I recently read an impassioned, specific description of a sandwich I knew I had to try. Oddly, it wasn't the bread choice that intrigued me, nor the combination of meats. It wasn't the suggestion of pepper jack cheese that drew me in. It was, shockingly, the greenery.
Photos by Claire Lower
Hello! It's your good friend, mustard greens.
Usually, I consider leaves on sandwiches to serve one purpose: Crunch. Crisp, water-filled lettuce can help break up heavier flavours and balance out richness, but I've never really thought of it as providing much flavour on its own. Maybe a touch of sweetness (if you squint your mouth).
But then I read Lifehacker reader Covarr's description of their favourite cold sandwich, and my life was changed for the better. The full description of this amazing sandwich is below, but this paragraph on veggies is what grabbed me:
First things first, we’re going to be using sliced turkey, ham, and roast beef on this. Maybe some salami. Get creative. Multiple meats are key. Variety is good, too. A perfect sandwich today is going to be a little less perfect tomorrow, so mixing up your meats every day keeps it fresh and fun.
The bread is sourdough. It has to be sourdough. That’s the only choice.
Next, we’re going to veg it up. Tomatoes if you want. Onions if you want. I use both. The onions should be white. Nothing too sweet though. Walla Walla onions are an easy way to ruin a sandwich. Most significantly, the green should not be lettuce, and especially not iceberg. That’s noob-tier greens. No kale or arugula either, unless you are trying to be fancy and don’t know how. No, our lettuce-substitute in this perfect sandwich is mustard greens. Tangy and flavorful, beautifully crisp, and plenty healthy, they can be used like a good romaine, but they taste way better.
Cheese? Probably pepperjack is best if available. Barring that, provolone or colby jack will work fine. American has no place ever on any cold sandwich. It is a melting cheese, and attempting to use it cold is a punishable offense.
I'll be honest, I'm not in the habit of eating raw mustard greens, as I usually prefer to saute them in a bit of bacon grease until they're just wilted. But I am nothing if not open-minded, so I purchased all the fixings to make Covarr's sandwich, including a big bunch of mustard greens.
I then constructed the sandwich almost exactly as instructed by Covarr, with the only tweak being a sprinkling of some flaky salt on the tomatoes, because sliced tomatoes should always be salted.
Never skip this step.
I then ate said sandwich and can now say with utter certainty that putting mustard greens is a truly excellent idea. Not only do they provide crunch and texture — which helps prevent other, more slippery fillings from falling out — but they have a zingy, almost horseradish-y flavour that not only cuts through rich meats and cheese, but complements them. Given the fact that a good sandwich is all about achieving that perfect balance of complimentary flavours, I give this tip five out of five frying pans. Would eat again.