Before you make that same old grilled cheese or your go to grilled chicken for dinner guests, take a look at what some top chefs put between their bread at the recent Rachel Ray’s Sandwich Throwdown. The group of top chefs included two 2014 James Beard Winners and many talented others.
Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. of Chicago’s Purple Pig created the Basta! sandwich. Jimmy was named James Beard Foundations Rising Star Chef of 2014. His monster of a sandwich overflowed off the sides of the 25″ EVO grill. It was piled high with salty prosciutto, creamy scamorza cheese and brightened with pickled crimini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.
Los Angeles chef Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza recently won top honors at the Beard Awards when she was named Outstanding Chef of the Year. For this competition Nancy served up her grilled Autostrada. It was a more delicate sized offering on thin sliced bread with mortadella, coppa, dry salami and prosciutto. It was paired with a side of amazing house made pickles that were spicy and a great compliment to the rich meats.
Charleston’s own very talented Ted Dombrowski of Ted’s Butcherblock created my personal favorite combination of salty,sweet, and meaty in his Caruso. Served on a soft focaccia it was a wonderful combination of Gorgonzola,walnuts,meats, and honey. While it lacked the gooey cheese quality of most contenders, the original play of flavors stood out in the tastings. I have since made this at home to raves. I have served it as both an appetizer and main.
But in the end it was a true thinking outside of the box (or in this case bun) entry that won the throwdown. Because this one had no bread involved. It was too crispy fried pieces of mortadella with some pickled veggies and a slice of cheese inside dubbed the Mighty Morty that won the judges with it’s unique take on a sandwich. It was the inspired and quirky work of Chef Jonathan Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern. And yes, I’m ashamed to say, I went back for seconds. And dipped it again into the stout beer vinegar offered to offset the rich guilty goodness. And vowed silently to exercise more tomorrow. Because when was I honestly going to get another chance to bite into three inches of breaded fried meat called a sandwich again?
Inspiration to save you from sameness. Almost as easy but exciting and tasty enough for entertaining. Or maybe you put just a couple of breads and ingredients shown here together and create a grilled sandwich bar for guests. They can create their own personal masterpiece. Perhaps even invite the neighbors to contribute to the bar potluck style? You could go all the way and even have a vote for most creative sandwich of the evening. Or most delicious.
What could be more simple, engaging or personalized than that? It’s summer and it doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult to get together to enjoy life with friends and neighbors.