A porchetta sandwich served with fennel
slaw, roasted red pepper, crispy fried onion
threads and sriracha aïoli. Photo courtesy
Flavor & The Menu.
What’s trending in restaurant sandwiches?
Proteins are still a first-round decision: Do you want chicken, ham or roast beef, for example.
But these days, according to chefs interviewed by restaurant trade magazine Flavor & The Menu, produce makes the sandwich.
Here are five quick tips and a link to the full article. We’ll tell you what chefs are doing, then offer some easier home solutions.
1. CONDIMENTS COUNT
Sweet, sour, savory and pungent: Chefs use any number of chutneys, conserves, marmalades, pestos, pickles, salsas and sauces for a creative flavor boost.
Chefs create special condiments like broccoli marmalade, celery leaf pesto, fried caper aïoli and pumpkin agrodolce*. At home, we make an easy mayo substitute nonfat Greek yogurt, flavored with diced smashed garlic and dill (creating a form of “yogurt aïoli”).
There are trending condiments that you can buy in the store: bacon mayonnaise, fig Dijon mustard, onion marmalade (caramelized onions) and sriracha ketchup.
Any of them will add “wow” notes to a sandwich.
*Agrodolce is an Italian sweet and sour sauce made by reducing vinegar and sugar with other ingredients.
2. GO VIBRANT WITH VEGGIES
Forget bland lettuce and out-of-season tomatoes. Chefs are substituting specialties like tempura turnips, fried shallots and Vidalia onion purée, and are also getting creative with veggie sandwiches.
They’re using root vegetables for bold sandwich flavors. The new tuna melt may just be a roasted broccoli and cauliflower melt.
Whatever the base, it works with pickled vegetables. From pickled carrot slices to pickled beets, it’s easy to pickle vegetables at home. Don’t forget to pickle your favorite hot chiles!
Home-pickled veggies can be ready in an hour; but if you have no time, just pick up a jar of giardiniera, assorted pickled vegetables that typically include carrots, cauliflower, celery, red bell pepper and optional hot chiles.
At home, you may already add sliced avocado or guacamole to sandwiches. But how about:
Asian vegetables: Asian pear slices, bean sprouts, blanched bok choy, shiso or water chestnuts.
Fresh herbs: Basil, cilantro, dill, green onion†, parsley or sage.
Potato: Add lots of fresh herb and onion to potato salad and put it on the sandwich, instead of to the side. Try curried potato salad with currants and sliced almonds. Or, slice leftover plain white or sweet potatoes, season and add to the sandwich instead of tomato.
Slaw: Go beyond traditional to Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and other flavors. Try this BLT Slaw recipe with a ham or turkey sandwich.
Shaved vegetables: Shave raw asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots and/or celery as a “crudité” addition that adds crunch and flavor.
While they’re not exactly vegetables, a trending sandwich addition is:
Chips: potato, tortilla or veggie chips.
†Onion is botanically classified as a perennial herb that grows from a bulb. So are other members of the Allium genus, including chives, garlic, leek, scallion and shallot.
3. ADD FRUIT
Who says that a slice of fruit doesn’t belong on a sandwich, along with—or instead of—the lettuce and tomato.
Raw, roasted or pickled, fruit flavors are a perky counterpoint to meaty, salty and savory ingredients.
Start with apples, pears, plums or other stone fruit in season, and try them alternative raw (sliced thin) and pickled. Both provide a nice crunch.
If you want fruit without effort, you can default to a jar of fig conserve or red pepper jam. Peruse the shelves of specialty food stores to see what calls your name.
4. USE NUT OR SEED SPREADS
The explosion of hummus flavors at the grocer’s was the first hint that you can season old standards to deliver new flavors.
Certainly, use flavored hummus as a spread. But chefs are also mixing peanut butter with Middle Eastern spices, hummus with chocolate and sunflower butters with fruit preserves.
Roast beef panini with sage pesto and pickled onions. Photo courtesy McCormick.
Take spreads made from nuts and seeds and enhance them with your own favorite flavors, to deliver new punch to everyday sandwiches.
One of THE NIBBLE’s first Top Picks Of The Week, back in 2004, was a line of savory peanut butters called Peanut Better (alas, it is no longer produced).
Think onion parsley peanut butter on turkey or ham sandwiches, Southwestern-spiced PB on roast beef sandwiches, hickory smoked PB with hot or cold turkey, ham, and roast chicken. Go Thai by adding ginger, crushed red pepper and a splash of soy sauce.
Next step: Get a jar of plain peanut butter and get to work!
5. BEANS & LEGUMES
Chefs are spreading sandwiches with mashed curried chickpeas, white bean purée and pickled black-eyed peas.
Beans and legumes provide velvety texture and lots of extra protein. Turn your leftover beans and legumes into sandwich spreads or fillings—with cheese or grilled vegetables as well as with meats.
We added leftover lentil salad to a turkey sandwich along with some pickled onions. Delicious!
OUR FINAL TIP
Think outside the box, like a creative chef. Every recipe we eat didn’t exist until someone first put the ingredients together.