HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Spicing up the sandwich?

So I'm seeing this new guy and it's his birthday this week, I want to make him a nice semi-fancy dinner to celebrate. His favorite kind of food is a sandwich, or anything sandwich style (he counts burritos and calzones as "sandwichy"). Like I said, I want it to be kind of on the fancier side, so I'm wondering if any of you have interesting suggestions of a more unusual or upscale sandwich recipe. I'm totally new to this, just started eating sandwiches last year! Any suggestions welcome. Thanks! :)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Definitely focus on quality of ingredients, especially starting with good bread. Is he a big meat eater? Maybe slices of seared filet with sauteed onions and mushrooms and blue cheese on a nice ciabatta? Or if you want something more casual, a cubano is always delicious (and hard to get a good one in restaurants).

    Oh, or a banh mi!

    1. Philadelphia is renowned for the hoagie (hero, sub, etc. in other locals). Get a nice crusty long roll, slice it almost in 2 lengthwise. Get some thinly sliced capocollo (often misspelled as capocoli, capicola, gabagool, and other bastardizations), some thinly sliced prosciutto, thinly sliced Genoa salami, thinly sliced provolone, shred some Romaine lettuce, slice some tomato, slice some red onion, and have some extra virgin olive oil and dried oregano handy. Some form of pickled hot peppers often referred to as peperoncini (generic term in Italian for hot peppers) on the jar label. Build a sandwich (un panino imbottito) with these ingredients starting by drizzling the olive oil on 1 half of the roll and carefully sprinkle the oregano on the oil, add the shredded lettuce and the tomato slices, finally adding the cold cuts.

      Vivi, ama, ridi e mangia bene! Buon appetito! (Live, love, laugh and eat well!)

      BTW, i miei antenati non erano italiani, ma i nonni di mia moglie erano italiani.

      Translated: My ancestors were not Italians, but my wife's grandparents were Italian.

      ChiliDude, IBM (Italian By Marriage)

      4 Replies
      1. re: ChiliDude

        I love this style of sammich.
        I like to chiffonade fresh basil outta the garden for this. In place of peperoncini, I adore a mixed, hot giardiena in olive oil.

        1. re: porker

          same as I was thinking - fresh basil on many sandwiches is extremely good:-)

          1. re: porker

            Whatever floats your boat! Do you make the giardiena from scratch or do you buy it in a jar? If you make it, which vegetables do you include?

            1. re: ChiliDude

              I never made it from scratch - just the jar. But for sandwiches, I like it to be hot (with hot peppers) and in olive oil (not just pickled). I'm working on a jar of Aurora right now
              Even though I scoop the stuff out with a fork, enough hot oil comes along to whet the bread!

              chefathome below suggests ajvar spread. I love this stuff too (again the hot version). I'm about 3/4 done a Cedar brand jar right now.

        2. The sharp Italian or cubano recommended above are outstanding recommendations but for me my "celebration" sandwich would be a muffuletta if you can get, (or are up to making), the roll. I agree with katecm that a good sandwich starts with a good bread or roll.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ithimis

            A muffuleta was what I immediately thought of also. Here's a link to the original recipe as written by Marie Lupa Tusa, the daughter of the originator :


            Easy to make, tasty and always a hit. Go to an Italian market to get the freshest and best of ingredients, including the bread.

            A tossed salad ,as another poster mentioned, and his favorite dessert and you have a party...

            1. re: Gio

              Another vote for a Muffuletta. Make it a party. It feeds a crowd.

          2. Slow roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, salt and pepper on country bread, grilled. Serve with a nice salad of greeens with nectarine slices and procciuto. All recipes can be found in Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking.

            1. How about a nice tri-tip on ciabatta bread. As katecm says with sauteed mushrooms and onions.
              Or if he is into the deli style sandwiches a nice roastbeef with everything--check a deli menu on line for all the trimmings.

              Now on the other hand there are individual beef wellingtons that are amazing and sandwich "like" as they are breaded and then tender and amazing on the inside, with a nice bottle of wine (or stout), a twice baked potato and a salad.


              1. How about banh mi, a Vietnamese street food sandwich? They are delicious by virtue of all their contrasting textures and intense, well-balanced flavors. Here's a good starting point: http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...

                NYT on the sandwich's popularity: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/din...
                On fillings: http://battleofthebanhmi.com/fillings...

                Tip: the bread for this should not be as hard and chewy as your traditional baguette. It should be a little more airy and soft on the inside, crunchy/flaky on the outside. I find that par-baked baguettes from the bakery work perfectly when you finish them off at home---and as a bonus, you get to serve them warm.

                p.s. don't forget to serve with a cup of pho-style beef broth spiced with clove, star anise, bay leaf, garlic, ginger, black pepper, etc.

