From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about Ohio State heroes. Whether they are the biggest names in Buckeye athletic history, or underappreciated icons; perhaps even players who made major impacts off the field. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Buckeye Heroes” articles here.
Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Best ingredients to make a hero sandwich?
There are few sandwiches I would say no to. Even a bad sandwich is still a sandwich (assuming it is fresh. No one is asking for food poisoning). The cold, hard truth, though, is that some sandwiches are superior. For example, Buckeye Donuts makes the ultimate supreme king of breakfast sandwiches. New York City bodegas make the reigning champ of deli rolls.
And the ultimate hero is always going to be an Italian-style one from Wawa. We can’t all get to a Wawa, however, so let’s break it down for those of us who have to replicate at home.
As with most things in life, the foundation is key. So it is true of a sandwich.
For the perfect hero, you have to have the perfect bread — the kind served by heroes themselves. I’m talking about New York City bodega-style Italian bread, served by the ultimate hero - the NYC bodega person.
There are many different kinds of bread that would suffice in a pinch, but we’re talking the best, and for the best, you need that perfectly crisp crust and the density of this bread in order to absorb all the goodies we’re about to top it with.
Once we’ve got the bread, we’ve got to add our meats and cheeses. On an Italian sub, it’s always going to be provolone cheese. It’s the perfect balance with all the meat we’re going to throw on there.
Now let’s talk meat. On the perfect hero? I want all the meat. Ham (specifically Boar’s Head-brand), prosciutto, capicola, mortadella, genoa salami for the salt, soppressata salami for a little heat. If you’re feeling really crazy, toss some speck on there — it’s similar to the prosciutto but deserves its own recognition with its deeper taste. Some people will only choose one or two of these for their hero, but my take is that you need most if not all of them. They balance each other out in taste and textures, and each add something.
Next up, we’ve got to add our toppings.
The key, in my mind, is to make sure the toppings are thinly sliced. There is nothing worse than taking a bite out of a sandwich only to have heaps of it fall out of the bread, and I always find thinly sliced veggie toppings stay in place a little more securely.
On the perfect sub, I want the toppings to be balanced and have just a little bit of heat. For me, that means shredded lettuce, thinly sliced tomato and onion, thinly sliced pickle, and under NO circumstances are we adding olives. Full offense to people who like olives, but they ruin everything they touch. They are just too overpowering. In this case, the star of the meal is the meats and we don’t need to dull their shine with these nasty creatures.
To add that little bit of heat, we’re going to top it with a cherry pepper relish. This is usually on the milder side of spicy options (if you really want to up the heat, which I sometimes do, you could also add pickled jalapenos or banana peppers, but I do think a sandwich is technically more balanced without them). Unless your spice tolerance is absolutely zero (in which case, I cannot advise this), it adds a nice heat without being overpowering or too spicy for people who prefer something more mild. And in my opinion, it helps to bring out the flavors in the other toppings.
Finally, we have to add our sauces and seasonings. Add a little bit of mayo to the open side of your bread, then top the veggies and meats with salt, pepper, and oregano before finishing the sandwich with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Et voila! The perfect hero.
I appreciate Jami’s efforts above, I really do, but did she really just try to say that a gas station hero sandwich is the best hero sandwich? Look, there are Wawas all over Central Florida where I live, but, my friends, let’s be serious. Even as someone who has loved gas station food for my entire life, you cannot... nay, you will not convince me that any gas station, convenience store, or roadside rest stop has the best non-prepackaged food offerings of any kind.
Can they be good? Of course. Even excellent? Absolutely. But “The” best? No. Think about how important we take the word “The” in our beloved university’s proper name. Now tell me if you really think that Wawa has “THE” best hero sandwich in the world.
Your honor, I rest my case.
Now, moving on to the matter at hand, the best hero sandwich. While not the same type of sandwich, a hero is something in the same sandwich taxonomy level as what gets served at The Beef, not what gets served at The Bear. A hero is a classic, traditional, populist sandwich. It is a hero, because it is long enough to feed the masses. Therefore, by definition, it should contain only ingredients that everyone (or nearly everyone) would like. As the axiom for our time goes, “Keep it simple, stupid.”
Jami went extravagant with her recipe, which is fine, I’m not questioning her taste, I’m just saying us working class folks don’t need a Michelin star sandwich, that’s not heroic, that’s elitist. Yeah, I said it! My version of a hero is much more basic, with affordable ingredients, and you don’t need to know the difference between batonnet and brunoise to prepare them.
Now, let’s get to a real person’s hero sandwich. Of course, it starts with the bread, as anyone who drove through downtown Columbus with their windows open in the ‘80s or ‘90s can tell you, there is something special and unique when it comes to the smell of fresh bread, so we have to start there. Soft on the inside, but a subtle, yet substantive crunch on the outside.
From there, you start with the meat, and like Jami, I want multiple types of meat, but she went with fancy, bougie meats; ham, prosciutto, capicola, mortadella, genoa salami, and soppressata salami... in this economy? Call me basic, but here’s what I want on my hero sandwich: a sturdy base layer of turkey, roast beef, and ham. Personally, I can do without the ham, but I know that’s not the most popular of opinions. Then, I would take the large, sandwich slices of pepperoni and put them on top of the veggies (more on that momentarily), but here’s the trick, you’ve got to crisp up that pep.
I’m also going to throw crunchy bacon on there, but the pepperoni works in a similar way, so if you think it’s redundant, I’m totally cool with you leaving the pepperoni in its natural cold-cut state. But, if you put a teeny bit of olive oil into a pan on medium-high heat and throw those pepperoni slices in for 45-60 seconds on each side, it’s going to crisp the edges and bring the juices (and grease) to the forefront. Absolutely perfect.
But, hold the pep and bacon until the end. When it comes to veggies, I’m a pretty basic guy, so your mileage may vary and you’re welcome to deviate as you see fit, but I would go lettuce, tomato, and pickle (not dissimilar from Jami), but I would not include onion. That would just battle with the two crispy meats, and no one needs that much going on in their mouth.
Then I would put add some solid, white cheese slices, probably white American, though I personally would prefer mozzarella. From there, I’d add the bacon and pepperoni on top, with a liberal helping of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. I don’t use them, but I would provide a variety of dressings for folks to add to taste; ranch, Thousand Island, Italian, multiple vinegarettes, olive oil, lemon juice, etc.
And that, my friends, is a solid, respectable, equally accessible hero sandwich for the common man. No white cloth napkins or extended pinkies required.
On an only vaguely related note, sometime back in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, Ohio State’s Homecoming theme was “Heroes.” As the Buckeyes prepared to host the Michigan State Spartans, the enterprising campus leaders of the Sigma Pi fraternity decided to decorate their house — which was on 15th, directly in the middle of the parade route — with a pseudo float of their own.
Reports from sources close to the incident (a.k.a. my father), there were substantial penalties, including various and sundry suspensions handed out to multiple Sigma Pi brothers.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed