Anyone can make a good sandwich. But think about what's changed since the 18th century's 4th Earl of Sandwich put meat between bread, reputedly so that he could eat while gambling on cards (or working – it's still a matter of contention). Sandwiches have since traveled the world, bringing us treasures like Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, made with grilled pork, pâté, and pickled veggies on a baguette, and Puerto Rican-style jibarito sandwiches of garlic mayonnaise, meat, cheese, and veggies between slabs of flattened, fried green plantains. Sandwich technology took off beyond the earl's imagination – who could have believed the first grilled cheese was anything other than a gift from heaven or space?
At the center of lunchtime innovation are the savants of sandwichery, the deli masters and nerds who obsess over optimum condiment ratios and ingredient-layering strategies. We called a few of our favorites from sandwich shops around the country – Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches in Portland, Oregon; Michael Voltaggio of Ink.Sack in Los Angeles; Chuck Kelsey of Cutty's in Brookline, Massachusetts; and Tyler Kord of New York City's No. 7 Sub – to get their secrets for taking any sandwich to the next level. Put their wisdom to use, and your lunch (or brunch) today can be good enough to make old nobility jealous.
Slice it thin.
Remember in 'Goodfellas' when Paulie used a razor blade to shave garlic so thin, it peeled off the clove? In an ideal world, Chuck Kelsey of Cutty's would have Paulie on deli detail. Kelsey says that "if you're using fatty meat, like salami, you should slice it so thin it'll fold over on itself easily. That way, the fat melts as soon as it hits your tongue. You get all of the flavor without having to bite through the wall of meat." The same goes for cheese, Kelsey says, or even vegetables. Use a mandolin or peeler to shave veggies like radishes, fennel, carrots, and onions nice and thin. You'll still get their fresh crispness, but you'll bite through everything easily, and nothing will jump out of the sandwich.
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