Photos by Claire Lower
Today we're taking another favourite sandwich of mine — the Italian sub/grinder/hoagie/whatever — and transforming it into a hot, comforting dish of wonder.
There are few sandwiches I enjoy more than a good Italian sub. Salty cured meats with strong provolone and acidic pepperoncinis never fail to make my mouth happy, and casseroling the situation was, what we call in the business, a "good move."
Sandwiches are, as a food, very easy to casserole, but some thought has to be given to the treatment of the bread. For our Monte Cristo casserole, I prepared it as I would a bread pudding, soaking the bread in a custard before baking. For this dish, however, I wanted to keep the bread a little lighter, so I only used one egg, and omitted the milk entirely, opting for a bit of broth instead to moisten, but not drench, the cubed carb. I also had no desire to bake the fresher components of the sandwich into the casserole, because no one likes baked iceberg, so those were made into a little salad. All in all, I am very pleased with the outcome, and I hope you give it a try. To make this meaty masterpiece, you will need:
- 500g of soft Italian bread, cut or torn into bite-sized cubes
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- A seasoning blend made of 1 tablespoon powdered parmesan, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons dried basil, 2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 egg
- 1 pound of your favourite Italian meats (I grabbed 250g of mortadella from the deli counter and one of those Italian charcuterie sampler packs, which contained salami, prosciutto, and spicy coppa.)
- 4 tablespoons sliced black olives
- 220g sliced provolone
- About half a head of shredded lettuce
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- A simple vinaigrette made of 1 tablespoon of mayo, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and 1/2 a teaspoon each of salt and sugar
- Jarred, sliced pepperoncinis for serving
Toss the bread with the olive oil and seasoning blend until it's well coated. Mix the egg with the broth, pour it over your seasoned bread, and toss again. Slice your meat into thin strips, and toss those with the bread to evenly distribute. Coat your casserole dish with a bit of olive oil, and lay down your first layer of the meat and bread mixture. Top with a couple of tablespoons of olives.
Top with half your cheese.
Repeat another bread-meat-olive layer, then top with the remaining cheese. Spray a piece of aluminium foil with non-stick spray and cover your grinderole. Bake in a 375-degree oven for half an hour, then uncover and continue to bake until the cheese is bubbly and browned.
Toss the shredded lettuce with the tomatoes and vinaigrette, and sprinkle on a little dried oregano and pepper to taste.
Serve the casserole with the salad and pepperonicinis, piling them on just before devouring.
Eat, and be happy with your choices.