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Bert Greene's Kitchen

The Triple-Decker May Be Set for a Return

December 03, 1987| Greene is a New-York based food writer

Having read and interpreted all the signs and portents in the culinary wind for some time, I am about to make a small but sportive food prediction. The dish that is waiting in the wings for a full-scale prandial revival is the triple-decker sandwich.

Now, you may retort that the triple-decker has never left the food scene, but you would be wrong. A small survey of leading gourmet deli's and high-tabbed soda fountain/luncheonettes around the country revealed that sales of overstuffed sandwiches as a whole have been on a steady decline since the mid-'70s and that the sale of sandwiches based on heavy-bread use (like the triple-decker) have plummeted even farther in the '80s as Americans opted for fitness over feasting.

If that is the case, you are probably surmising, why a full-scale sandwich revival now?

By and large, food fads and trendy dishes are cyclical. At the present time, a whole new cadre of nutritionists--working in the field of complex carbohydrates--have come up with dietary programs for busy executives that not only permit but actually insist on high starch consumption for two out of every three meals per day.

Another is the emotional charge of comfort food on the psyche.

Sandwich-Maker Games

I first suspected rumblings on the sandwich scene when Hellman's Best Foods held an informal Olympics among top sandwich makers in New York last September. Every single entry in this "Deli Challenge" was a triple-decker.

On a more personal note, I was asked to architect and develop what was described as "the ultimate bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich" recently as part of an urban renewal program in San Antonio, Tex.

To this Southwestern city's credit, a private-landmark group, along with local government support, has undertaken a massive project to upgrade and revitalize a somewhat seedy downtown area known as Houston Street.

To kick off the rehabilitation of Houston Street, a huge three-story Art Deco Antique Sampler Mall opened recently. One of the sidelight attractions of the mall is a gorgeously overblown 1930's-style luncheonette known as B.L.T.'s. My sandwich was designed to be its top-of-the-line offering.

When you glance at the recipe for this "super-munch," you may suspect I went a little hog-wild. I won't deny it. My B.L.T. is, for instance, a triple-decker not served on toast but on grilled home-baked whole-wheat batter bread. The sandwich's major upholstery is two kinds of bacon, Canadian-style and thick-cut, layered with tomato, lettuce and in Texas' honor, shavings of pickled jalapeno chiles with home-made mayonnaise.

SUPER BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO SPECIAL

2 slices Whole Wheat Batter Bread, about 1/2-inch thick

Unsalted butter, softened

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Homemade Mayonnaise

1 pickled jalapeno chile, seeded, sliced thin lengthwise

3 slices Canadian bacon, sauteed

2 large leaves Boston or bibb lettuce

1 small tomato, thinly sliced

2 slices thick cut bacon, crisp-fried

Grill or toast bread and butter lightly. Spread 1 buttered side with mayonnaise. Place jalapeno chile strips on mayonnaise. Cover with Canadian bacon. Top with lettuce, tomato and thick cut bacon. Spread more mayonnaise over top, if desired, and cover with remaining bread slice. Makes 1 sandwich.

Whole-Wheat Batter Bread

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 package dry yeast

2 tablespoons honey

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Place water in large bowl of electric mixer. Sprinkle with yeast and stir in honey. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

On medium speed, beat in 1 cup whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, salt and butter. Beat 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl often. On low speed, beat in remaining flours. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Stir dough down by beating 25 strokes with wooden spoon. Spread dough into greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Cover loosely with flour-rubbed towel and let rise in warm place until dough reaches top of pan, about 1 hour.

Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped with finger, about 30 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on rack. Makes 1 loaf.

Homemade Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 cup olive oil or combination of olive oil and vegetable oil

Dash hot pepper sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water

Whisk egg yolk in large bowl until light. Slowly whisk in vinegar, lemon juice, salt, white pepper and mustard.

Beat in oil, few drops at time, until 1/3 cup has been incorporated. Continue to beat in oil, 1 tablespoon at time. Season with hot pepper sauce. Thin with boiling water.

Store, tightly covered, in refrigerator. Mayonnaise will keep 5 to 6 days in refrigerator. Makes about 3/4 cup.

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