It was an accident that the sandwich chapter in Neil Perry’s new cookbook, Everything I Love to Cook, got so long. The original plan was to have five or six really good sandwiches, but as he compiled a list of his favourites, it snowballed to 21.
“I decided sandwiches deserved their own chapter,” Perry tells Broadsheet. “As Australians, we grew up eating sandwiches. They’re a simple way to have a lot of great ingredients layered up together. They’re a delicious way to eat.”
Like any dish, the greatness of a sandwich is reliant on the quality of ingredients, starting with the bread. Although Perry concedes some sandwiches, like classic finger sandwiches, require soft, white pre-sliced bread, he says fresh bread is best. “Generally speaking, cutting your own is more satisfying than a pre-sliced loaf.”
He also says a great sandwich needn’t be complex. “One of my favourite sandwiches is nothing more than two thing slices of rye bread with a slim lining of hot salami, good quality Swiss cheese and a veil of pickled cucumber – the whole sandwich being no more than one centimetre thick.”
But the sandwich chapter does have some complex bites. The recipe for lemongrass pork banh mi is a page long, with steps for prepping fresh toppings such as Lebanese cucumber, spring onions and roughly torn sprigs of coriander; pickling matchsticks of daikon and carrot; cooking lemongrass pork; and preparing lemongrass chilli sauce.
There are also impressive but gratifyingly easy recipes such as the “Cracking Cheese Toastie”, which requires four types of cheese – gruyere, fontina, mozzarella and parmesan – chosen for their melting and mild to sharp flavour properties. The only other ingredients are day-old sourdough and olive oil plus hot chilli peppers from a jar.
Sandwiches hold memories of international travel for Perry, in particular his Ultimate Deli Sandwich – his take on the Godmother from The Bay City Italian Deli in Santa Monica, in the US.
It’s made by taking a crusty ciabatta roll and layering it with hot sopressa, prosciutto, mortadella, capocollo and smoked ham. Lettuce leaves adds crunch, and Italian and dill pickles adds a sharpness, while the Italian dressing and hot sauce “take it to the next level”.
“I once stood in line for 30 minutes just to get this sandwich. I wondered what all the hype was about. As soon as I tasted it, I knew it was worth queueing for,” he says.
“All the amazing cured meats come together to form a flavour that’s different and better than the sum of its parts.”
He recommends serving it with some good-quality salted potato crisps. Any leftover dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and used on barbequed meats or to dress boiled potatoes.
“Sourdough is good for this sandwich too, perhaps with Gruyère replacing the provolone (or in addition). You can, of course, leave out some of the meats if you want – it is worth trying the whole thing once, though. Instead of the Italian dressing, you could just drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and a dash of red wine vinegar over the lettuce,” Perry suggests.
The ultimate deli sandwich
Preparation time: 15 minutes
4 ciabatta rolls
Butter, to your liking
2 tbsp American mustard
8 baby gem lettuce leaves, washed and dried
16 thin slices of hot sopressa
12 slices of prosciutto
8 slices of mortadella
16 slices of capocollo
8 slices of smoked ham
8 slices of provolone dolce cheese
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 dill pickles, cut into slices about 3mm thick
150g mixed Italian pickled vegetables (giardiniera)
8 guindilla peppers, chopped
3 tbsp Italian dressing (see below)
Hot sauce, to taste
For the Italian dressing
Makes about 1 cup (250ml)
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tbsp basil leaves
1 tsp oregano leaves
1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked
2 tbsp white onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
2½ tsp red wine vinegar
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the Italian dressing, put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, then taste for balance and adjust as required.
Cut the bread rolls in half, then spread the cut sides evenly with butter and mustard. Layer all the ingredients inside the rolls in the order they’re listed, finishing with some Italian dressing and a little hot sauce, then press together to enclose the filling. Carefully cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
This is an extract from Everything I Love to Cook, by Neil Perry, with photography by Petrina Tinslay. It is out September 28, by Murdoch Books, $59.99. Buy it here.
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