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Posts Tagged ‘Primanti Brothers’

Pittsburgh: Sammich City (Sandwich Week)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 12, 2017

Many cities have an iconic food. Philadelphia has cheese steaks, New York is slow big it claims pizza, hot dogs and Reubens. Miami has Cuban Sandwiches and so on. An iconic sandwich may not come to most people’s minds when Pittsburgh rolls off the tongue but for me I think of the city with countless Sammichs to serve. There are a handful of cities, that when you say the name instant imagery comes to mind. One of this is Pittsburg: Steel, Carnegie, Heinz, Three Rivers, The Steelers, The Pirates, more Steel, etc. Today that image is, incorrectly, the rust belt. But this city of seemingly endless neighborhoods, hills and one ways streets always guarantees that you may need shift your belt a notch before you leave. There are countless sandwich shops throughout the city.

The good people of the Iron City are known for an interesting interpretation of English with Pittsburgese phrases such as Yinz, Yinzer, Sees Ya and on occasion Sammich. In the Urban Dictionary, a Sammich is defined as a term for an exceptionally good sandwich and in this arena, Pittsburg delivers da goods.

The original Primanti Brothers is looked in the Strip District. During the Depression, the diner was open to 3AM or later to serve late night workers, truckers and drinkers alike. Servicing this clientele meant having to create filling food that could be consumed quickly. So listen up Yinz, legend has it that a trucker came in concerned that his delivery of potatoes had frozen during the journey and might not be good anymore. He brought a few into the diner, so the cook fried some up to see if they were still edible. The spuds smelled great so other eaters asked for the potatoes to add to their sandwiches and a tradition was born. The archetypical Primanti Brothers Sandwich will have a grilled meat, an Italian dressing-based cole slaw (no mayo just oil and vinegar), two tomato slices and a mound of French fries between two pieces of thick Italian bread. See the photo at the beginning of this post as a visual aid.

An iconic food of Pittsburgh is chipped chip ham. Loved and sought out with a vigor that many outside the city do not understand, Chipped Chopped Ham is a thinly sliced processed ham lunch meat that is often served as is, or lightly heated with some BBQ sauce mixed in. This style was made popular by another local icon, Isaly’s a largely forgotten Ohio purveyor of dairy and meats that was famous for the lunch counters before the 1960’s. Islay’s served….chipped chop ham throughout their chain of stores. This style of lunch meat has become so synonymous with the city that many residents of Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania often refer to this as Pittsburgh ham. You will still find sandwiches featuring chipped chop ham throughout the Pittsburgh.

Fat Heads is well-known for their craft beers but their Pittsburgh Brew Pub is exceptionally renown for their intimidating sandwiches. My favorite, that is think is most reflective of the culinary loves of the city is the Southside Slopes Headwich. This monolithic sandwich consists of Kielbasa, Pierogies, American cheese, Grilled onions, Horsey sauce and two big, thick toothpicks with olives that vainly attempt to hold this together. It is served with fresh, homemade potato chips served with a wing sauce. The menu suggested washing ti down Wayne style with an Iron City Beer. Today, that may have changed to Fat Head Hop JuJu. (CMH Gourmand Note: I was surprised to see my old review of Fat Heads is still on -> Roadfood.com)

Last and not least, because there are many, many more sammiches in the Iron City, let us discuss the Devonshire Sandwich. This was created by Frank Blaidi in 1934 (or 1935 sources vary) when he cooked at the Stratford Club (one block away from Devonshire Street). The components of this open-faced sandwich are: toasted bread, bacon, tomatoes and cheese sauce.

I sampled modern-day versions at Dunnings Grill and Union Grill. My notes on Dunnings have disappeared. My notes on Union Grill have not. My memories of that sandwich have note disappeared either. I dragged a friend from Columbus for a day trip to Pittsburgh to eat sandwiches & hot dogs and this was the last stop of a very high calorie consumption day. The sandwich was so good, we did not have a problem pounding it down. What me here was the option yo split the sandwich in half for an extra two bucks. When it was served, we thought that made a mistake and gave both of us full sandwiches, we were the ones mistaken. It was the best and largest 1/2 sandwich of my lifetime. The sandwich used toast points as the base, and combined two generous strips of bacon, a whole Tomato slice, a lot of cheese sauce (some had carmelized and gotten crunchy), parsley flakes and a substantial dusting of Parmesan cheese. Great sandwich, great service and a great place.


The Devonshire and the Hot Brown are two famous open-faced sandwiches but how do they differ? Not by much, below I have the typical recipe ingredients of each for you to compare. They only way to really sort this out would be to make each several times.

Devonshire vs. Hot Brown

Devonshire

Cream Sauce:
• 3/4 stick butter, melted
• 1 cup flour
• 1/4 pound Cheddar cheese, grated
• 1 pint chicken broth
• 1 pint hot milk
• 1 teaspoon salt

For each sandwich:
• 1 slice good toast, crusts trimmed off
• 3 slices crisp bacon
• 5 thin slices cooked turkey breast
• Cream Sauce, recipe above
• Melted butter
• Parmesan cheese and paprika

Hot Brown

4 oz. Butter
Flour to make a Roux (about 6 tablespoons)
3 – 3 1⁄2 cups Milk
1 Beaten Egg
6 tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 oz. Whipped Cream (optional)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Slices of Roast Turkey
8-12 Slices of Toast (may be trimmed)
Extra Parmesan for Topping
8-12 Strips of Fried Bacon

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