Friday, April 22, 2016

New Jersey Sloppy Joe a wholly different beast

In certain parts of the Garden State, the term "sloppy Joe" refers not to the ground-beef-and-tomato-sauce sandwich but to a no-cook deli classic. The double-decker sandwich combines two meats, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing on rye bread.

This recipe pays homage to the Town Hall Delicatessen in South Orange, N.J., which claims to be the originator of the sandwich in this form. For that reason, it is slightly different from what some might consider a typical sandwich. Uniformity and proper layering are key, as are the lengthwise bread cuts. Use coleslaw and Russian dressing to taste, but a thin layer is really all you need.

Make ahead: The Russian dressing can be made and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day. The sandwich can be assembled a few hours in advance; keep whole and refrigerated, wrapped in plastic wrap.

New Jersey Sloppy Joe

3 (1/2-inch-thick) slices fresh rye bread, cut lengthwise from a whole 9-inch loaf

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese

1 1/4 cups homemade or store-bought coleslaw

1/3 cup Russian Dressing, or as needed (recipe follows)

4 thin slices beef tongue, corned beef or pastrami (5 to 6 ounces total)

4 thin slices oven-roasted turkey breast (3 to 4 ounces total)

Cover a cutting board with plastic wrap. Lay the bread slices on top.

Spread the butter on both sides of 1 slice, and 1 side of each of the 2 remaining slices, taking care to cover the slices completely.

Begin to layer the sandwich by overlapping 3 slices of Swiss cheese so they almost cover 1 slice of one-side-buttered bread. Spoon a layer of coleslaw over the cheese (using half of it), then carefully spoon/spread some of the Russian dressing over the coleslaw. Cover with the slices of tongue or corned beef or pastrami, overlapping them to make sure that no dressing shows through. Top with the two-sided-buttered bread slice.

Continue building the sandwich by layering the remaining 3 slices of Swiss cheese over the buttered bread, then spoon the remaining coleslaw over the cheese. Spoon/spread the remaining Russian dressing over the coleslaw, then layer the turkey slices over the dressing, overlapping as needed. Top with the last piece of bread, buttered side down.

Trim off the crusts (and any overhanging bits of coleslaw, meat or cheese); the cook gets to eat the scraps.

If you're not serving the sandwich right away, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a few hours.

Insert long toothpicks to help keep the sandwich together as you cut it; use a serrated knife to divide the sandwich into three equal sections, then cut each portion in half lengthwise (creating six equal pieces). Serve right away.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

There are variations of this New Hampshire-created dressing that call for chives, hot sauce, granulated onion and more, but this version is a solid start before experimenting with additional ingredients.

Russian Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon prepared (white) horseradish or peeled, freshly grated horseradish root, patted dry

1 teaspoon hot paprika

2 tablespoons finely chopped pickles (may substitute pickle relish)

1 clove garlic, minced

Combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, paprika, pickles and garlic in a food processor; pulse until well combined. Transfer to an airtight container; refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day before using.

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