I believe I can say with confidence that my Dad’s favorite song is Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. As a matter of fact, a few years ago I made him a mix CD (That’s right, a mix CD. Don’t judge me.) consisting of nothing but covers of that one song in as many genres as I could find. I started with the first version I had ever heard (The Michael Stanley Band) to punk (Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies), country (Laurie Morgan), disco (The Bee Gees) – Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield, June Carter Cash and more…ending, of course, with Carole King.
The many versions of that song remind me of the many versions of The Big Sandwich I’ve made throughout the years.
Just like the song lyrics don’t change, some aspects of The Big Sandwich are constant – it must be made from a round loaf of white bread, the top sliced off and hollowed out to accommodate the yumminess inside. It must always have some varieties of lunch meat, cheese, relish or pickles, and tomatoes. It must be eaten in large wedges, and is best served with a side of vinaigrette or sub sauce for dipping.
It’s a summertime food that reminds me of picnics and sunny afternoons, partially because it travels well (placed whole in the picnic basket and sliced just before eating). This weekend, it only had to travel from my kitchen to my table, but it was still just as good.
To create The Big Sandwich, the right bread is the most important. I always use a round, unsliced loaf of old fashioned white bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. Whatever you choose, make sure that the crust isn’t too hard (for ease of eating) and the bread isn’t too flat (more room for sandwich filling).
Slice the top off the loaf and set aside. Hollow out the inside of the loaf, saving the inside bread for making croutons or breadcrumbs later (or for eating in the kitchen when no one is looking). You want to remove as much of the inside bread as possible without damaging the integrity of the bread walls.
Next, prepare your ingredients. One essential part of The Big Sandwich (for me, anyway), is a Giardiniera relish. I take a jar of Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables), dump it in the food processor with a few splashes of the brine, and pulse until it’s finely chopped but still has some texture. This time, I added some pickled garlic scapes that I made earlier this year.
I also season the tomatoes that will go into The Big Sandwich. I take tomato slices, add salt, pepper and olive oil and let sit until I’m ready for them.
Lunch meat and cheese. A proper Big Sandwich takes about a pound of lunch meat in various types. In this example, I used ham, turkey and hard salami. Roast beef is also good, or pepperoni if you want a bit more spice to your sandwich. Any sliced cheese will do as well – about a quarter pound. I used Provolone, but feel free to customize to your own preferences.
Once the ingredients are standing by, it’s time to assemble the sandwich. For me, the first layer is always the Giardiniera relish.
Next, ham, followed by salami.
Now a layer of cheese. On top of the cheese, the seasoned tomato slices. I also added some pickled Hungarian peppers I made the week before – fortunately, I ate one before I put them on the sandwich. Turns out they were pretty hot, so I just scattered a few of them over the tomatoes.
After the tomatoes and peppers, I layered on the turkey slices, the remaining Giardiniera relish, and the last few slices of cheese. The top of the loaf goes back on, and The Big Sandwich is complete and ready to be sliced and enjoyed!
If I were taking this to a picnic or an outdoor concert, I would simply put it back in the bag the loaf came in and transport it whole.
When you’re ready to eat, cut the sandwich into quarters. Yes, they’re big pieces – it’s a Big Sandwich!
Now, the most important part of The Big Sandwich. It is not a dainty sandwich. It demands to be eaten with gusto, in big bites, with friends or loved ones. It’s not a sandwich for a solitary meal – The Big Sandwich needs to be shared! I ate this Big Sandwich with my boyfriend, at the living room coffee table watching a movie – together. A perfect summer weekend.