Last month, Southern Living announced that the Southern Living Test Kitchen and Cobblestone Bread Co. food truck would be making the rounds at three SEC schools during the first-ever Southern Living Tailgate Tour, sponsored by Cobblestone Bread Co.
Lucky for Gamecock fans, the second stop on the tour happens this weekend when the truck pulls in to town for the USC-Tennessee game Saturday at Williams-Brice. True to Southern Living form, there will be (good) food involved in the form of a “friendly” Sandwich Smackdown, a chance for fans to pick the best sandwich prepared by either Southern Living senior food editor Julie Grimes or Cobblestone Bread Co. guest Chef Nathan Lippy.
I had a chance to talk to both Grimes and Lippy (letting them know that USC boasts one of the larger stadiums and tailgating crowds in the SEC, as well as having the best fans), asking them the same questions during separate phone interviews. Here are their answers, as well as some great sandwich-making tips:
Is there such a thing as the perfect sandwich?
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Lippy: Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Some folks like clean, while I’m a fan of the drippy and messy sandwich. The perfect sandwich has the combination of a crispy bread and a melty interior.
Grimes: Sandwiches can sometimes be an afterthought but deserve more respect. They’re quick and easy to make. The most important thing are the ingredients. Use the best of everything, starting with the bread, and then use the freshest ingredients.
What’s the best tasting sandwich you ever ate?
Lippy: I consider myself a burger freak. Best tasting was a jerky turkey burger with mango and avocado salsa, bacon and melted cheese, topped with a crispy fried egg.
Grimes: (Also likes burgers.) Has to be a burger in Atlanta. A double patty on a toasted bun with melted cheese and housemade pickles. Simple but tasty. And messy.
What has been the most interesting combination on a sandwich (or a unique sandwich experience)?
Lippy: Having an authentic muffaletta in the sandwich’s birthplace of New Orleans.
Grimes: A grilled cheese sandwich made with bleu cheese and creamy brie with sliced pears, arugula and toasted walnuts on whole grain bread.
What is the secret to keeping bread from not getting soggy when making a sandwich (for tailgating, picnics, office lunches, etc.)?
Lippy: Always grill or toast the bread. Paninni presses work as well to crisp the bread while heating the interior. When making burgers, I always toast the (Cobblestone Bread Co.) buns by throwing them on the grill.
Grimes: Toasting certainly helps but timing is also key. If you’re packing up for eating later, pack the sandwich components in separate containers and build the sandwich when you get to your location, whether it be tailgating at the game or lunch at your desk. Also, the type of bread that you use will help your sandwich. Baguettes and sturdier breads that are naturally crispy on the outside and softer on the inside are best for sandwich making.
The fans will get to choose who makes the best sandwich: Chef Lippy’s chicken bruschetta with mozzarella and balsamic glaze on CBC white grinder sub rolls or Julie Grimes’ buffalo chicken meatball slider on CBC hot dog buns. What makes your sandwich the best?
Lippy: It’s filling and refreshing and easy to make. It’s a fun take on the familiar with a unique flavor.
Grimes: (laughing) Because it’s from Southern Living, of course! Southern Living takes its reputation as the most trusted test kitchen seriously. Every recipe coming out of the kitchen has been tested for quality at least twice (more, if it’s deemed that the recipe needs refinement). So I’m confident that ours is the best.
Chicken Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Balsamic Glaze
2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
12 thin slices of fresh mozzarella
2 large tomatoes, diced small
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons balsamic glaze (see below)
salt and pepper
4 Cobblestone Bread Co. White Grinder Sub Rolls
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add a touch of olive oil. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and saute in the hot oil, 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
While the chicken is cooking, add the tomatoes, basil, garlic with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper to a medium sized mixing bowl and stir evenly to incorporate all ingredients. Once the chicken is finished, allow to cool for a few minutes, then slice into thin strips.
Make the balsamic glaze by bringing 8 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (inexpensive brands work fine for this) to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium high heat. When the liquid reduces and the bubbles in the vinegar get bigger and seem to last longer, take the pan off the heat and let cool. The glaze should be the consistency of honey or molasses.
Chef’s note: For a lighter glaze, use equal parts balsamic vinegar and chicken stock. Or you can skip the vinegar and reduce down a half of a can of Dr. Pepper or cola. Or just use an older, more expensive balsamic that is naturally thick, without reducing.
To assemble the sandwich, place 3 slices of mozzarella on the bottom piece of Cobblestone Bread Co. White Grinder Sub Roll. Add a few slices of chicken over the top and then a few tablespoons of the tomatoes and basil. Garnish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and add the top piece of bread and then serve.
Chef Nathan Lippy
Buffalo Meatball Sliders
makes 32 servings
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 pounds ground chicken
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 small sweet white onion, grated
2 large eggs, beaten
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (5-ounce) bottle Buffalo-style hot sauce
16 Cobblestone Bread Co. Windy City Hot Dog Buns
blue cheese sauce (see below)
thinly sliced celery, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish
Place salt, fennel seeds and black peppercorns in a mortar bowl or spice grinder. Grind to a fine powder, using a pestle or spice grinder. Place chicken, parsley leaves, Parmesan cheese, onion, eggs, garlic, olive oil and crushed spices in a large bowl. Combine mixture with hands until blended and smooth (about 2 minutes). Cover and chill for one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a medium-size cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 inches), drop mixture by rounded spoonfuls 1 1/2 inches apart onto a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined jelly roll pan. Bake meatballs for 10 to 12 minutes or until done.
Toss cooked meatballs with hot sauce. Serve on split rolls with blue cheese sauce.
Blue Cheese Sauce
makes about 1 cup
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon firmly packed lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Process blue cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, shallot, lemon zest and lemon juice in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.