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Between the Bread With Jeff Mauro
Learn the secrets to the perfect sandwich
Jeff Mauro has a lot of opinions on sandwiches. The celebrity chef and Food Network star has made a name (and garnered an Emmy nomination) for his series, Sandwich King. The Chicago-born Mauro also co-hosts the Kitchen, recently published the cookbook, Come on Over, and has just launched Mauro Provisions.
Mauro is hosting a (what else) sandwich-themed event at the New York City Wine & Food Festival on Saturday, October 14 called Sandwich City where guests can explore sandwiches from across the globe like Cubanos, bahn mi, and the classic meatball sub.
Broken Palate caught up with Mauro to find out what’s really between the bread.
Broken Palate: First, tell us about your sandwich event at the New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF). It seems like a genius event — after all, what’s more walkable and versatile than a sandwich?
Jeff Mauro: I’ve done sandwich events in the past, and I feel like this is the best one yet. The first year I was at the NYCWFF I hosted a sandwich event, so we’ve come full circle.
BP: So we’ve gotta ask since the Burger Bash is one of the NYCWFF’s premiere events — is a burger a sandwich?
JM: The burger is one of the most beloved sandwich subgenres. So the Burger Bash is a celebration of the sandwich subgenre. Would it be appropriate to have a burger at a sandwich event?
BP: What about a patty melt?
JM: Ten years ago, I won Burger Bash at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival making a patty melt.
BP: So what is a sandwich? There’s so much debate.
JM: It’s stuff in between some things. It’s not my job to define what this beloved thing is. It’s my job to make them good and better and excellent. Life is too short for bad sandwiches.
BP: What’s your go-to sandwich?
JM: It actually depends on the day of the week. At the beginning of the week, I’m thinking turkey on good wheat bread. Midweek, I like thinly sliced ham on a crusty baguette. On Thursday, it’s Italian beef or cheesesteak.
Then you get to Friday and that’s an Italian sub with capicola and shredded iceberg lettuce. On weekends, I like a good Jewish deli sandwich, like a nice pastrami on rye.
BP: That is an entire sandwich diary. I love that. So every chef has their specialty. Something that they really love. For you, it’s the sandwich. What is it about the sandwich that speaks to you??
JM: I cut my teeth in the deli world as a kid, so I’ve always gravitated toward the sandwich. I use my culinary skills to elevate them. Every country has a version of the sandwich that’s revered. And that’s broken down by region, and city, and even neighborhood., and then by household. A sandwich is universal and personal at the same time.
BP: What ingredient inspires you to make a sandwich? Is is bread or meat or vegetable that sparks creativity?
JM: You would think it would be the meat counter but for me? I start with the bread. Everything will fall into place when you respect the bread.
BP: I agree that bread is everything. Any bread buying (and storing) tips?
JM: You gotta find the mindset that you have to shop for bread more frequently if you want good bread. When we grew up, we all had the squishy, bagged bread. I am a big proponent of buying a loaf of good bread, slicing it and freezing it fresh. You just have to wrap it up well. Then you just pop it in the toaster or thaw it out. It thaws quickly and it’s just as good as when it came out of the oven.
BP: You’ve been quoted as saying, "You can make any meal into a sandwich, and any sandwich into a meal." Are there any sandwich limits?
JM: Of course, I can make anything into a sandwich, but is it necessary? Is a sushi sandwich necessary? Some things shouldn’t be a sandwich.
BP: As a sandwich master, what items do you always have in your fridge and pantry in case the sandwich bug bites?
JM: I always have a jar of very strong, high-quality Dijon mustard. It’s the true workhorse of any kitchen: for sandwiches, to schmear on things, to emulsify vinaigrettes, for dipping. It’s a magical ingredient.
Then I always have a jar of hot giardiniera, which is Chicago’s gift to the world. Of course, Mauro Provisions makes a wonderful one. Giardiniera goes on salads, you can toss it in pasta, put it in omelets, on top of avocado toast, and (of course) add it to sandwiches.
I also always have some cured meat in my home. I really like sopressata or Calabrian-cured salumi. And some nice, strong cheese.
BP: What’s your idea of the perfect sandwich day?
JM: On a Saturday afternoon I’ll make a sandwich, open a bottle of white wine, and watch the game.