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‘wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal — And a Meal into a Sandwich

Tom Collicchio

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Sep 15, 2009
Category: Food and Wine

Tom Colicchio is on television so often that I can’t quite picture him actually having a day job. In fact, he does, and he’s both innovative and successful. There are now four Craft restaurants, three Craftsteaks, one Craftbar – and twelve outlets of ‘wichcraft in New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Expansion is often the tipoff to out-of-control ego. Especially in restaurants. A chef can train many assistants, but he can only supervise one at a time. On the other hand, a sandwich restaurant — that sucker has “chain” all over it. Or, at least, “cluster”, a series of sandwich shops in a single city, serviced by a central kitchen.
 
Why would a sandwich restaurant need a serious kitchen? Because Colicchio isn’t making sandwiches like the ones Mom packed in your lunch bag or Dagwood built late at night on his Formica counter. These are world-class sandwiches, sandwiches that sometimes require considerable preparation, sandwiches worth the time and effort it takes to put them together — well worth the prices that ‘wichcraft charges. And deserving of a beautiful cookbook.

Roasted pumpkin with mozzarella and hazelnut brown butter on white bread. Chicken breast with roasted peppers, mozzarella and spinach-basic pesto. Beef short ribs with pickled vegetables, aged cheddar and horseradish. Salami with marinated cauliflower and bitter greens.
 
Fantastic, yes? No wonder ‘wichcraft sells 5,000 sandwiches a day. But it’s a bit different if you want to make these sandwiches at home — effort is involved. Peanut butter and jelly, for example; Colicchio would have you make your own rhubarb jelly. Not that hard. But will you start two days ahead and do it? And what about the steak sandwich, adorned with charred red onion, roasted red pepper, and a cloak of Gruyère? One estimate of preparation time: three hours. The verdict of someone who did that? “It’s worth it. Seriously.”
 
But don’t be put off. Just skip the obsessive recipes. And do grasp some basic truths:
 
1) “Toast bread on one side only and place the toasted side on the inside of the sandwich to support the filling; leave poached chicken in liquid until it’s ready to be used to lock in moisture.”
 
2) "Always use good ingredients, including the bread. Quality artisan bread keeps well in the freezer. Just thaw it and toast it and you have bread that is as good as fresh from the bakery. But beware: Once thawed and toasted it won’t last as long as freshly baked bread."
 
3) "Think of balancing flavors. If all the ingredients you are using are rich or heavy, consider using a little vinegar or some spicy peppers as a flavor accent."
 
4) "Build them well. If you aren’t going to eat the sandwich for a few hours (like when you are brown-bagging your lunch or packing a picnic), use bread that will hold up well even after it soaks up some of the juices from the ingredients. Try a crusty baguette or ciabatta."
 
As ever, some recipes to tempt and delight….
 
Roasted Shrimp Salad with Tomatoes and Olives
Makes 4 open-faced sandwiches
 
With no boiled shrimp and no mayo, this shrimp salad is immediately set apart from its traditional counterpart. It’s actually closer to a scampi sandwich. Eschewing the mayo keeps the contents light and the flavor assertive. Throwing a party? As the shrimp are particularly beautiful, this recipe could also be used to make canapés.
 
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic plus 1 (peeled) clove
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup pitted Niçoise olives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped green onions (white parts only)
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1/2 tablespoon dried Sicilian oregano
8 slices multigrain bread
 
Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and the sliced garlic to a large skillet placed over medium-high heat. Once the garlic is fragrant, add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Add the red pepper flakes and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Pour the white wine into the skillet and stir to dissolve bits stuck to pan. Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl and set aside to cool.
   
Combine the shrimp with the tomatoes, olives, parsley, dill, green onions, lemon zest and juice, the remaining 1/2 cup oil, and the oregano. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
   
Grill the bread on both sides and lightly rub with the garlic clove. Place the shrimp salad on top and serve open-faced.
 
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Fried Eggs with Bacon, Gorgonzola, and Frisée
Makes 4 sandwiches
 
Most of us have had the classic egg-and-bacon sandwich. When conceiving of our own, we were inspired by the French salad of frisée au lardons, in which the bacon lardons are rendered and warmed up, gorgonzola is used for the dressing, and the frisée is tossed into the mix, becoming warm and wilted. Here, we have essentially married the salad and the classic sandwich, and the resulting ’wich illustrates that, by doing a little more, you can take a standard sandwich to a higher realm.
 
If you are preparing this recipe for a large number of people, you can fry the eggs and set them aside on parchment paper on a tray, popping them in the oven to heat them just a bit when you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches. This sandwich would be great made with poached eggs, as well.
 
8 thick slices bacon
4 ciabatta rolls
4 tablespoons gorgonzola dolce or other mild blue cheese
2 cups frisée lettuce
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large eggs, preferably pasture-raised
 
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
 
In a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Slice the ciabatta rolls in half. Evenly spread 1 tablespoon of the gorgonzola on each bottom slice of bread and place all the bread slices into the oven. While the bread is toasting, toss the frisée in the oil and vinegar, and add salt and pepper to taste.
 
In a medium-hot skillet, melt the butter and fry the eggs, two to four at a time (depending on the size of your skillet). Flip the eggs halfway through and cook until the yolks are solid around the edges and oozy in the middle. Season with salt and pepper. Once the bread is toasted and the cheese has melted, remove the bread from the oven. Place the eggs on top of the gorgonzola, followed by the bacon, and finally the dressed frissée. Close the sandwiches and serve.
 
To buy ‘wichcraft from Amazon.com, click here.