This time last year I was in the thick of it putting the recipes together for Made in America. Every day I would return from dropping the children at school with bags and bags of ingredients ready for more recipe testing and photography. I would then tackle recipe upon recipe – slowly getting each one into a format that any home cook could make up successfully, before getting the dish ready for its close up. The insane schedule meant that there was very little time for anything else – even entertaining my sister when she came to stay for a week. However, there was time for eating all the many new dishes I was learning to prepare and one of the most successful were the Rock Star Sandwiches from Marc Vetri. I baked up a batch of bialys and all the various fillings and let everyone mix and match so they got exactly the sandwich they wanted.
I am not an experienced baker – I have made the odd Victoria sandwich or a batch of scones – but breads and doughs are something I am new to. Cooking for Made in America changed all that and I am now confident baking up breads, bialys and even Nancy Silverton English muffins – nooks and crannies and all – thanks to chefs like Vetri and Silverton for opening my eyes to the ease and pleasure of baking. One of my favorite books of last yeat to bake (and cook) from was Rustic Italian Food by Marc Vetri and David Joachim. [And yes Mario Batali did the foreword - boy was he busy writing forewords in 2011 - there can barely have been time for anything else!]
Vetri wanted to make an old school Reuben sandwich with a distinctly Italian twist – using mortadella instead of the traditional pastrami – and on a homemade bialy – a Yiddish roll a bit like a bagel (baked rather than boiled).
Vetri didn’t want to be a chef, “I wanted to be a rock star, so I studied music in Los Angeles and paid my way by cooking.” Realizing that the guitar wasn’t going to be his ticket to fame and fortune, he bought a one-way ticket to Lombardy, Italy, to apprentice in a Bergamo restaurant. From Philadelphia to Los Angeles to Lombardy to New York and finally back home to Philadelphia, Vetri gathered knowledge and skills along the way that he now brings to his cooking and all his restaurants. His flavors are simple, yet pronounced. “Cooking is about finding high-quality, regional ingredients,” he says, “then using the simplest techniques to convey their purity.” Think Italian food with whimsy. As for gaining rock star status, Ferran Adria recently pronounced chefs to be the new rock stars of the world and when Vetri needs his guitar fix he gets together to jam with friends. Rather than a Reuben sandwich let’s rename it:
Vetri’s Rock Star Sandwich
4 ¾ cups bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried active yeast or 1/3 ounce fresh yeast
1 3/4 cups water, warmed to 130 degrees F
1/2 onion minced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
poppy seeds to sprinkle by eye
2 red bell peppers, roasted, skins removed
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
¼ cup olive oil
sherry vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup mayonnaise, more to taste
3/4 cups water
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 whole jalapenos
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon whole pepper
1 teaspoon whole coriander
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 head savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
For each bialy:
1 tablespoon salsa rossa
1 ounce slaw
1 ounce young soft pecorino cheese, sliced thin
3 ounces mortadella (preferably Italian), sliced very thin, almost shaved
1 tablespoon butter
spicy pickles on the side
For the bialy dough
1. In an electric stand mixer with hook attachment mix flour, salt, yeast and warm water. Knead for ten minutes on low speed, adding additional water/flour if needed to form a soft smooth dough.
2. Cover and proof for 1 hour in a warm place.
3. Cook onion for 30 minutes, over low heat, in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.
4. Weigh out 3 ounce balls (13 total) and let rest for 30 minutes.
5. Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
6. Shape bialy into rounds with an indention. Fill with onion and then sprinkle with poppy seeds and sea salt. Place on oiled sheet pan top and bake for 12 minutes until golden brown.
Makes a baker’s dozen,13 rolls
For the salsa rossa
1. Place roasted peppers and bread crumbs in blender and blend until smooth. Slowly drizzle olive oil in to emulsify.
2. Mix salsa rossa with mayonnaise, add more mayonnaise to taste.
3. Season with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.
Makes about 1 1/3 cups
For the pickles
1. Bring everything up to a boil except the cucumbers.
2. Pour boiling liquid over cucumbers and let sit for 1 hour. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
For the slaw
1. Marinate all ingredients for an hour.
Makes about 2 cups
1. Slice the bialy in half and inside place the salsa rossa, slaw, pecorino cheese and mortadella.
2. In an iron skillet on medium heat melt butter, place the bialy in the pan and press with another pan or a brick. Flip after about 3 minutes and cook another 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.
3. Slice and serve with the spicy pickles on the side.
Chef Vetri’s tip:
“I leave the jalapenos whole and serve them with the sandwich but not everyone will eat them.”
“If you don’t use all the bialy rolls you can use them for other sandwiches.”