A Tale of Two Half-Sandwiches

I went to Heidi's, a New York-esque deli on H street near 17th in DC, and ordered the salami and provolone sandwich on fresh ciabatta with red onions, spicy mustard and lettuce. I had been here before and knew they made good sized, good quality, good tasting sandwiches. I had even gotten the salami before and quite enjoyed it. I actually eat salami and related meats quite rarely, but quite enjoyed my Heidi's version enough about 6 months ago that I randomly decided to get it again. Plus all of their sandwiches are easily large enough to really be two lunches, so in a cash and calorie saving move, I already had the second half wrapped up and in the office fridge for the next day's lunch before I even cracked the first half.

Somewhat unfortunately, this sandwich was not quite as memorable as the first. The bread was crusty but quite brittle and stale, and didn't even seem like the same bread as the pillowy, chewy “fresh” ciabatta I had had last time. The lettuce was kind of wilty and added nothing to the sandwich, and they forgot the provolone. They also went way too heavy on the mustard. The salami was generous and nice and tangy, and red onions make everything better, but the complements were not making this a truly enjoyable half-sandwich. I dreaded the next day's lunch a little and knocked Heidi's down my list of lunch places near the White House.

When it came down to eating the other half of the sandwich the next day, I was none too excited. I decided that it really could not be messed up too much more than Heidi's already had, so I decided to go out on a limb and try to make this sandwich better using my limited resources at work.

First I needed to make that bread moister – it was barely even edible the day prior. I also needed to bring out some lacking flavors and lose a little of the mustard. So I discarded the lame lettuce and with it about a third of the mustard. I also sprinkled a little water on each side of the sandwich bread and decided to go for a hot sandwich to help the bread moisten with this added water and draw out the flavors of the salami more by heating the sandwich. So I wrapped this now-wetted hunk of weird sandwich in its paper and stuck it in the microwave on high for over a minute. When it was done, it was hot and sizzling. I let it cool and opened the paper....

To my delight, the bread was nice and moist, and the now-cooked salami and onions were as well, with the help of the added moisture that sort of steamed and sizzled the sandwich within the confines of its paper cooking vessel. The salami tasted richer, tangier and deeper and played great with the tender and flavorful onions, the remaining mustard and the way-less-stale bread. It tasted more decadent now, even though the only thing I added was water. It actually turned into a really tasty half-sandwich. Really tasty! And the texture was nice as well – it even appeared quite appetizing after the mangling it went through.

While my “MacGuyver” cooking tactics might have been a little low-brow, the ultimate sandwich reminded of something of a much higher quality, but at the very least was far more edible and enjoyable than the “fresher” first half from Heidi's the day before. Sometimes you do what you have to do to enjoy your lunch. Or maybe I'm just weird and got lucky this time.

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