Winston Churchill once quipped that ‘history is written by the victors’; and this essentially sums up the history of the sandwich. Many food cultures used the idea of placing meat and/or vegetables between pieces of bread; often unleavened bread. In the Middle Ages in Britain, it was standard to use a slice of bread as a plate; and up to the 16th century, this was referred to in literature simply as a “peece of bread and cheese” or a “peece of bread and meat”.
The Fourth Earl of Sandwich gave his name to this food item when he was gambling in his club, the Beef Steak Club, in 1762 and requested that the roast beef be brought to him at the gaming table between two slices of bread. This practice was popularised by the travel writer Pierre Jean Grosley in his book Tour of London.
“A minister of state passed four and twenty hours at a public gaming-table, so absorpt in play that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a bit of beef, between two slices of toasted bread, which he eat without ever quitting the game. This new dish grew highly in vogue, during my residence in London: it was called by the name of the minister who invented it.”
After that, people started asking for the beef to be “like Sandwich”; and so the term became part of the English language.
In 2006, an American judge deemed that a sandwich must include two pieces of bread, thus ruling out options such as burritos into the definition of sandwich.
How would you define a sandwich?
Chef Scotty B
“The term sandwich is fairly ambiguous these days. It seems that anything between and including a burger to a pita is granted the auspicious title with little care given to the true soul of this dish. For me personally a sandwich is all about the bread. When I was young, as I’m sure it was for most people in the western world, a sandwich was the first whole dish you could produce. A meal in your hand, it could be as simple or as complicated as you could imagine, but one unifying factor, the corner stone of this staunch pillar of cuisine, is the bread. I can remember my early experiments with the art of sandwich, putting everything in the cupboard between my humble slices (sometimes all on the one sandwich!).”
“Simple – anything between two pieces of bread.”
What is your ideal bread to filling ratio?
Chef Scotty B
“It depends on the filling for me, and also how long you intend to store your Sammy before you eat it (there is nothing worse than a soggy sanga). I think a general rule of thumb is 2 parts bread, one part filling, that is to say, that if your two slices of bread are 2 cm thick each, then your filling should be roughly the same thickness as one of your pieces of bread. This allows the flavours the show through and keeps the bread from becoming sloppy.”
“It depends how sloppy the filling is, really. A jam sandwich has a small amount of jam and butter compared to the bread, while a bacon butty would have loads of lettuce, a decent dollop of aioli as well as crunchy bacon. One of my clients has the same sandwich for lunch every time that we have a meeting. Wholemeal bread, lightly toasted with smashed avocado and smoked salmon. Presumably he has it every day, or at least every time he goes to his favourite lunch place, as we just ask for a (client’s name) sandwich and the staff know exactly what to bring!”
What is your favourite type of bread to use? Or does that change depending on the filling?
Chef Scotty B
“It has to change depending on the application. One of my favourite hangover cures is Chinese BBQ pork (char sui) from the local roast shop, lathered with Best Foods mayo and heavily buttered white toast bread. Something about the simplicity of the white bread allows the other flavours to shine. However, if I were to go for a cheese and tomato number, a wholemeal, heavily seeded bread is necessary to carry the earthy flavours and lend that satisfying textural component.”
“I have no preference between wholemeal, or white, or anything other sort of bread. But the crust has to be crunchy and the rest needs to be soft. A good fresh sourdough generally has my ideal ratio of crunch to softness.”
What sandwich have you created here? Why?
Chef Scotty B
“I have gone for a slightly unorthodox number here. It’s a sandwich that has a bit of history behind it, and a sentimental place in my heart. Upon first moving to Melbourne I took a job at one of the cities hot new restaurants and, as often happens at happening restaurants, I worked my fucken guts out. Often time’s weeks could pass without seeing my partner conscious, and for a little while I got a bit lonely. It also dawned on me at one point that I had lived in this great city for a number of months but hadn’t actually been out at all.
So, on one magical Sunday afternoon, I had a rare evening off and my girlfriend came and rescued me from the clutches of my crushing work ethic.
“I’m going to take you to a bar!” she proudly proclaimed.
I was exhausted, but I knew that it was pointless to resist. A short tram ride later and I found my new favourite bar; The Catfish Bar on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy is my kind of watering hole. It’s dark, a little loud, not at all crowded, with an ever revolving craft beer menu, 70’s rock and blues on the turn tables, and possibly the dirtiest food menu in Melbourne, care of Chef Sammy at Sparrow’s Philly Cheese Steaks; it was a much needed shot of Viagra in my limp, weary soul. After a few pints of the good stuff, it was time for some food. Little did I know at this point, but I was about to have a religious experience, my first Philly Cheese Steak. Onions, bacon, thinly sliced beef, dirty American cheese with a bourbon BBQ sauce to top it off, in short, dude food heaven. I had gone to The Catfish in search of a quiet night out with the Mrs, and ended up blowing $100 and having the best night I’d had in ages.
