There are so many cookbooks, so many cooking shows, and so many cooking blogs, because, obviously, for so many of us—the subject of our food is endlessly fascinating. I have spent many pleasurable conversations (usually over a meal) with friends, recounting food memories, comparing techniques and ingredients for favorite recipes, and good naturedly arguing about the “right” way to do things. Example: “You mean to say some people put dark meat in their chicken salad? Oh yuck!” says one of my best southern-belle-raised friends.
The other day, I was flipping through an old cookbook by James Beard, James Beard’s American Cookery, and came across his recipe for a Club Sandwich. He wrote by way of introduction:
“… It is one of the great sandwiches of all time and has swept its way around the world after an American beginning. Nowadays the sandwich is bastardized because it is usually made as a three-decker, which is not authentic (whoever started that horror should be forced to eat three-deckers three times a day the rest of his life), and nowadays practically everyone uses turkey and there’s a vast difference between turkey and chicken where sandwiches are concerned.” Wow.
Intrigued by his passion about this, I “googled” club sandwich to see what “they’re” saying out there. And I find that no one seems to really know where the club originated, although everyone does seem to agree that it is American. Here are a few of the most-cited origins of the club sandwich:
One goes all the way back to 1894 at the Saratoga Club-House in Saratoga Springs, New York. The story is that a man named Richard Canfield purchased this gentlemen-only gambling club, and that the sandwich was invented in its kitchen under his watch.
Another is that of the accidental invention of the sandwich by some man, somewhere who came home late at night and hungry, stumbled into his kitchen, starving for something to eat…and the only thing he could come up with was some stale bread (which he toasted) some leftover chicken, bacon, tomato, etc. etc…you get the idea.
And another is that it came from the dining menu of the Club Car of a train somewhere.
All credible…none proven…. oh well. After all of that reading, I was hungry and it was lunchtime and a club sandwich sure sounded good. The clubs I like the best include avocado and some southwesterny flavors, and the star here for me is the Cilantro-Chili Mayonnaise. We enjoyed this with a glass of iced tea and a few potato chips of the thick, kettle-fried variety.
Santa Fe Club Sandwich
2 Ciabatta rolls (shown) or 4 slices sourdough bread
6 slices bacon
8 slices cooked chicken breast meat (a rotisserie chicken is great for this)
4 thin tomato slices
½ avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
Romaine lettuce leaves
Cilantro-Chili Mayonnaise (see below)
Lightly toast the rolls or the bread and spread with Cilantro-Chili mayonnaise. Layer the turkey, bacon, tomato, avocado and Romaine on one slice of the bread, cover with the other, and cut in half.
For the Cilantro-Chili Mayonnaise:
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1 small jalapeno chili, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin