Very few things bring me back to a time and place as much as food does. I've never felt that as much as I do now that I no longer live in my native Connecticut. When most people think of New England foods they probably think of clambakes, Maine lobster, and clam chowder, but to really eat like a southern New Englander, you will need to know how to make a grinder sandwich.
We haven't been able to find a sandwich in Colorado that even comes close to the grinders that we grew up with so we were excited to try our hand at making them at home instead. For the first time in the three years that I've been away from New England, I had as close to a classic grinder as I think I'm going to get away from home!
What is a grinder sandwich?
Most people would call them a sub sandwich and while they are very similar, I recently called the sub the grinder's underachieving cousin.
The one thing that makes or breaks a New England grinder is the bread. A grinder roll closely resembles Italian bread, but the inside is chewier and the outside has a nice crust on it, but it's not too crispy.
Finding the perfect bread is a must then the rest of the sandwich will fall into place. Finally, I found rolls that looked and felt very much like grinder rolls on a recent shopping trip to Safeway. Could it really be?
This, my friends, is how to make a grinder sandwich.
How to make a grinder sandwich
Slice the roll so that it's open but not all the way; you want all of the ingredients to stay in the sandwich instead of all over your lap.
Liberally coat the bread with oil, then add a light sprinkle of oregano. Some people like mayo instead, but I prefer extra-virgin olive oil.
Load the bread chock full of provolone cheese and delicious meats like ham, salami, turkey, or whatever you like.
Now it's time for the lettuce and tomato. One of the important parts of a true grinder is to shred the lettuce. I use romaine lettuce, but you could use iceberg if you prefer. In Connecticut, you will also find some places that use green cabbage instead of lettuce which is also an excellent choice for even more flavor.
Once you've added the lettuce and tomato, drizzle the top with more extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, then sprinkle more oregano, salt, and course ground pepper.
There you have it. Now you know how to make a grinder sandwich. It may look and sound like a sub, but this Connecticut native insists that there is really no comparison.
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