In this edition of the Retro Recipe Challenge, the theme was “Your Mother Should Know”, and we were asked to find recipes that were popular before our mother was born. Mine was born in 1952, which made finding a cookbook from before then kind of difficult (I think the oldest one I have personally was published in 1970). So I decided to stay with the same theme, but first did some research online to find out what food was popular in the 30’s and 40’s, and then sought to find a modern day source for a classic recipe. According to this site, club sandwiches have been around in documented literature since the end of the 19th century, but they reached their peak of popularity in the 1940’s, when they went from single decker to a triple decker.
I found a recipe for a Classic Club Sandwich on the Food Network site, making sure it included all of the customary components: white bread, turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayo. It turned out all kinds of awesome, probably due to the great ingredients. I have no doubt it will be even better in summer with in-season tomatoes. A few notes on the ingredients and prep. First, I used Pepperidge Farm white bread, which is perfectly square and nice and thin (don’t use their very thin bread, which wouldn’t hold up to these ingredients) – it’s the perfect bread to use because it’s just the right amount of bread – with regular white bread, it’s too spongy and/or thick, and when you’re dealing with three pieces of bread in a single sandwich, would easily overwhelm the whole thing. It also cuts down on the height issue. If you have a Pepperidge Farm outlet store in town like we do, even better. Second, the turkey is the sliced turkey from Trader Joe’s, and was the perfect thing to use – nice thick slices of perfectly moist, perfectly seasoned roasted turkey. I can’t see this having worked as well with deli turkey, although I’m sure it will do in a pinch. It’s just not the same, though. The tomatoes? Were Camparis, which are the closest thing to real tomatoes this time of year. The lettuce? Romaine, but I trimmed out the tough veins of the leaves, which made a difference (a nice difference) in the texture of the sandwich overall. We used ready bacon, which didn’t make a real difference in overall results and is super-convenient. And make sure you’re generous with both the mayo and the salt and pepper. It’s important to use plenty of both for the sandwich to be really good. And for goodness sakes, break out the Hellmann’s and leave the Miracle Whip on the grocery shelf where it belongs. We scaled the recipe in half so we’d make 2 sandwiches instead of 4 (since there *are* just two of us, after all), but I’ll leave the original recipe intact below.
Classic Club Sandwich
recipe courtesy Food Network Kitchens
12 slices white bread
3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 romaine lettuce leaves
16 slices vine-ripened tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 slices crispy cooked bacon
16 ounces sliced roasted turkey
16 frill picks, or plastic cocktail swords
Toast the bread in a toaster, or under a broiler on both sides. Cut the lettuce leaves in half crosswise and form into 8 neat stacks.
To make a double-decker club: On a clean work surface, arrange 3 bread slices in a row. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise over 1 side of each bread slice. Place a lettuce stack on top of the first bread slice, top with 2 tomato slices, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place 2 slices bacon over the tomatoes (broken to fit neatly if necessary) and top with 1/8 of the turkey (without letting any hang over the sides). Season the turkey with salt and pepper, to taste. Repeat with the second bread slice. Carefully place the second layered bread slice on top of the first layered bread, turkey side-up. Cover with the third bread slice, mayonnaise side-down.
Pin the sandwich’s layers together by piercing them with 4 frill picks or cocktail swords through the top bread slice, in 4 places in a diamond-like pattern, all the way to the bottom bread slice. Repeat entire process with the remaining ingredients to form 3 more sandwiches.
Using a serrated knife cut each sandwich, diagonally, into 4 triangular pieces (each piece should be secured in the center with a pick or sword). Serve with potato chips and pickles.