                1. Are you dating Joey from "Friends"?

                  1. Why not try ajvar spread in addition to luscious toppings? It is amazing and is comprised of roasted eggplant and peppers and originates in Eastern Europe (my favourites are from Croatia but I also like to make my own - lots of recipes online).

                    1. did you see the "Big Bread Sandwich" discussion??

                      1. Based on your description, anything wrapped in or between pieces of some starch classifies as a sandwich then.

                        I immediately thought of kurobota or mangalista pork belly banh mi, but others have already mentioned that.

                        Variations: arepa. Steamed bun. Tamales (sort of sandwich-y). Empanada (Raza, one of the restaurants here in Montreal, makes empanadas filled with pork shoulder and foie gras).

                        Unusual may not necessarily be a good thing depending on the guy's taste. I'm sure that there's not a lot of people who would eat braised squirrel with head cheese on raisin toast.

                        What else does he like outside of starch wrappers?

                        1. Great bread....lovely fresh tomatoes....pesto....and whatever you think would float his boat....I do like the idea of seared flank steak sliced thinly with this combo...along with some caramelized onion...mmmmm

                          1. Charcoal grilled hot Italian sausage, split in a crusty roll with whole grain mustard on bottom, fried onion and pickled hot peppers/sauerkraut on top.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: porker

                              Marrone!! E' fare me affamato...Buon appetito!

                              1. re: porker

                                OK... I'll see your "Charcoal grilled hot Italian sausage, split in a crusty roll" but grill the peppers and onions then slice and toss in a bowl with a balsamic/ minced garlic/S & P/dried oregano/EVOO dressing. Loose the whole grain mustard and sauerkraut. Let the juices and dressing of the sausages and peppers moisten the bread. Now that's a proper sausage and pepper La Festa sandwich. Oh all right... you can drizzle the inside of the roll with a little more EVOO if you need to.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  uuuuuuuuummmmmmmmMMMMMMMMM, love me a good sausage and pepper sangwhich. Might have to cook some of these up this weekend.

                              2. Get yourself an inside round roast, preferably barded with pork fat. Sear on all sides in a dutch oven with a bit of oil. Add beef stock, cover, and braise until center is 120F (rare). Remove to a tray and let cool. Take off the pork fat and put it into the stock pot, simmer 15-20 minutes. Season with S&P, paprika.
                                Slice meat as thin as possible. If the meat is too rare, dip the slices briefly into the hot jus. Slice a crusty roll in half, dip into the jus, top with sliced meat. Put a few bits of the pork fat if so inclined.

                                1. Check out this shooter sandwich. I haven't made it myself but it looks very good.


                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ultrabright

                                    Wow. The smushing step came as a surprise.

                                    1. We love rare smoked tri-tip with onion marmalade and melted smoked sharp cheddar, with a topper of fresh sliced tomatoes and a slash of sharp garlic aioli on toasted ciabatta. You could also consider a fresh seafood sandwich: Lobster roll, Softshell crab sandwich, Prawn salad sandwich, fresh tuna salad melt with delicious fontina on sourdough with more sliced tomato. Another favorite of ours is proscuitto and gruyere and arugula and marinated artichoke hearts in a panini - or roast beef with pimiento cheese and bread and butter pickles. Sandwiches Rule!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: mamachef

                                        Foccacia- smear tapanade on both sides of bread. add tuna- artichoke hearts, chiffinade of basil, squeeze of lemon, thinly slivered red onion and avocado if you like. a thin stream of olive oil, if you please. cut in half, wrap. should be scrumptious in an hour or so!

                                        1. re: OldJalamaMama

                                          Keeper. And I am also thinking about mixing some of that tapenade into some mashed white beans as a spread.....Oh, my this is nice.

                                          1. re: mamachef

                                            this is also a heck of a salad- bed of greens- balsamic dressing- spread tuna right from the pouch over greens- artichoke hearts- a squeeze of lemon- basil - red onion- avocado and I like a bit of cucumber too- and olive oil- SCRUPTIOUS! We call it a #17 at my work!

                                      2. Fresh mozzarella added to a sandwich is very nice. Sliced avocado is the new latest and greatest fad (if you haven't had tortas and cemitas before I guess). For heat, try chipotle or sliced jalapenos.