We are now on first name basis with the purveyors of this grimy gem, and find myself spending perhaps a little too much money there, perhaps a little too often; but The Catfish, and Sparrow’s dirty cheese steak sandwiches saved me from my self-pity and reminded me that food doesn’t need to be fancy to be inspirational.”
“Keeping with the manly man theme that Scott has gone with, I’ve created a sandwich with a fancy French name, Le Croque Monsieur, that is basically a ham and cheese deal. It translates as crunchy man, and it deserves the moniker. Nice fresh bread, fried in butter to create the ‘crunch’, with melted cheese and smoked ham. All good – and super fast and easy to create on those nights when you can’t be bothered cooking. You could add an extra heart attack layer by giving it a topping of Welsh Rarebit (a gooey cheese sauce made with beer). Since we arrived home late from soccer practise and everyone was “so starving”, I’ve given that a miss and created the simple version. Topped with some fresh herbs to make it look slightly prettier.”
Chef Scotty B’s Full On Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich
3 cheese sauce
- 40g butter
- 40g flour
- 250ml whole milk
- 80g buffalo mozzarella grated
- 60g parmesan grated
- 60g tasty cheddar grated
- 1 tsp mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Traditional Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches use only provolone cheese, and so this recipe breaks with tradition, but fuck tradition! This shit tastes real good! In a medium pot, melt your butter completely and then add the flour slowly while stirring. Cook the flour and butter mix (roux) on a low temperature until light blonde in colour and then slowly add your milk while stirring to ensure there are no lumps. Once all the milk is stirred in, cook the sauce for 5 minutes while stirring to cook out the flour. Next add the cheeses slowly while stirring, add the mustard and then season with the salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and reserve until needed.
filling and assembly
- ½ onion sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 home made pickled jalapenos
- 4 Vienna rolls
- 3 rashers middle bacon
- 330g lean beef
- 110g tinned mushrooms
- all of the 3 cheese sauce from above
- Heinz tomato ketchup or hot sauce
Put the beef in the freezer for 30-40 minutes, this will make it easier to shave very thinly. Preheat the oven to 150°c, cut the rolls down the middle and throw them into the oven. Heat a fry pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook the bacon until crispy and set aside. Shave the beef as thinly as you can and season with salt and pepper. In the same pan cook the onions in the bacon grease (mmmmmm, bacon grease!) until soft and then add the garlic. Next drop in the mushrooms (the tinned mushrooms are a tip from Chef Sammy, apparently it’s the only way to get that authentic taste?!) home made jalapeno pickle and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Remove the mix from the pan and set aside. Heat the pan with 1 tablespoon of oil until smoking hot and then drop the beef in and brown aggressively. After the beef is mostly cooked, 1-2 minutes, add the onion/mushroom mix back in and stir to combine. Add the 3 cheese sauce and mix to combine. Once the mix is hot and gooey remove the rolls from the oven and fill with that delicious, decadent, cheesy shit! Shove the bacon down one side of the roll, lather with ketchup or your favourite Louisiana style hot sauce, and chow down!
Renee G’s Croque Monsieur
- Fresh loaf of sourdough – sliced into 12 slices
- Smoked ham (See below)
- Havarti cheese (Gruyere is also good, or if that’s too fancy, cheddar)
Spread butter on one slice, and lie it butter side down in a hot pan, or a sandwich press. Lay slices of cheese on the bread, then add a layer of ham. Put the other slice of bread on top, with a buttered outside. In the sandwich press, close the lid and press together. If using a frying pan, cook quickly until the bottom is crispy, then flip and squish with a spatula holding it together until the other side is crisp.
Repeat until all six sandwiches are made.
For the Ham
You can use any ham for this that you prefer. I used a ham that I smoked in the camp oven. To make this, you will need a bbq, a camp-oven and some wood chips (the ones from Bunnings are fine).
Soak the wood chips in water for about 20 minutes, then line the bottom of the camp oven with them. Put a grill on top of the wood chips, then add your ham. I find that the ham you buy from the supermarket is too wet and not very smoky tasting, so giving it this extra smoke treatment creates a ham that is cooked though, has a great texture and flavour.
Place the lid on the camp oven and put on a hot bbq for at least an hour, preferably two. Turn the bbq off, and leave it for another half hour without opening the lid (otherwise the smoke gets out). When you open the camp oven, the ham will be dark on the outside, and easy to pull apart for use.