Forget the Earl of Sandwich and Dagwood Bumstead. The real lovers of the hand-held meal are alive and well and living right here.
Western New Yorkers are hungry and they're ingenious -- a potent combination in Sandwich Land. So when we asked readers to send us their favorite sandwich recipes, we got a pile of letters and e-mails that was, well, bigger than a breadbox.
We were not surprised. After all, we're coming up on Super Bowl weekend and people are thinking along the lines of food that can be eaten in front of a television set or in the car listening to the radio.
It is that very portability, as well as some very popular ingredients, that make sandwiches so beloved. In fact, many of the sandwich ideas sent in by readers were variations on the tried and true.
Recipes calling for peanut butter, bacon, lettuce and tomato, melted cheese and hearty meats were very common. But it was how those ingredients were used that surprised us.
The sandwich ideas we share today sport that (sometimes) small but (always) important twist.
Most luxurious sandwich
From Joseph Miranda of Amherst:
JOE'S FAVORITE SANDWICH 2slices crusty Italian or French bread
1/2 inch thick filet mignon
2tablespoons butter with
2cloves smashed garlic
Melt butter and garlic in hot skillet until garlic is just turning brown. Remove garlic; add filet, quickly brown 1 minute on each side. Serve between bread.
Variation No. 1: Mix 3 parts fois gras with 1 part butter. Soften, then spread on bread slices. Add browned filet; season with fresh ground black pepper, salt and Bouquet Garni powder. Serve as a plain sandwich or open faced, covered with bearnaise sauce.
Variation No. 2: Lightly toast both bread slices in butter. Cover one side with filet, layer with sliced hard-boiled egg. Spread top bread slice with caviar mixed with lemon juice and minced hard-boiled egg. Chopped onion is optional.
Best peanut butter sandwich
From Roger McEniry of Buffalo: "The contrasting textures and flavors (of this sandwich) create an enjoyable experience if you are daring enough to try it: Peanut butter on homestyle white toast with thin slices of tart apple and crispy bacon slices. (Bacon must be crispy to be enjoyed in this sandwich)."
Most unusual sandwiches
Florence Tobin of Buffalo once rented a small condo with stove and refrigerator when she was on vacation. "We were far from a store, had swum all day and were exhausted," she wrote. "To fill our stomachs, we improvised.
"I found a package of one-step stuffing mix and a small package of dry mashed potatoes. I mixed both up according to directions and we made stuffing and mashed potato sandwiches, sprinkled with salt and pepper and spread generously on white bread."
Talk about loading carbohydrates! Still, the sandwich was a success. "From this day, I like the sandwiches and make them especially if the ingredients are leftovers," Tobin says. "It's a simple recipe, but it's good and nourishing." By the way, this sandwich is called, not surprisingly: "Mix of Stuff."
That's pretty weird, you say. Then consider this Grilled Banana Sandwich submitted by Peggy Snekser of the Town of Tonawanda:
"1) Cut a ripe banana in half and cut each half in three large pieces. Cover one slice of bread with the banana.
"2) Spread mayo or Miracle Whip on another slice.
"3) Put slices together and grill until brown on both sides.
"4) After removing from grill, butter sandwich on both sides. Good with tomato soup."
Or, consider this sandwich submitted by Laurie Galbo of North Tonawanda -- Apple Butter and Roast Beef:
"The roast beef must be cold and day old better. NO traces of gravy," she writes.
"Place your cold roast beef on white bread or kummelweck roll, sprinkle on black pepper. Spread apple butter on roll or on the top slice of bread. Slap them together and enjoy!"
And then there's this idea from Dorothea Weber of West Seneca called "A What!"
"Spread one slice of plain or toasted bread with mayo and add thin sliced salami and sliced American cheese. Spread the other slice with strawberry jam and put the slices together."
One caution: "Don't laugh or knock it until you've tried. It's delicious," Weber writes.
Those are among the most unusual recipes. But, because we had so many good ideas, we thought we'd establish a few more categories.
Most carefully designed sandwich
This came with a blueprint from retired cabinetmaker Vincent P. Stanton of Millgrove, who describes himself as a "scratch cook." (His wife, Jeanne, says that "he can go into the kitchen and find a banquet in the fridge while I would have to go the supermarket three or four times.")
"This sandwich," writes Stanton, "was called the 'Gourmet Sandwich' at the enlisted man's snack bar at the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego. At that time it was 75 cents.
"The sandwich is a double decker club-style combining a BLT and a cheeseburger with onion but with the extra inclusion of a fried egg. Assembly is important and the sandwich must be layered, both for proper flavor and minimum of mess. It can be served on bread or toast."
Instructions from the bottom up: A bread slice spread with ketchup and topped with a cooked hamburger with cheese melted on it. This is covered with thin, sliced onion and another slice of bread.
Next comes a hard fried egg, topped with cooked bacon strips and shredded lettuce, topped with tomato slices. The top slice of bread is thinly spread with mayonnaise before it is placed on the very top.
Best story behind sandwich
"When I was a little girl I lived in Williamsville and had a rather eccentric uncle who lived across the street," writes Carsen J. Loftis of East Aurora. "Burvil Glenn was an art professor at UB and was forever trying to do the imaginable, whether it was creating his own root beer in the basement (he blew it up one day and was the talk of the neighborhood) or digging up ancient skeletons he claimed were buried in the back yard, you could always count on Uncle Burvil to do something wonderful. We kids loved him.
"So you might not be surprised to hear that lunch with Uncle Burvil was a bit out of the ordinary too. He created a sandwich I still think of as comfort food to this day:
"Take two slices of fresh rye bread (Al Cohen's is the best), cover one completely with sardines (bones removed -- we loved that part), top with extra sharp N.Y. State cheddar cheese and paper-thin slices of kosher dill pickles cut lengthwise. A bit of Dijon mustard and you are all set. This is best served on Fiestaware if you have it, but that's just for the sake of nostalgia. I loved this sandwich but didn't fare as well the day he tried to get us to taste smoked oysters."
Best kids' (of any age) sandwich
This is the favorite sandwich of the eight great-grandchildren of Eleanor and the late Warren Harrington of Wilson: Take two slices of white bread and a 1.55-ounce bar of Hershey's milk chocolate. Lightly toast slices of bread in oven and while they are still warm, quickly arrange chocolate on one slice. Cover with other slice of toast; press gently.
"When the grandchildren visit," wrote Mrs. Harrington, "these sandwiches are usually eaten in the yard."
Best Super Bowl Sandwich
This comes from Ileane Suitor of Niagara Falls:
1can (6-ounce) black olives, drained and halved
1jar (6-ounce) artichoke hearts in oil, undrained
1can (8-ounce) garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 pound provolone, diced bite size
6ounces thin sliced pepperoni (cut in half)
1green pepper, diced
1red pepper, diced
The day before, combine all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate. Several times during the evening, mix well.
On Super Bowl Sunday, put into bowl of your choice and serve with mini pocket breads (white or wheat, nine per package). Let each guest fix his own sandwich. Add a little olive oil, if needed.
"This is easy on the hostess," writes Suitor. But she adds this postscript: