THE WASHINGTON POST – This recipe was born of frustration.
Once upon a time, if I ordered a club sandwich in a restaurant, I knew exactly what to expect: a double-decker sandwich of lightly toasted white bread slathered with mayonnaise and evenly layered with thinly sliced chicken or turkey breast, tomato slices, and crisp lettuce leaves.
A well-constructed one would be pierced with four toothpicks and then cut into four even triangles. A generous handful of potato chips – or french fries – would be added to the plate.
Granted, in other parts of the world, club sandwiches can mean something altogether different, but in the United States (US), this was once considered the norm – the classic.
Gradually, over time, the term “club” has been applied to just about any double-decker sandwich. And these, while tasty, are far removed from this traditional configuration.
I’ve seen them piled so high with thick chunks of poultry that I can’t get my mouth around them. I end up taking them apart to eat them. Or they might feature bean sprouts, avocado, a flavoured aioli or delicate spring lettuces. They may be served on sourdough or ciabatta.
Is there anything wrong with this creativity? Absolutely not.
But you know how it is when you have your mouth set for a certain dish? You want that experience.
So, after a few less-than-satisfying orders, I decided to build what I consider a classic, diner-style club sandwich myself.
I determined that the keys to a well-made club sandwich are a sturdy white bread and a good-quality mayonnaise along with roasted turkey, crunchy lettuce and ripe tomato.
Then it is a matter of proportion and construction.
This may seem simple, but for a sandwich that slices beautifully into the traditional four triangular pieces and does not fall apart when you pick it up, you’ll want to make sure you are fairly generous with the mayonnaise and that your fillings are thinly sliced, evenly distributed and trimmed to fit.
I took my time, cutting the iceberg (or romaine – I tried both and liked it with either) lettuce leaves into pieces, so they fit neatly on the bread slice. For the turkey, I found two ounces was perfect – not too much, not too little.
I repeated all the ingredients on both of the double-decker layers: mayonnaise, lettuce leaf, tomato slice, turkey, and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.
When I sliced it and turned the triangles pointed side up, it looked perfect. Then I picked up a quarter and bit into it. The tall sandwich still fit in my mouth with ease, a bit of each ingredient in every bite and very little spillage. Success.
I did try to find out if my idea of a classic club is actually the one. I found lots of validation for my memory and experience and lots of origin theories, because, as with most such stories, the source of this sandwich is murky.
DINER-STYLE CLUB SANDWICH
– Six slices white bread, lightly toasted
– Quarter cup mayonnaise, plus more as needed
– Two large romaine or iceberg lettuce leaves, plus more as needed
– One beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced
– Four ounces thinly sliced roasted turkey
– Fine salt
– Ground black pepper
– Potato chips, for serving
To assemble the sandwiches, generously spread the mayonnaise on one side of each of the bread slices.
Cut the lettuce leaves into four pieces, so they will fit neatly on the bread.
Place a lettuce leaf on two of the slices; top each with a tomato slice, then a quarter of the turkey, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Top with a second slice of bread, mayonnaise side down. Gently spread mayonnaise on the top slice of bread. Repeat layering the ingredients in the same order on top of this slice of bread.
Cover the sandwiches with the final slice of bread, mayonnaise side down. Gently press down on each sandwich and use four toothpicks to secure the sandwich layers in four equally spaced spots, pressing all the way through the bottom slice of bread.
Using a serrated knife, cut each sandwich diagonally, into four triangular pieces (each piece should be secured in the centre with a toothpick).
Arrange the sandwiches on plates and serve with potato chips.