Photos by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty / Recipes by Our Readers
I have a favorite sandwich. I learned to make it when working at Formaggio Kitchen about a decade ago, where people would line up well before lunchtime to get their hands on one. The components are simple enough: imported smoked French ham, bracingly sharp Dijon mustard, thinly-sliced Gruyere and slivered cornichon pickles piled onto thick slices of country-style bread. The exterior gets generously buttered, then the whole thing is pressed on a hot griddle until the cheese is melted and crisp and the ham’s juices begin to dribble out around the edges. Cut in half and wrapped in wax paper, it’s just about the best thing a person can eat.
But who doesn’t love a good sandwich? We’re a nation of sandwich-eaters. Slap some meat or cheese or vegetables inside two pieces of bread and you have an instant picnic, a grab-and-go meal or something comforting from home to enjoy during the ever-shrinking lunch “hour” at school or work. A good sandwich—whether from the deli down the block, the food truck around the corner or even a great cheese shop—is fantastic, but a sandwich made at home from the best local ingredients you can find? That is exceptional.
I have a few go-to sandwiches in my repertoire, and we repeat them often, especially when we have the right leftovers that need using up. If there’s extra roasted pork, I’ll slice it as thinly as possible and make Cubanos for lunch, swapping clothbound Vermont cheddar for the typical Swiss, adding my own garden pickles and some hot mustard. The day after a big party, the remaining soft, stinky New England cheeses get tucked into an Iggy’s roll with crisp sliced apple and glazed local ham. And when my garden is overflowing with tomatoes in early fall, we fight for the biggest slice to layer on toast, slathered with mayonnaise, spicy arugula and salty, crunchy CSA bacon.
Sandwich shops and trucks are popping up all over the Boston area, and to great acclaim; some places, like Cutty’s in Brookline, have such a following that their most popular item, the slow-roasted pork and fennel on an Iggy’s sesame roll, is only made on Saturdays and sells out every week. Moody’s Delicatessen in Waltham not only cures their own locally-raised meats for the deli case, but their specialty sandwiches—using prime local ingredients—draw huge lines at lunch (the Banh Mì and the Katz are not to be missed). Mei Mei Street Kitchen’s “Double Awesome” is so awesome it helped move them from food truck to brick and mortar in just two short years. It’s pretty clear Boston is in the midst of a sandwich love affair.
But does anyone still make them at home, we wondered? Are sandwiches just a lunchtime meal, or are they part of a weekly dinner routine as well? Do people prefer them toasted, or on soft, buttery brioche? In a wrap, or open-faced? We wanted to know, so we asked our readers to share their favorite sandwiches for this season’s Readers’ Recipe Contest. We were thrilled to find so many original recipes and our five favorites are printed below. We hope you’ll make them to pack in your lunchbox, serve to a crowd, or just enjoy at your table with family and friends.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, soccer mom, Italophile and managing editor at Edible Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.