I wasn’t sure I needed a sandwich cookbook. I’ve always thought that a sandwich tastes better when someone else makes for you. Also, isn’t a sandwich just things piled on bread? Do we really need recipes for something so closely associated with speed and convenience?
As soon as I started reading A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, though, I didn’t stop—it’s hilarious and strange.
Written by Tyler Kord, the chef-owner of No. 7 restaurant group in New York City, it’s just as much about his opinions on matters ranging from the ethics of eating squid to good and bad reasons to make your own mayo, as it is about the actual sandwiches. And it’s not as though there’s commentary in between the recipes. No, the commentary is the recipe.
For example, the fourth step of the Zucchini Parm (fried zucchini, onion puree, fontina, pickled jalapenos, bbq potato chips) is a rant about our expectations about the cost of food. As a result, when you are cooking from the book, you very much feel like you have a hilarious, neurotic, more-than-slightly intoxicated friend alongside you, making you laugh while you cook and giving you hell for things like your electric stove (I’m sorry, Tyler! My town doesn’t have gas yet!).
All of these interjecting rants and little interludes of banter with the editor sprinkled throughout the recipes become a bit more of a nuisance when you’re returning to a recipe for the third or fourth time, but this won’t deter me from cooking from this book. Overall, I loved it.
Kord prioritizes deliciousness over authenticity or pretention. He encourages you to put Velveeta on your veggie burger and says he’ll eat homemade ketchup once someone makes artisanal high-fructose corn syrup. He cares deeply about where his food comes from and is clearly conflicted about eating seafood and meat, but also enthusiastically enjoys the hell out of both seafood and meat. It is a mental space I think a lot of us can relate to. Unfortunately, Kord doesn’t offer much of a solution other than to be informed about how we get our food, expect to pay more for ethically produced food, and eat more vegetables (especially broccoli).
Which brings us to the sandwiches. The book starts with recipes for 40 different sandwiches, organized into sections that focus on a common ingredient (roast beef, meatloaf, vegetable purees, and so on). But each sandwich recipe involves at least a few sub-recipes for the various sandwich components, which are found at the end of the book. This means that you’ll have to flip around a bit to make any one sandwich, but get out your bookmarks, people, because it will be worth it.
I made six of the sandwiches, which involved many of the component recipes. All of these involved more work than I would normally put into a sandwich, but the results ranged from very good to sound effect-inducing outstanding. These are sandwiches after all, and are quite amenable to shortcuts, although don't tell Tyler.
For the No. 7 Sub Club, I used a rotisserie chicken and store-bought Canadian bacon, rather than making from scratch using Kord’s recipes, and it was still easily the best sandwich I’ve ever made at home. Pico de Lettuce (basically wilted, lightly pickled lettuce) was the key component. (Of course many of us Food52ers have long known the wonder of pickled lettuce as a sandwich condiment from our beloved Kukla).
But there’s no reason you must stick to his combinations. There’s a sandwich construction theory at the end that encourages you think not about what particular ingredients “go together,” but to aim to have at least something substantial, acidic, fatty, crunchy, and sweet in in every sandwich. This book unlocked a certain creativity in the kitchen that I had been missing.
And because of the component recipes, this book is more than just a sandwich cookbook. The golden raisin and scallion relish was perfection on a hot dog, as Kord recommended. I used his General Tso’s sauce to make the classic chicken dish instead of his fried tofu sandwich. It was a bit more tart than what I was going for, but still delicious. This book be so helpful this summer—when you want to make several of the components on a lazy, cooler day, and then throw together outstanding sandwiches like a wizard for easy dinners on too-hot-to-cook days.
I can’t wait.
In a world saturated by cookbooks that are often so similar or forced, this one was authentically itself. The overall message is perhaps familiar: eat more plants, pay attention to where your food comes from, put some effort into the things you do, everything in moderation. But rather than coming from an author who projects wellness and righteousness, as seems so often the case, this message is coming in the form of delicious, drippy sandwiches from someone who is hilariously self-deprecating.
Once you have the book (you will get it, won’t you?), make these items first: