A great sandwich is a delicious meal choice, which could be why about 60 percent of American adults eat at least one for lunch every week and 70 percent pack one or more in their children’s lunches, according to food industry trend-watching company Datassential. In fact, sandwiches are so popular and so common that at some point in the past you’ve probably made or eaten a lackluster sandwich.
However, every sandwich has the potential to be great — or at least better — says celebrity chef and sandwich expert Tom Colicchio.
Americans eat more cold-cut sandwiches than any other kind, while burgers, poultry, hot dogs, other meats and peanut butter and jelly round out the six most commonly eaten types of sandwiches, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Whatever you decide to put in your sandwich, always start with the freshest ingredients available, Colicchio advises. “There’s no substitute for a perfectly ripe piece of produce.”
“Create and customize sandwiches to fit your and your family’s palettes, not what the latest trends tell you to eat,” he says. “At the same time, don’t be afraid to experiment. One of the best things about sandwiches is the endless potential to create something new and delicious. If an experiment doesn’t work out, you can always try again tomorrow!”
In fact, more than one-third of consumers say they love sandwiches because of the ability to customize their meal by choosing from a variety of proteins, vegetables, cheeses and condiments, Datassential reports.
Building better sandwiches
“The architecture of a sandwich is as important as what you put in it,” Colicchio says. “I think there's an actual science behind building the better sandwich.” Colicchio, the James Beard Award-winning founder of Craft Hospitality and 'wichcraft, offers some tips to help ensure every sandwich you make is the best it can be:
* The bread is the foundation of every sandwich, and it should be as sturdy as it is delicious. You can find a variety of quality options from Arnold, Brownberry or Oroweat in the bread aisle of your local grocery store.
* When dealing with messier ingredients like roasted vegetables or condiments such as dressing, try lightly toasting or searing one side of each slice of bread in a pan atop the stove, until the side is crisp. Stack with the toasted sides facing in to help build a strong foundation for your sandwich.
* Build from the bottom up. Place the driest and heaviest ingredients on the bottom slice of bread first before adding toppings like lettuce and tomato. Spread condiments on the second slice of bread as the last step before topping the sandwich.
* For cold sandwiches, place the cheese next to the bread to help reinforce the stability of the sandwich. For hot sandwiches, place the cheese next to the meat so the flavors can interplay properly.
* To avoid sogginess and ensure consistent seasoning throughout, dress greens before placing them on the sandwich.
* Don’t go crazy with condiments. “The more you mix them, the more muddled the flavor becomes,” Colicchio says. “Pick one that will really accentuate the flavors you’re highlighting.”
* Finally, don’t overload your sandwich to ensure your ingredients won't fall out or leave a mess behind when you take a bite.
Bite into better
Looking for sandwich inspiration? The America’s Better Sandwich Contest, hosted by Arnold, Brownberry and Oroweat Breads, gives entrants the chance to hone their skills by creating delicious and nutritious sandwiches that feature the breads as the base. Visit www.americasbettersandwich.com for recipe inspiration, contest rules and to find out how to enter.
Meanwhile, try the contest's winning sandwich recipe from last year:
Moroccan Rainbow Carrot Sandwiches with Spicy Orange Dressing
2 slices of Arnold, Brownberry or Oroweat Whole Grains Oatnut Bread, toasted
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon harissa
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1/4 teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch each of salt and black pepper
3 medium assorted rainbow carrots, shaved into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup loosely packed arugula
2 teaspoons fresh mint, chiffonade
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped roasted pistachios
3 tablespoons crumbled feta
1/4 cup roasted garlic hummus
In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, harissa, marmalade coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Add the carrots, arugula, mint and raisins. Toss mixture and let sit for five minutes.
Gently stir in the pistachios and feta.
Spread hummus over each slice of toast, and top with the carrot mixture.