This review was prepared by Recipe Sleuth of Eye for a Recipe.
The liner note for the cookbook ’wichcraft says it all: “This is not your mother’s sandwich.”
That’s for sure. With sandwich fillings ranging from Chicken Liver Pâté with Fried Onions and Radish Salad to Whipped Salt Cod with Roasted Peppers and Parsley, ’wichcraft is full of unusual and creative combinations.
Even those two universal favourites—PB&J and egg salad—get a makeover. The ’wichcraft version of PB&J mixes butter with the peanut butter to add richness and tops it with homemade rhubarb jelly. The egg salad includes caviar, crème fraiche and chervil.
Written by Tom Colicchio (of Top Chef and Craft Restaurant fame) and Sisha Ortúzar, the book includes recipes and techniques from the popular ’wichcraft sandwich shop the two chefs co-founded in 2003. Inspired by their shared vision that “a sandwich should be a portable meal sourced and crafted with the same intention and excitement as we brought to the food in our restaurants”, the two chefs opened a sandwich place that has now expanded to several locations in New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
Well laid-out and beautifully photographed, the book divides its 58 recipes into four categories: breakfast sandwiches, cool sandwiches, warm sandwiches and sweet sandwiches. A visual table of contents covering the book’s first eight pages displays small photos of all the recipes, so you can quickly focus on the ones that most appeal to you.
In addition to the recipes for sandwiches, ’wichcraft includes 27 recipes for condiments, ranging from basic mayonnaise to black chile oil, raisin-pinenut relish and lemon confit. It lists sources (all located in the U.S.) of hard-to-find ingredients.
’wichcraft’s 208 pages also contain interesting information on the history of the sandwich and about sandwich architecture—how taste, texture and appearance can be combined to create a sandwich that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Useful tips include how to correctly layer ingredients, what type and thickness of bread to use and even how to toast it (one side only, and place the toasted side on the inside of the sandwich; the outside won’t get soggy and it won’t scratch the roof of your mouth—who knew?).
These chefs take their sandwiches seriously.
Which brings me to my experience cooking from ’wichcraft. In all, I made four sandwiches—two warm and two cool. The results ranged from average to excellent. But these are not recipes that you throw together in a half hour. Some are quite complex and nearly all take a long time (and dirty many dishes).
This is due, in large part, to the condiments. Many take at least an hour to make; some take up to a day. That being said, you can prepare most of them well in advance.
The first recipe I made was Roasted Pork Loin with Prunes, Dandelion Greens and Mustard on country-style bread. This involved soaking the prunes and turning them into a sauce, roasting the pork in the oven, wilting greens in skillet and grilling bread (not toasting; there’s a difference) on yet another skillet. It tasted good; the pork was juicy and redolent of caraway and the sweetness of the prunes was a nice counterpoint to the bitter greens. It took about 90 minutes to make.
My second effort was Red-Wine Braised Flank Steak with Roasted Peppers, Onions and Gruyère atop ciabatta rolls. It was absolutely delicious. The beef shredded beautifully and, with the melted cheese and roasted vegetables, tasted divine. It took four hours to make, including searing the meat and then braising it for more than two hours.
Looking for something that I could get on the table more quickly, I tried the open-faced Roasted Shrimp Salad with Tomatoes and Olives on multigrain bread. It was very good, although a bit too lemony for my taste.
The last recipe I made was the aforementioned Chicken Liver Pâté with Fried Onions and Radish Salad on white bread. This involved sautéing chicken livers with cognac before mixing them with cream in a food processor to make the paté. Then I grated radishes and horseradish and mixed them with oil, vinegar, mustard and parsley for the salad. That done, it was time to soak onion rings in vinegar for 10 minutes before dredging them in flour and deep-frying them in batches. But by the time the onions were fried and the bread was toasted, the radish salad was a little too runny and the onions were cold. All in all, the results were disappointing, given the time invested.
This book is a good read and the flavour combinations are very appealing. I would like to order most of the sandwiches in this book in a restaurant. But as for making them at home, when I spend four hours making a meal I want to end up with more than a sandwich on my plate, as good as that sandwich may be.
Should you add this book to your collection? If you a sandwich aficionado looking for creative combinations that inspire you to achieve restaurant-style results, buy this book today. But if, for you, the joy of a sandwich comes from standing in front of the fridge deciding what leftovers you can combine and eat in five minutes, ’wichcraft’s magic will be lost on you.