Season the Lettuce on Your Next Sandwich, You Coward

Season the Lettuce on Your Next Sandwich, You Coward
Photo: baibaz, Shutterstock

One of the easiest ways to see if someone understands food is to ask them to make you a sandwich. A good sandwich is a balance of flavours and textures, and the best ones are made by people who have a good grasp on both. A sandwich is more than layers of meat and cheese between two slices of bread — it’s a holistic package of ingredients, tastes, and mouth feelings.

Each component of a sandwich should be carefully considered: Would the fillings of this sandwich be best served by a piece of seedy toast? Or would a soft roll be a better platform? Are the cured meats providing enough seasoning for the dish as a whole, or do you need an extra pinch of salt, and perhaps a little pepper? Where are we with acid levels? These are all questions you should consider when making a sandwich, but there is one component that often gets overlooked.

Out of all the things you can put on a sandwich, lettuce is one of the least considered by many. Whereas I think about sandwich lettuce a lot. I love a shredduce situation — though recently I’ve been into lettuce planks — and I can even fuck with slightly bitter spinach or very bitter radicchio if the sandwich calls for it. But one thing I will not let stand is unseasoned, unconsidered lettuce.

Lettuce’s primarily role in a sandwich is to provide texture and, to a lesser extent, nutrition, but that grippy, textured nature is what makes it such a good vehicle for more flavour. Think of it this way: Would you eat a salad without dressing? No. You wouldn’t. (Unless you have some real textural issues, in which case, my condolences.) Think of your sandwich greens like you would salad greens, and take a moment to make a little high-acid vinaigrette, or at least toss the leaves with some fresh lemon juice or perhaps a little red wine vinegar.

Then sprinkle on a little salt, grind on some fresh pepper, and maybe — if you’re making an Italian sub — add a few pinches of oregano. I’ve even been known to season my sandwich lettuce with MSG, if I’m going for an all-out savoury vibe. Just don’t neglect the lettuce entirely. It deserves to be considered.

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