Sandwiches can bring together some of chefs’ most creative ideas.
Sandwiches are a culinary wonder. The balance between bread, meat, cheese and toppings is the perfect place to experiment with ingredients and flavors.
For some chefs, sandwiches are a means of modernizing classics; for others, they’re a playground for showcasing seasonal ingredients. For Mark Mathurin, Executive Chef of Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, Mass., sandwiches are a casual vessel for upscale elements. Each component is crafted with care from the highest-quality ingredients.
“We do a roast-beef melt with Swiss and caramelized onions and a horseradish cream sauce that’s not only a member favorite, but the General Manager’s, too,” says Mathurin. “We toast the ciabatta to order and prepare each element individually, so that when it comes together it’s juicy and rich.”
Nashawtuc’s pub sees the most sandwich action. And while deli sandwiches, club sandwiches and burgers all have their place, specialty and seasonal sandwiches are fast becoming members’ favorites.
Last fall, Mathurin, who has been at Nashawtuc for three years, created a seasonal sandwich made with a chicken breast that was marinated and then grilled, and topped with provolone cheese stacked on a round of homemade sausage stuffing (see recipe, pg. 16). On the bottom of the sandwich, he put a smear of traditional homemade cranberry sauce. The best part, according to Mathurin, was the gravy served on the side.
“The idea was to dip the sandwich,” says Mathurin. “But the members loved the gravy so much, they’d lick the bowl clean.”
Nashawtuc, which does around $2 million in annual F&B, prices sandwiches at between $9 and $12. At Collier’s Reserve Country Club, Naples, Fla., Executive Chef Brian Lord, CEC, prices sandwiches a touch higher, at around $16. His best sellers tend to be fresh fish sandwiches, as well as upscale healthful applications.
“We do a grilled Florida peach sandwich with housemade burrata and a juniper-marinated fennel that acts as the slaw,” says Lord. “For us, a good sandwich comes down to the details and the integrity of the ingredients. We sous vide the peaches and we make our own burrata. What may seem simple at first is anything but.”
Daniel Kozawick, Executive Chef of The Country Club of Orlando (Fla.), sells the bulk of his sandwiches to golfers. “They want something fast, but delicious,” says Kozawick, who has been at the club since 2001. “We do a lot of upscale, modern twists on classic sandwiches.”
For example, the CC of Orlando, which does $2.5 million in annual F&B, serves a grouper Reuben, a blackened shrimp po’ boy and a BLT that features avocado and a sunny-side-up egg.
“We try to take sandwiches that are already good and make them great,” says Kozawick. “There are so many places where members can eat, our sandwiches have to speak for themselves. We have to give our members something they can’t get anywhere else, whether that’s a turkey club made with a maple-peppered bacon, or a simple egg-salad sandwich.”
David Vlach, Executive Chef of Woodhill Country Club (Wayzata, Minn.), shares the same sentiment and runs at least a couple of sandwich specials every week, using the best of what’s in season.
“We opened our pub last summer,” says Vlach. “It’s right off the golf course, so we have a lot of members come in off the course for a quick bite and a beer. We created a light, crunchy sandwich with ahi tuna, sesame aioli, sliced avocado, sliced carrots and sliced cucumbers that went over really well.”
Last winter, Vlach, who has been at Woodhill for just over three years, created what he dubbed a “Minnesota melt.” Made with smoked duck breast, Scandinavian lingonberries, Brie, arugula, and fresh honeycrisp apples, it was a best-seller.
To accommodate special dining needs, Vlach always has gluten-free breads in house, so he can adjust orders as needed. “Being able to accommodate a member’s requests gives you an edge,” says Vlach. “It costs next to nothing, but the value it provides is unmatched.”
Woodhill offers a number of vegetarian sandwiches, too. One of its most popular variations is made with chickpeas, hummus, sundried tomatoes, grilled eggplant, pea tendrils and feta.
“I think any time you can give members something delicious, even if they aren’t vegetarians, they don’t even miss the meat,” says Vlach, who serves sandwiches with a side salad instead of fries.
For Tiffany Woodrell, Executive Chef of The Club at Indian Springs (Broken Arrow, Okla.), sandwiches are not only a staple of the lunch menu, they’re now co-stars during dinner as well.
“They allow us to be creative without alienating our more traditional members,” says Woodrell. “Our smoked chicken cordon bleu sliders are our most popular at the moment.”
Woodrell’s version of a meatloaf sandwich is also a favorite, she reports. It’s fairly traditional, except the meatloaf is blended with bacon and smoked. She serves it covered with melted cheddar-jack cheese and BBQ sauce.
“When we look at creating or reinventing sandwiches, we start by looking for ways to put almost any entrée on bread or in a bun,” says Woodrell. “Then we find a way to elevate it and make it upscale with a thoughtful twist.”