Summertime Eats: Giant Hoagies
Fun outdoor dining ideas
By Hilah Johnson,
10:39AM, Thu. Jul. 26, 2012
Summertime is in full effect, y’all, and that means plenty of opportunities to eat outdoors. I know it’s hotter than Hades – I’m no fool – but after the sun sets, is there anything better than an evening picnic in the park with Blues on the Green?
Then come September, it’s Movies in the Park at Republic Square. And there’s a cornucopia of delights waiting to be eaten outside under the stars.
One of my all-time favorite fun foods to take on a picnic is a giant hoagie. It’s true, ask anyone. I’m known all over for my love of giant hoagies. Not eaten all by my lonesome, of course; the beauty of a giant hoagie is its share-ability. And its giantness; the giant size is what makes the fun. Well, OK, fun as long as everyone in your party likes to eat the same things. Let’s assume they do and go from there.
There are really only two rules to making a delicious giant hoagie. One, make it ahead of time. I know it sounds too good to be true, but giant sandwiches are way, way better if you make them a few hours before you plan to eat them, then store in the refrigerator wrapped up tight. With all that bread and all those yummy layers inside it, a rest in the fridge will bring all the flavors together. Two, use a hearty bread. A soft French loaf won’t stand up well to the hours of refrigeration. I like to use something like a ciabatta or a sourdough or even a crusty baguette.
While it’s a good idea to let the bread and fillings meld, you also need to take some precautions against complete and total sog. Use an oil-based spread on both sides of the bread to prevent water from leaking in and spoiling the party. A brush of olive oil is simple and vegan, but butter and mayonnaise work, too. For supreme sandwich fancification, make a compound butter spread, like so:
4 tablespoons soft butter
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, minced
2 teaspoons fresh minced herbs of your choice (thyme, basil, cilantro, oregano are all nice) Optional: ½ teaspoon lemon zest
Combine all ingredients together and season with black pepper and salt (if using unsalted butter). This will keep weeks, refrigerated, if you have any left over.
Once your bread is prepared, layer the sliced cheeses and meats of your choosing. I suggest no more than three varieties of each to avoid flavor overload. For vegans and vegetarians, some baked and marinated tofu makes a great sandwich filling. Here’s a Thai-style tofu that’s delicious:
2 pounds extra firm (cotton) tofu
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed
2 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 sprig fresh basil (5-6 leaves)
2 cloves garlic
1-inch cube peeled ginger
1 tablespoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Slice tofu into slices ¼” thick and press between clean tea towels with a heavyweight (cast-iron skillet works well) for 10 minutes. Put pressed tofu in a single layer into a lightly oiled baking pan and bake 20 minutes at 500 degrees F. (Alternatively you can microwave it in increments of 1 minute, rotating frequently, for about 5 minutes.) Drain any liquid from the pan and blot tofu again on a clean towel or paper. Blend together all remaining ingredients to form a smooth paste and layer tofu with cilantro pesto. This can be served warm now, or refrigerated overnight to use as a sandwich filling.
Other yummies to put on your hoagie are pickled peppers, chopped olives, marinated artichokes, sweet onions, mushrooms, and cucumber slices. Vegetables like tomatoes and lettuce should be packed separately and added right before serving and for that reason, I don’t usually bother with them. Once your sandwich is assembled, wrap it up as tightly as you can with plastic wrap or waxed paper and tape and refrigerate it until you’re ready to go. Remember to bring a serrated knife and cutting board to divvy it up at eating time. Pack up some cold drinks, some fresh fruit, and a bag of potato chips and you’re all set for a great meal in the park!
Visit HilahCooking.com for some of my best picnic recipes.
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to email@example.com