The concept of the sandwich has been around since bread and meat. Throughout the centuries it has been refined and is now considered one of the great equalizers, a food fit for any class, from royalty to rustic.
Technically speaking, the sandwich has been around much longer than its name. Some identify the first sandwich with the Rabbi, Hillel the Elder. Said to have improvised from the seder plate, he used two matzo crackers and a smear of charoset to form the first sandwich ever. A Passover miracle.
Doubters argue against such supernatural phenomena, claiming bread must be involved in some capacity for it to be considered a true sandwich. Which brings us all the way up to the middle ages, in the days before dishware.
The Practical Plate
In lieu of plates, stale bread from loaves of days past were sliced down the center and used as edible dishes called “trenchers”. The meats and gravies served upon the trenchers were meant to soften the bread and render it palatable by the time the meal had finished. Allowing those yet unsatisfied to further indulge.
The majority of the time these trenchers were given to the poor. A bowl of the yet edible scraps was taken out to those who waited outside the homes of the wealthy. These trenchers, however, were at best an open-faced sandwich and required cutlery, completely eliminating the convenience factor and so this hypothesis too falls by the wayside as we continue on our quest of origins.
“The Same as Sandwich”
Enter John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich, British statesman, and notorious profligate and gambler. During one of his fabled benders, the Earl didn’t leave the card table for over 24 hours. Rather than leave the table, the Earl requested salted beef between two slices of toast to be brought to him. Some say Montagu was inspired by his travels abroad throughout the Mediterranean where mezze platters consisting of cheese and meats were sandwiched between layers of pita bread.
Though perhaps not the inventor of the sandwich, Montagu certainly was responsible for escorting the idea to the upper echelons of British society. His role in popularizing the dish was solidified in the popular piece of travel literature “Grosley’s Tour to London”, cementing Montagu’s prodigal nature in the mind of the public.
While his gambling was undeniable, Montagu was also noted for spending days on end at his desk, drawing into question if that first request for the sandwich was made from the desk and not the gaming table. In all events, the trend had begun and clubs and coffee houses were inundated with requests from the British gentry for “the same as Sandwich”.
“First we eat, then we do everything else.”
1 Loaf of Crusty Bread
1/2 lb Mild Cheese, sliced
1 lb Roast Beef, sliced thin
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 Sweet Potatoes
Salt + Pepper
2 red onions, sliced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt, Kosher
1/4 teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Spicy Roasted Garlic Aioli
3 whole heads Garlic
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 cup Mayonnaise
1/3 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Parmesan, grated
1/2 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1-2 Tablespoons Sriracha Hot Sauce
Spicy Roasted Garlic Aioli
Preheat your oven to 350℉. Slice off the tops of all three heads of garlic, placing them on top of a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap them up tightly in the aluminum and place in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes. While the garlic is baking, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Parmesan, mustard, cayenne, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and sriracha. Once the garlic has finished, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes before squeezing the pulp from the garlic into the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and reserve until ready to use.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Wash two sweet potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch rounds, drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper over the potatoes and toss together. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and bake along with the garlic for 15 minutes. Flip the potato rounds and bake another 10-15 minutes or until crisp.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add in your olive oil and onions and cook down until soft and translucent. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Cook until the onions begin to brown, another ten minutes or so. Add the balsamic and stir together. Transfer to a bowl until ready to use.
Slice bread and spread the slices on a baking sheet. Toast on one side, flip slices over and layer roast beef and cheese on top of half of them. Return to the oven until the beef is warm and the cheese is all melty. Remove the sandwiches and spread some of the caramelized onions, top with arugula, sweet potatoes, and generously drizzle with aioli. Top with the second slice of bread and serve!