outback Steakhouses, Alice Springs is located right around the middle of the country.

Alice Springs also happens to be a chicken dish on the very beef heavy Outback Steakhouse menu. I first encountered this dish back in the 90s when I frequented chain restaurants a bit more than I do today. My wife (then girlfriend) and I were both fans of Alice Springs chicken and we even bought a cookbook that had a copycat recipe for it.

Pulled from the online Outback Steakhouse menu. Look at all that broccoli. That’s too much broccoli. All this for 16 Dollerydoos.

The copycat cookbook

In 1997 “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes” by Todd Wilbur was released. This is the first cookbook I had seen at that time that showcased “copycat” recipes. The cookbook had many recipes that attempted to duplicate flavors of existing dishes from chain restaurants. Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback and Red Lobster are just a few of the restaurants that were showcased in the cookbook. As late-20-something, novice cooks, we tackled the Alice Springs chicken recipe from this book and my memories are of us enjoying it a lot and the result being very similar to the actual restaurant menu item.

When writing this blog post, I dug through some old boxes and found my copy of the cookbook and compared it to the MANY Alice Springs chicken copycat recipes on the internet. Spoiler alert: almost all of them are very close to the same recipe from this book.

Released in 1997. A few of the restaurants recreated in the book no longer exist. True copycat recipe history.
The Alice Springs chicken layering technique presented in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes.

Looking back on it I realize why this recipe is easy to copycat correctly and why so many online recipes are so similar. It’s because it’s an easy entrée. Alice Springs chicken is grilled chicken marinated in honey mustard, with cooked mushrooms and bacon on top and then you melt cheese on it. Very few ingredients and easy to put together.

If you’re handy in the kitchen, the hardest part of the recipe is getting your ingredients together to make the honey mustard sauce/marinade. If you wanted to cut some corners, you could even buy honey mustard dressing off the shelf and it would work.

Once you have the honey mustard marinade your next steps are grilling chicken, cooking bacon, cooking mushrooms and then layering everything and sticking it all in the oven for a few minutes. If you were having a dinner party, you could technically cook your chicken, bacon and mushrooms hours before you planned to eat and assemble the dish in a baking pan and bake right before serving. This would leave you lots of time to enjoy the company of your guests and talk to them about how cool my blog is.

Reheating tip: because this dish is finished in the oven to get the cheese melty, it makes it super easy to reheat as well. Just pre-heat your oven to 350 F and cook a leftover Alice Springs chicken stack for 8 to 10 minutes and you’re all set. If you’re cooking Alice Springs for one or two people, you could even refrigerate all the parts (cooked mushrooms, bacon, chicken) separately and assemble, covering with cheese when you’re ready to cook them.

The Alice Springs chicken

Here’s a photo of our finished Alice Springs chicken. My recipe (down below) differs from most of the online recipes you’ll find because it uses my wife’s favorite honey mustard recipe as the base for the marinade.

Our homemade Alice Springs chicken and side salad with tangy tomato dressing.

Below is a slideshow of my Alice Springs building action. As I was saying above, if you have all the pieces, but only need two servings per night, you can store the cooked components in the fridge and bake just what you need per night.

45 minutes
Alice Springs chicken copycat recipe

An easy recipe meant to replicate the flavors of Alice Springs chicken. Honey mustard marinated grilled chicken with grilled bacon and mushrooms covered in melted cheese? Yes please.

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The bread

Add some honey to some softened butter and then go to town on this sweet bread.

I could have served up an Alice Springs chicken sandwich on any type of bread. But I decided to make a sandwich with bread that I remember from Outback Steakhouse.

When you eat at Outback, they bring you a very dark bread with a big knife to munch on before your meal. I haven’t eaten it in many years, but I remember it being somewhat dense and sweet and great with a little butter spread on top.

If you search King Arthur Baking’s website for “outback,” you get nothing. But if you search google for “King Arthur’s outback bread” you get their recipe for Honey Wheat Black Bread which is clearly a very similar recipe to the bread you find at Outback Steakhouse. This is the recipe I used.

I had to order some Black Cocoa Powder from Amazon, but everything else was ingredients I had on hand or could pick up at my grocery store. The black cocoa powder is different from regular cocoa powder, and it is supposed to help with the dark color. I haven’t tried this recipe without it, but I might do that soon to see if it makes much of a difference.

I can taste hints of cocoa in the bread. It makes me think of a very dark chocolate brownie in some ways.

This bread is fantastic for snacking or to accompany a meal. I would certainly suggest trying this recipe if you’re a baker looking for something new to bake.

I don’t own a nice thick wooden handled knife, but I remember that’s how they served the bread at Outback.

I baked both round buns and 5-inch-long rolls with the same recipe. Let us slice up one of the round buns and get down to sandwich action.

The crumb shot. This bread is good for snacking, slicing and spreading with butter (or even better, honey butter). It’s a bit dense for most sandwiches. But it still didn’t fall apart. It would probably be great in loaf form sliced for patty melts or grilled cheese.

The other copycat book

After I had already photographed all these sandwiches and written this whole sandwich blog post, I found the original Top Secret Restaurant Recipes cookbook in a box in my garage and then I decided to buy the second one. Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 was published in 2007 and has a recipe for the Outback Bread which is VERY different than the King Arthur recipe that I used.

