Creating the Ultimate Sandwich at Murray’s Salami
Maybe this wasn’t the best day for this post. The Friday after Thanksgiving is quite possibly the biggest sandwich eating day of the year, followed closely by the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving. Maybe you’re sick of sandwiches. Maybe if you look at another sandwich, it’s going to make you puke. But maybe, just maybe, the mark of a truly great sandwich is one that can still make you salivate, even on the Monday after Thanksgiving. So, in that spirit- I’m proud to present the Midtown Lunch entry in the Murray’s Salami challenge.
First, let’s get everybody brought up to speed. A month ago Murray’s Cheese opened up a salami counter in the Grand Central Terminal Market (entrance on Lexington and 43rd). Everything in the market is very expensive, and Murray’s is no exception. But they’ve got a staggering array of amazing meats and charcuterie from some great purveyors around the country, and for a guy like me that is tough to ignore. Unfortunately, they are prohibited by Grand Central from selling anything that would resemble a “sandwich” or packaged lunch (probably to protect the food court vendors downstairs.) So, if we were to enjoy the new Murray’s Salami, in a lunchtime form, it was up to us to create our own sandwiches, made from ingredients foraged from the market. Most importantly, it would have to be under $10 a person. (Spending more than that on lunch, is a crime against humanity… unless it’s an all you can eat buffet- in which case you are allowed to spend a little more.)
Staying under the $10 is easier if you pool your resources with friends. In other words, the more the merrier. Not entirely confident in my own sandwich making abilities, I enlisted my friend Dan who loves Italian sandwiches more than what would be considered healthy for any normal human being.
I sent him to the Murray’s Salami counter, while I got on line next door at Corrado’s Bakery to secure the bread. If you have 3 people, the ciabatta is the perfect choice. It was used by 2 out of the 3 other lunchers in the challenge, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. And don’t worry about the scale in the photos. It is plenty big enough for 3 sandwiches, and only $4 to boot. There was only one problem: Corrado’s wouldn’t slice it for us. They could put it through a machine, that would slice it like white bread- but they are not allowed to keep knives behind the counter to slice a loaf of bread to order. Clearly they were prepared to thwart us. Luckily, one of the guys behind the counter at Murray’s overheard me arguing with the lady, and offered to slice our ciabatta for us (score one for Murray’s). I can’t guarantee that it will work every time, and you may want to ask before you buy the bread- but unless you bring your own knife, or take everything back to your office with you, the challenge may be over before it begins.
With bread taken care of, I rejoined Dan over at Murray’s where we tried a few of the offerings (they will pretty much let you sample whatever you want… score 2 for Murray’s). I put my trust in him, requesting only one thing: the sandwich must include one of their pates. So that’s where we started, picking up a 1/4 pound of the pheasant pate with figs and pistachios (sorry for making you think I ate a bunny rabbit on Wednesday. The package was mislabeled.) We followed that up with two other kinds of meats, and then headed over to Ceriello to pick up a few “special ingredients.”
After buying all of our ingredients, we headed down to the food court to assemble the sandwich. The pheasant pate with figs and pistachios went down on the bread first. Smearing with a plastic knife was tough, but if you’re the type of person already willing to jump through all these hoops just for a sandwich, I’m guessing you won’t mind getting a little messy down in the food court of Grand Central.
We followed the pate with a layer of Salame Rosso, a great product from Northern California recommended to me by a girl in line at Murray’s. The best way to describe it would be “the best mortadella you’ve ever eaten.” And completely worth the extra money ($5.04 for a little over 1/4 of a pound).
We followed that up with a 1/4 pound of Murray’s own pork loin ($3.25), which was beautifully flavored with rosemary. On it’s own, it may have been a tad bit dry- but the fat laden salame rosso more than made up for it. And that extra layer of strong flavor turned out to be an excellent choice in such a hefty sandwich.
Then it was time for the cheese. We thought fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil was a good idea- but buying each ingredient seperately is way too expensive. Luckily Ceriello (a few stalls away) sold a mozzarella, tomato, and basil stack by the pound. Perfect!
The one we got was not layered perfectly for our needs (there was only 1 basil slice and 2 tomato slices for 3 mozzarella slices) but maybe you can choose better? Or maybe one of the people eating with you doesn’t like tomato? Even with the portion problem, it’s still a good solution.
Looks good enough, right? Not quite… there was still the issue of olive oil, which everybody agreed would be the perfect topping. That problem can also be solved at Ceriello, where we got a little bit of artichoke salad.
That combined with the mozzarella ended up being $9, and added a nice layer of artichokes, roasted red peppers and olive oil. We left the olives out, because they had pits- but they made for a nice little side dish!
Looking at the whole thing assembled, I experienced my first wave of fear. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Sure the fat guy in me says “pile it on!” The bigger the better. But the true food appreciator in me says “Why would you want to waste these beautful and expensive meats, by putting them in a giant loaf of bread, and masking their flavor with prepared salads, and a perfectly average slab of cheese. But after 2 or 3 bites, that feeling completely disappeared. This was a damn good sandwich. Every element did its job perfectly, and the flavors all managed to shine through. Even the bread worked. The first couple of bites were kind of tough, but once you pushed it down, and the oils seeped in, the middle of the sandwich was glorious. There’s obviously no accounting for taste, and everybody has their favorite kinds of meat- but this is a sandwich I can completely recommend without abandon. If you don’t like it, there’s probably something wrong with you- not the sandwich. (Ok, maybe not… but please don’t tell the sandwich I said that.)
Whether it looks it or not, by the end we were completely stuffed. Total cost of 3 sandwiches: $26.69.
Murray’s Salami, Grand Central Terminal Market (43rd St. & Lex), 212-867-7202