Fry up a crunchy topping.
Credit: Photograph by Nick Ferrari

Another foolproof route to killer sandwiches: a handful of crispy, caramelized, fried shallots. They're a fixture at Cutty's – so much so, chef Chuck Kelsey says, "I have to fight not to put them on every sandwich we come up with." As a bonus, the oil you fry them in is incredibly aromatic and delicious in salad dressings and pasta sauces, or over vegetables. To make the shallot topping:

• Combine 1 cup sliced shallots and 2 cups vegetable oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Set over high heat and stir occasionally, until the shallots are frying rapidly. Turn heat down to a medium-bubbling simmer – shallots should be dancing but not moshing.

• Stir frequently and be patient: It can take 15 minutes to evaporate all the moisture – go too fast and you could burn the shallots before they dry and crisp. They'll get kind of stringy and look horrible, but they'll eventually turn "fluffy," and take on some color. Meanwhile, set up a big tray with a few layers of paper towels.

• When the shallots are almost rust-colored, take the pot off the heat, scoop them out, and spread them on the tray. Season evenly with salt, and let them cool until crisp. Keep in an airtight container once they're fully cooled.