Wine Trail - Cook's Edition

Italian Sub with Eggplant

Asandwich. Anything stuck between two slices of bread (even if the slices are connected, like, say a 'roll'.  Just exactly how the 4th Earl of Sandwich (UK), one John Montagu came to be the namesake of the concoction isn't really known but the name stuck.

Then why a "sub" sandwich? Apparently because the roll looks like a submarine. There are names aplenty for the same thing, such as gyro, hoagie, Italian, po' boy and the like.

With some mortadella hanging around in the freezer, we thought it time to find a good use for it and came across a twist on the just meat and cheese sub -- we are also using eggplant. Our recipe is an adaptation  of one by Jeff Mauro ("the sandwich king") from the Food Network.


What do tomatoes, chili peppers, potatoes, tobacco and eggplant all have in common? Interestingly, they are all part of the same family, the genus Solanum. Which means to a gardener, if you are growing these plants and stick to a proper crop rotation to avoid pests, you should treat them all as part of the same rotation.

While most eat it as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a berry. Because it's sponge like, it sops up the flavors of things it's cooked with. Often fried, it also sops up a lot of the frying oil. Culinarily this can add to the flavor of a dish ("fat carries flavor"). We have found that in many uses a lot of the oil can be avoided by baking.

Hot Mustard

Hot Mustard Powder

What does mustard have to do with an Italian sub sandwich? Absolutely nothing. What does it have to do with a 'side' that we very much like with our sub? Everything.

Once upon a time in Los Angeles, California there was a great hamburger joint. It was famous for using prime meat and letting you get your sides buffet style. One of those sides was an incredible potato salad. There was just something about it. It seemed, to us, unique. And we loved it.  As is often the case, eventually the place (it was called Cassell's) disappeared.

Somewhere we had a 3x5 card with a recipe cut out from the Los Angeles Times pasted on it. Somehow it got lost. The internet says even the L.A. Times can't find it. But somebody kept a copy and we think it might very well be the original. It tastes like we remember it. And to preserve it a bit further we're including it here for you to try:

Cassell's Potato Salad
That's it. Nobody seems to have the instructions to go with it. But potato salad in the end is potato salad.  Mix everything together.  We like to use more mustard than called for. Sometimes we add some chopped raw onions. It's all about the mustard.

We have been using a product called "Oriental Mustard Powder," which is also marked as "Hot Mustard Powder."  Is it "Oriental" because one uses it to make the mustard condiment you often find in little packets in Chinese restaurants? We wonder about that because this powder comes from Canada. Is it "hot mustard" powder because it makes that sort of condiment, or is it truly hotter than some other mustards?

Some dry mustards (also known as mustard powder, it's the same thing) are hotter than others. Brown then black mustard seeds are hotter than yellow mustard seeds. All will produce a somewhat yellow powder, though of varying shades (and sometimes turmeric is added just to make it more yellow). The liquid that is added makes a difference. Water will produce a hotter product than vinegar.

The ubiquitous Colman's dry mustard bills itself as a hot mustard. It is made from a blend of yellow and brown seeds. A really great website for Oriental dishes, The Woks of Life, says that Colman's is just fine. We reached out to the manufacturer of the powder we have been using to see if they are claiming it is hotter than some, but haven't heard back. We'll update this if we do. (By the way, we are into 'hot'.)

. . . .

At least we still have the recipe to another Los Angeles favorite, The Original Pantry's coleslaw. Now, if there is anybody out there who can tell us the recipe to the long gone Stern's Barbecue (Culver City, California) amazing BBQ sauce, we will be forever in debt.

The Recipe

Italian Dressing
Place the vinegar, mustard, sugar, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic and shallot or onion in a blender or food processor. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle the olive oil through the blender top or feed tube until the dressing is combined and emulsified. Adjust the seasoning if necessary; add more oil if you want it less acidic. Makes 3/4 cup.

Note: Since Dijon mustard is an emulsifier which will thicken your dressing like oil, to cut down on the amount of oil in the recipe we sometimes use more mustard and less oil.

This is a nice dressing to just have around. We make it up in a jar (making extra, of course) so that we can keep it in the fridge and just shake up the jar before pouring over a salad.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Lay the eggplant slices on a baking sheet in a single layer and brush liberally with the Homemade Italian Dressing. Roast in the oven until cooked through and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Build the sandwich on the rolls or bread by first spreading a nice amount of the Italian Dressing all over what will be the bottom bread. Proceed with the mozzarella first, then the salami, capocollo, prosciutto, mortadella, and roasted eggplant. Top with the lettuce, tomato and a generous drizzle of the Italian Dressing and/or more dressing on the other piece of bread.

Instead of rolls, we like to work with a long crusty baguette. How much filling you use really depends on the size of the bread and how much you really want to eat. We find it useful to lay out all the ingredients so we can eyeball just how much we really want. You can reasonably consider a total of about 1/4 to 1/2 pound of meat per person.

Any sandwich recipe is just a guideline. We didn't use everything it calls for (what we had on hand was salami and mortadella). We did use fresh mozzarella in one go around, and provolone another time. Provolone is much sharper in flavor and using it or the more mild mozzarella is just a matter of what you want, when you want it (and, of course, any favorite cheese will do).

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We serve with our special potato salad (see above) and a nice kosher dill.

The Sub
Buon appetito, piatto pulito!

Wine Pairing

Nalle Winery Squirrels
Nalle Winery

Ranch Red

The 60% Zin and 40% Cab Nalle Ranch Red is just the sort of thing to go with a full bodied sub sandwich. Good peppery flavors in the wine and food, plus the dry California fruit to balance (so says the winermaker).


   Get just the recipes in .pdf format here