The recipe from the 2007 book uses blue, yellow and red food coloring to get the darkness instead of the black cocoa that I bought. There are other recipes online for this bread and many of those use food coloring too, but most seem to call for caramel food coloring. I’m guessing that things like black cocoa and caramel food coloring just weren’t as readily available as they are now.

The sandwiches

Here we go, it’s sandwich time.

Instructions:

  1. Take some Alice Springs chicken and put it between buns or bread
  2. Add extra honey mustard as needed
  3. Eat and enjoy
Grilled chicken, mushroom, bacon and cheese. What’s not to like?
The full Alice Springs chicken sandwich with Outback black bread and side salad with tangy tomato dressing.
The final Alice Springs chicken sandwich on a 5-inch-long honey wheat bushman bread roll.

Hopefully Australia won’t try to Boot me for this one.

The sandwich is good so the punishment would be worth it probably.

Alice Springs chicken is easy and super tasty. Honey mustard coated grilled chicken, bacon, mushrooms all covered in melted cheese is fantastic.

Earlier I wrote about how you can turn this dish into a fast-to-prepare dinner party recipe. And I also wrote and showed you how you can turn it into a sandwich. I think my work is done here. Add it to your list of dishes to make for a quick weeknight dinner and maybe put the leftovers on a bun. Check back next week when I pit one sandwich against the same sandwich somehow.


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.


Chicken Bacon Ranch (CBR) sandwich

Which came first: the chicken, the bacon or the ranch?

Everyone loves chicken. Everyone loves bacon. Not everyone loves ranch and those people are wrong.


A better writer than myself would try to explain why chicken, bacon and ranch work so well together or why this combination has become so popular in spots like fast food menus, Hot Pockets and Pillsbury casseroles. But instead I will just tell you how I made my version of this sandwich.

The rules for the Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich are pretty simple. It’s chicken plus bacon plus ranch. I’m actually quite surprised I had to tell you guys this, but here we are. Sometimes there’s cheese and in sandwich form you’ll usually have some veggie options and either a bun bun or bread sandwiching the whole thing together.

The bun

The bun I chose to bake for my Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich was King Arthur Flour’s Harvest Grain Bread recipe. This recipe is solid but if you follow it exactly, you’ll end up with a loaf instead of buns. To turn this into buns, you either need a scale or you can just try to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. For those using a scale, I tested with 90 grams and 100 grams and they’re both a pretty good size for a sandwich. I like my buns to be smaller than the meat/patty so when I do this again, I will stay in that range.

To make buns, you follow the above linked recipe, divide your dough (after the first 1 hour rise time) into 8-ish portions and you then should roll each portion fairly tightly into balls and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Let rise again for 1.5 to 2 hours and then bake at 350 F (175 C) for between 15 and 20 minutes. Before I put my buns in the oven, I cracked an egg into a bowl and added a little water to create an egg wash and then I brushed each bun with wash and sprinkled some of the harvest grain mix on top. This gives you the very optional seeded look.

It’s not called a Chicken Bacon Ranch Lettuce Tomato, but maybe it should be. CBRLT rolls off the tongue.

The chicken

This is the marinade recipe I came up with for my chicken. I named it spicy because there is a noticeable level of heat, but it’s not so spicy that it’ll knock your socks off. You can easily fix that though by simply adding more sriracha or cayenne. You also could choose to add more honey if you like your marinades to be a bit sweeter.

I chose to grill my chicken, but you could easily cook it in a skillet or grill pan on your stove.

35 minutes
Spicy Grilled Chicken

A quick and easy chicken marinade recipe for the grill. It\'s very easy to adjust the level of heat by adding or subtracting the sriracha.

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The bacon

If you need to make a lot of bacon for sandwiches here’s my technique. Almost not even enough to create a recipe for it, but I did it anyway and will probably reference it in a lot of future sandwich posts. The oven technique is just so convenient to make too much bacon and store it in a container in the fridge for future quick sandwiches.

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30 minutes
Oven baked bacon

Want a super easy way to make a lot of bacon for sandwiches with very little effort or cleanup?

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The ranch

You won’t believe this, but I actually like my ranch dressing recipe better than the real thing and I’m a fan of ranch. It’s the MSG. The addition of MSG brings this recipe a lot closer to buying the Hidden Valley Ranch dust packets and mixing with mayo and sour cream/buttermilk at home (this is the best way to make HVR – bottles aren’t as good).

The difference in this ranch recipe with and without the MSG is stark. The glutamate just adds an extra savoriness that makes me think we’ve located the real Hidden Valley. I use Accent brand which is 100% monosodium glutamate, but you can find straight M.S.G. in the spice aisle at grocery stores too. Or you can definitely find it online.

10 minutes
Homemade ranch dressing

The valley isn't so hidden, when you know the secret recipe. This recipe allows you to vary the consistency of the final product.

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I added lettuce and tomato and put them all together into this very tasty sandwich. To answer the “which came first” question posed in the title. The chicken and then the bacon and then the ranch. It’s right there in the name!

Chicken, bacon and ranch sandwich
Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch