A stack of Classic Deli sandwiches. (Don Denton/Boulevard)

Stacked – Sandwiches That Explode With Taste

Chef Heidi Fink creates recipes for sandwiches that satisfy everyone in your household

  • Aug. 23, 2018 2:00 p.m.

Sandwich is a word that inspires excitement, at least in my house. Whether it’s for a snack or a meal, picnics or parties, a well-made sandwich is something that has us asking for more. And if only we could eat more! A good sandwich, with its satisfying combination of hearty bread, delicious spreads, protein-packed fillings and juicy toppings, is very easy to fill up on, and very quickly. I guess that’s why I like to stack as many ingredients (and as much flavour!) in there as possible — more bang for my single sandwich buck.

Additionally, since I am in the habit of cooking for friends and family members who have different dietary needs, I like to make super stacked sandwiches that can be enjoyed in either a vegetarian or a meat-lover’s version. Stacking a sandwich gives so many options for flavour and texture that it is easy to leave out the meat.

But when I say stacked sandwiches, I don’t mean over-stacked. I like enough different fillings to make my sandwich explode with taste and texture, but not so many fillings that it’s hard for me to take a bite, leaving me to deal with sandwich parts exploding all over my shirt.

Your preferred stack may be greater or smaller than the ones I will describe in detail below; however, make sure to include at least one each of the following ingredient categories:

A flavourful “schmear” (why use any other word than this Yiddish one borrowed from the people who first made sandwiches stacked and juicy and great in North America?); an ingredient that gives crunch; one that provides juiciness; a filling that is high in protein; a high-flavour ingredient; and possibly something rich (examples below).

In many cases, the same ingredient will occupy two or more categories. For example, pickles are crunchy, juicy and high in flavour; hummus is a schmear that happens to be rich and high in protein and flavour.

But don’t sell your sandwich short. Let yourself include as many things as you can reasonably eat, and explore flavour combinations from around the world! Korean kimchi, Italian meatballs, French pâté, Indian-spiced chicken and Middle Eastern hummus are only a few of the foods that taste amazing on bread. And you’ll be surprised at the types of foods that taste divine together — like pickled beets and curried cauliflower, two ingredients from distinctly different parts of the world that marry beautifully in my palate-pleasing Vegetarian New Delhi sandwich.

Make sure to use fresh bread, un-toasted, for these sandwiches. I am a huge fan of grilled or toasted bread for sandwiches, but when you’re super stacking a sandwich, you want bread that is softer and easier to bite into. And one final thing — these sandwiches are best served with a giant toothpick or skewer holding them together … and of course, a good dose of sunshine and laughter on the side.

CLASSIC DELI — MEAT LOVER’S

Makes 1 sandwich

This is a typical deli sandwich loaded with deli meats, cheese, pickles, tomato and lettuce. Use any deli meat you like, change up the pickles, use raw onion instead of grilled, leave out the tomato — make this sandwich yours.

2 pieces fresh crusty sourdough bread 20 ml real mayonnaise

10 ml Dijon mustard

¼ ripe avocado (optional)

4 slices grilled or sautéed onion

40 g capicola ham

20 g salami

20 g Havarti cheese (or a mild cheese of your choice)

6 slices bread and butter pickles (or one dill pickle, sliced)

3 to 4 slices juicy ripe tomato

1 or 2 leaves crunchy lettuce Salt & pepper 2 slices bacon, cooked (optional)

Spread half the mayo on each slice of bread; repeat with mustard. If using avocado, cut into thin slices and lay on what will be the bottom piece of bread. Now lay on the grilled onion, cheese, meats, pickles, tomato and lettuce, with the optional bacon on the very top. Make sure to arrange your ingredients evenly over the previous layer so that every bite has a bit of each item. If you like, you can sprinkle some salt and pepper over the tomato, especially if you leave out the pickles. Cover with second slice of bread, mayo side down. Push two big frilled toothpicks through the sandwich (one on each half), cut sandwich in half, and serve immediately, with a side of potato chips and pickles, if desired.

Classic Deli sandwiches. (Don Denton/Boulevard)

CLASSIC DELI — VEGETARIAN

Makes 1 sandwich

Much like the sandwich above, this is a classic deli sandwich, but without the meat. It gets its heft and flavour from the layering of ingredients and by including vegetarian heavyweights like avocado and grilled pepper. Use any cheese, pickle or grilled vegetable that you like.

2 pieces fresh multi-grain bread 20 ml real mayonnaise

10 ml Dijon mustard

¼ to ½ ripe avocado

4 slices grilled or sautéed onion

1 bell pepper, halved, seeded and grilled or roasted

20 g Havarti cheese (or mild cheese of your choice)

6 slices bread and butter pickles (or one dill pickle, sliced)

3 to 4 slices juicy ripe tomato

1 or 2 leaves crunchy lettuce Salt & pepper

Spread half the mayo on each slice of bread; repeat with mustard. Cut avocado into thin slices and lay on the bottom piece of bread. Now lay on the grilled onion, cheese, grilled pepper, pickles, tomato and lettuce. Make sure to arrange your ingredients evenly over the previous layer so that every bite has a bit of each item. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomato for an extra flavour boost. Cover with second slice of bread, mayo side down. Push two big frilled toothpicks through the sandwich (one on each half), cut sandwich in half, and serve immediately.

NEW DELHI — CHICKEN

Makes 1 sandwich

One of my favourite ever sandwich creations, the combination of mint chutney, spice-grilled chicken (or cauliflower), pickled beets and crunchy vegetables is sandwich nirvana. Looks as beautiful as it tastes!

Make sure to use a soft baguette, not a really crusty one, or the sandwich will be too difficult to eat. Alternatively, pile the fillings into a folded naan bread, or use good quality white sandwich bread.

¼ soft white baguette, split

30 ml mint chutney (recipe follows) 30 ml caramelized onions (or sub in sliced raw onion), optional Spiced grilled chicken (recipe follows)

3 slices pickled beets

4 roasted cherry tomatoes (or sub in fresh sliced tomato), optional 6 slices cucumber

60 ml finely shredded cabbage

Spread half of the mint chutney on each side of the baguette. Spread on the optional caramelized onion, followed by the grilled chicken, pickled beets, roasted cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and finally cabbage. Cover with top piece of baguette, chutney side down, and serve immediately.

New Delhi sandwiches. (Don Denton/Boulevard)

NEW DELHI — CAULIFLOWER

Makes 1 sandwich

One of my favourite ever sandwich creations, the combination of mint chutney, spice-grilled cauliflower (or chicken), pickled beets, and crunchy vegetables is sandwich nirvana. Looks as beautiful as it tastes!

¼ soft white baguette, split

30 ml mint chutney (recipe follows) 30 ml caramelized onions (optional — or sub in sliced raw onion) Spiced grilled cauliflower steak (recipe follows)

3 slices pickled beets

4 roasted cherry tomatoes (optional — or sub in fresh sliced tomato) 6 slices cucumber

60 ml finely shredded cabbage

Spread half of the mint chutney on each side of the baguette. Spread on the optional caramelized onion, followed by the grilled cauliflower, pickled beets, roasted cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and finally cabbage. Cover with top piece of baguette, chutney side down, and serve immediately.

MINT CHUTNEY

Makes enough for about 4 sandwiches. Recipe doubles easily.

½ cup packed mint leaves

¼ cup fresh cilantro

1 or 2 green onions, depending on size

30 ml sweet mango chutney (or apricot jam) 15 ml rice wine vinegar

2 ml cayenne

It’s easiest to puree all the ingredients in a food processor, mini-chopper or immersion blender. Alternatively, you can chop the mint, cilantro, green onion and mango chutney by hand until very fine, and mix in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. This condiment lasts in the fridge for about a week, and tastes delicious with all kinds of food.

SPICE GRILLED CAULIFLOWER AND CHICKEN

These substantial fillings are what give the New Delhi sandwich its Indian flair. The spice grilled cauliflower is so good, you’ll want to try it on its own. The spice mixture is brushed on near the end of cooking so that it doesn’t burn. Either the chicken or the cauliflower can be made a day ahead.

1 chicken breast, tender removed, and breast sliced horizontally into two flat cutlets OR 1 whole cauliflower, centre cut into three thick slices, with the core attached so that it doesn’t fall apart (slices about 1 cm thick) 2.5 ml salt

30 ml vegetable oil, divided 10 ml good quality curry powder

Preheat gas grill on high heat. (Alternatively, you can roast the chicken or cauliflower in a 425 F degree oven.)

Coat the three cauliflower “steaks” or chicken cutlets in 15 ml of oil, along with all the salt. Grill over direct heat — chicken uncovered, cauliflower covered — using tongs to flip the chicken or cauliflower after several minutes. (The heat for the cauliflower may need to be turned down). Cook several minutes longer, until the chicken is firm and its juices are running clear, or the cauliflower is tender-crisp with browned bits everywhere.

Meanwhile, mix the curry powder with the remaining oil in a small bowl. Use a barbecue brush to brush the curry powder mixture on the chicken or cauliflower when it is really close to being cooked through. Flip and brush the others side as well. Make sure to brush the edges of the cauliflower as well. Cook for a minute longer, flipping as necessary, until the curry spices are fragrant and clinging to the cauliflower or chicken. Remove cauliflower or chicken to a plate and let cool slightly or completely before putting in the sandwich.

