My Philadelphia-born friend is so devoted to her city's most famous sandwich that the first thing she did after her big fancy wedding was to head, gown and all, to her favorite local spot for a cheesesteak to end the night. On a recent visit, I comparison-shopped the cheesesteak sandwich shop. Here's my standard order: onions, whiz (i.e., Cheez Whiz), provolone, and giardiniera -- the pickled vegetables perk up the whole meaty, cheesy business. Regardless of where you buy it, everything starts with the vigorous chopping and flipping spatulas cutting through the frying beef a-sizzle on the flattop. Beyond that, the rest is personalized. Add the whiz? provolone? onions? peppers? giardiniera? You better know what you want before you step up to the counter.Excerpted from Mad Hungry Cravings by Lucinda Scala Quinn, to be published by Artisan Books on March 19, 2013. Photographs by Jonathan Lovekin.
Prepare yourself for a few rousing verses of "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow," sung by the vegetarians in your group. Far from a limp and wilted also-ran or meatless mystery, this sandwich packs brightness (chickpeas gently mashed with lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil) as well as a mix of textures from the cheese, eggs, and fennel shavings.
Your local sandwich shop should consider itself warned: When you can make this reinterpretation of a classic Italian sub at home, you may not need to call in for one ever again. The arugula's kick blends with the heat of the soppressata. The fennel and fontina bring mellower flavors.
Who says meat and potatoes can't happen between two slices of bread? And so it is that thin slices of roast beef rest between peppery arugula and crisp, tangy salt-and-vinegar potato chips. In place of Gruyere, cheddar could be swapped in.
As far as classic sandwiches go, ham and cheese has to be right up there with peanut butter and jelly. Part of its appeal is its adaptability. Here, French ham mixes with nutty Gruyere and mild hard-cooked eggs. The sandwich gets its crunch from a handful of frisee and a layer of dill pickles.