                                        1. As a guy, I like meat. If he likes meat, start with the meat. Pair the bread and the dressing to the meat.

                                          For example . . .
                                          - Roast Beef with caramelized onion, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, American cheese, and provolone on toast.
                                          - Rotisserie Chicken with mustard powder, ripe jalapeno, cheddar sauce, boiled broccoli, and herbs folded into a pizza dough before it's fork-sealed and deep-fried like an evil beignet.
                                          - Pulled Pork with guacamole, sour cream, tomato, onion, iceberg lettuce, canned beans, and shredded cheese on a hot dog bun.
                                          - Fried Chicken with a fried mozzarella disc, marinara, lettuce, and tomato on a hamburger bun.
                                          - Strips of Lamb with roasted eggplant pulp, tahini, Parmesan cream sauce, capers, and onion on flat-bread.
                                          - Fried Shrimp with lettuce, tomato, and gravy (or ketchup) on french bread.
                                          - Hamburger with internal cheddar, BBQ sauce (or mayo), caramelized onions, and sauteed mushrooms on hamburger buns brushed with butter and toasted and garlic-rubbed bruschetta style.
                                          - Prosciutto, Salami, and Cappicola with romaine lettuce, marinated peppers, onion, provolone cheese, and vinaigrette pressed hot on poboy bread.

                                          1. French Dip sounds good too

                                            1. It is too hot out. How about Brie, Apple, Arugula, Chicken Salad?

                                              Or a ploughman's sandwhich... Stilton, cold cooked ham slices, pâté, apple, pickled onions, salad, crusty bread and butter, served with beer.

                                              1. Another vote for muffuletta. Or my favorite sandwich sounds deceptively simple, but it was all about the quality of the ingredients. Fresh crusty semolina bread, topped with sesame seeds, a good drizzle of EVOO, good proscuitto, fresh Mozzerella, fresh roasted red peppers tossed in EVOO and garlic.

                                                1. I was thinking of you today, moonbrain, as I had a sandwich and a half for lunch. The first was a concoction of prosciutto and hot cappicolli (yeah, ChiliDude - more bastardization) topped with a spicy giardiniera on a very fresh roll. Wonderful for this hot day.
                                                  I splurged with a half more, but went for simplicity: 3 slices of San Danielle proscuitto on a half roll. It was superb, with the bread mingling with the meltingly salty, fatty meat....

                                                  1. I'd say, since you're new at fancy sandwiches it'd be better to keep it simple, using the highest quality ingredients.

                                                    Good bread is the best start, the fresher the better, but make sure the crust is not so hard it'll carve up the roof of his mouth.

                                                    BBQ up some slices of eggplant on a covered BBQ. Add them to any sandwich with some thinly sliced rolled basil leaves (chiffonade) add some fresh mozzarella, and oh man, makes anything taste better. Points for melted mozzarella.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                      I love making a tuna and white bean salad with olive oil, red wine vinegar, celery, shallot, garlic, herbs, red bell peppers, black olives, salt, pepper and capers. I then get a long ciabatta loaf or baguette, slice it lengthwise, but not completely in two halves. Dig out most of the soft inside bread. Save for another use. Line inside of bread with a few leaves of baby lettuces and stuff sandwich with tuna salad. Place top half on the bottom half, wrap and let set for a bit for flavours to meld. This is a very hearty and satisfying sandwich, perfect with a light, broth-based soup, such as stracciatella or chicken with spring vegetables.

                                                    2. Because it is a "new guy" don't go crazy. I would make a picnic on the floor of your house. Add candles etc to set the tone and mood of your picnic.

                                                      As for what you serve.....i would not make him a sandwich, nothing fancy about it. You can make a bunch of different foods using bread, meats, veggies and dips and keep it nice but a little NICER than a sammie.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: yummyinmytummy

                                                        That would turn me on. Crusty bread, cheeses, pate, wine. Nice.

                                                      2. It sounds like his definition of sandwich is broad. He likes food enclosed by a starch. I'd make something like empanadas, but not necessarily with traditional fillings. You can make a plate of them with various fillings, meats, vegetables, maybe some mixed with cheese. If you don't want to bother with homemade pastry, you could totally cheat and use frozen puff pastry. Serve them with a nice composed salad and it could be quite special, and a little bit different.

                                                        1. Where do you live, if I may ask? Some CH'er living near you will probably recommend some places to buy quality ingredients to create the kind of sandwich you decide to gift your b/f. And remember, too, quality ingredients doesn't have to mean fancy or complicated. I made a bone marrow spread with whole smoked cod livers on folded sourdough toast which, if I may say so, was pretty frigging delicious.

                                                          1. rare tenderloin, watercress, shaved parm and horsey sauce on the best roll baguette style bread you can find

                                                            1. Hope your evening was . . . tasty.


                                                              1. if you want to go simple u can go with a basic meatloaf sandwich: http://www.chow.com/recipes/18773-spi... or to go a little fancier try http://joyof.kosher.com/recipe/guinne...