MEDITERRANEAN — MEAT LOVER’S

Makes 1 sandwich

Brimming with bright Mediterranean flavours, this sandwich is perfect for sunny picnics or lunches in the back garden. It’s a great vehicle for leftover grilled vegetables and any cured meats you have on hand. Slather on the pesto, if you like a strong herb flavour, or limit yourself to a few leaves if you prefer the meat and vegetables to shine. ¼ loaf focaccia bread, sliced in half horizontally

30 ml mayo, plain or herbed OR 30 ml basil pesto

45 ml soft goat cheese (or other mild white cheese)

60 g prosciutto, shaved (or salami)

½ grilled or roasted bell pepper, sliced 3 or 4 slices grilled onion 6 or more large fresh basil leaves

3 or 4 slices fresh ripe tomato

Handful Italian arugula leaves

Spread half the mayo or pesto (or turn it into pesto mayo!) on each half of the focaccia bread. Now spread the goat cheese on what will be the bottom half, followed by the shaved prosciutto (which will give better look and flavour if you roll each slice before placing it on the sandwich). Follow with layers of grilled pepper, grilled onion, basil leaves, tomato and arugula. Top with other half of focaccia bread, mayo side down. Push two large frilled toothpicks or skewers through each side of the sandwich and cut in half. Eat immediately, or wrap to eat at a picnic.

A stack of Mediterranean sandwiches. (Don Denton/Boulevard)

MEDITERRANEAN — GRILLED VEG

Makes 1 sandwich

The vegetarian version of the meat lover’s above. Try drizzling the sandwich with Italian-style vinaigrette just before you put the top piece of bread on.

¼ loaf focaccia bread, sliced in half horizontally

30 ml mayo, plain or herbed OR 30 ml basil pesto

45 ml soft goat cheese (or other mild white cheese)

80 to 100 ml Smashed Rosemary White Beans (recipe follows)

1 grilled or roasted bell pepper, sliced

4 slices grilled zucchini 3 or 4 slices grilled onion 6 or more large fresh basil leaves

3 or 4 slices fresh ripe tomato

Handful Italian arugula leaves

Salt & pepper 20 ml Italian vinaigrette, optional

Spread half the mayo or pesto (or turn it into pesto mayo!) on each half of the focaccia bread. Now spread the goat cheese on what will be the bottom half, followed by the Smashed Rosemary White Beans, also spread right to the edges. Follow with layers of grilled pepper, grilled zucchini, grilled onion, basil leaves, tomato and arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle on the optional vinaigrette, if desired. Top with the other half of focaccia bread, mayo side down. Push two large frilled toothpicks or skewers through each side of the sandwich and cut in half. Eat immediately, or wrap to take to a picnic.

SMASHED ROSEMARY WHITE BEANS

Makes 1 cup — enough for about 3 vegetarian sandwiches

This recipe provides an alternative to hummus for flavour and protein. Quick and easy to make, but fancy enough for a dinner party, this dip is loaded with rosemary, garlic and olive oil. It will keep for several days in the fridge, and can be frozen for several months.

1 cup canned white kidney beans (cannellini beans) 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary 2 cloves garlic, minced Salt and fresh ground pepper, o taste Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the beans in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In a small pan, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the garlic and rosemary. Turn heat to medium and heat the pan up. Let the garlic and rosemary sizzle until fragrant, about 1 minute, then immediately pour directly on to the beans in the bowl. Use a potato masher or a large fork to mash the beans together with the oil and flavourings. The texture will be rough rather than smooth. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper (to preferred taste) and mix again. Spread on sandwiches immediately, or refrigerate for several days.

SANDWICH BUILDING BLOCKS

I have only scratched the surface here with things you can add to or put in sandwiches. Please use these lists as suggestions or guidelines only; explore any ingredient that suits your palate. Anything that can fit in between two pieces of bread (or baguette, or pita, or bun, etc) is game!

SCHMEARS

mayo (either plain or flavoured), avocado, mustard (Dijon is my go-to), butter, pesto (or variations), hummus (or other tasty bean smash), chutney, cream cheese (plain or flavoured), goat cheese, roasted garlic

JUICY

tomatoes, grilled peppers, grilled zucchini or eggplant, grilled onion, pickles of any kind, sprouts, cucumber, coleslaw, roasted tomatoes, grilled cauliflower or sweet potato

CRUNCHY

lettuce, arugula, pickles (any kind — beets, cukes, zucchini, etc), bacon, celery, sprouts, cucumber, shredded cabbage or slaw, raw onion, sliced apple

RICH

sliced cheese, avocado, bacon, hummus or bean spread, cream cheese, goat cheese, cold smoked fish, caramelized onion, pate

HIGH PROTEIN

salami, deli meats, grilled chicken, bacon, Asian pork and duck, pate, meatballs, shrimp, tuna, smoked salmon, eggs (fried or boiled and sliced), hummus or other smashed bean puree

HIGH FLAVOUR

most of the schmears, fresh herbs (big leaves of basil or mint are my favourites), kimchi, hot sauce,, bacon, strong cheese, pickles, caramelized onion

Story and recipes Chef Heidi Fink

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