Sunday, March 1, 2009

What's in a Club?

Recently, while sharing brunch with my niece and her mother, I was challenged with a food question. “What exactly is in a club sandwich?” My first response was bacon. Another thought that circulated was three slices of bread. So, being a personal chef, I had to probe farther.

My searching lead me first to the legendary birthplace of the club sandwich, which was The Saratoga Club-House in New York in 1894. It was made with toast, butter, mayonnaise, bacon, chicken and tomato. The first recipe published was in Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook by Isabel Gordon Curtis in 1903. The recipe calls for 2 toasted slices of bread, turkey or chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo. And at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904, three restaurants featured club sandwiches.

As with many recipes, items are added and omitted to satisfy the taste of the region. Some clubs add sprouts, avocado and mustard. And both single and double layers can be found on menus across the land. My personal survey of recipes on the web and cookbooks lead me to one common theme – toast. Now, I am not saying any sandwich made with toast equates to a club but it does seem to be the one item that is constant with the club sandwich. And that leaves plenty of creativity to the chef, which is the joy of all chefs and sandwich connoisseurs.

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