Dagwood Sandwiches

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Introduction: Dagwood Sandwiches

About: I'm a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University. I do a lot of hobbies, including amateur astronomy, woodworking, and Lego modeling among many others.

I love sandwiches, as do many here on Instructables if the search results for "sandwich" are an indicator (there's an entire Channel under Cooking).

Out in the wide world, we all have our favorite sandwich shops. My favorites happen to be The Pickle Barrel in Bozeman, MT, Sub Shop #21 in La Grande, OR, and Togo's, up and down the west coast. Like many of you, I've tried to replicate my favorites at home, but the magic is in the precise ingredients each shop uses. In the end, sandwiches at home have their own style and flavor that is as consistent as your favorite sandwich shop.

This Instructable is for the most famous of home-built sandwiches, the "Dagwood Sandwich." It is named for Dagwood Bumstead from the comic "Blondie." As illustrated traditionally in the Blondie comic strip, a Dagwood has anything and everything in it -- whatever you can find in the fridge! This makes the perfect Pandemic 2020 food, as left-overs at home seem to be stacking up.

Unlike some sandwiches, I take the Dagwood to be a philosophy of making a sandwich, not a fixed recipe -- that is its charm! So let us proceed!

Step 1: Ingredients

In general, I do not use any regular ingredients in Dagwood sandwiches -- it is form only, constructed from whatever is in my fridge. I think of a Dagwood with five basic elements: the bread, cheese, meats, vegetables, and dressings.

The beauty of Dagwood sandwiches is each time you make it is different, because it is built from the instantaneous contents of your refrigerator. I have no standard ingredients, but if I shop to add something then it is always olive loaf, because if there is a perfect lunchmeat it is definitely olive loaf (IMHO).

Some general guidance on the 5 classes:

  • BREAD: Really any bread will do, but given the general size of a Dagwood, bread that can hold up is best. We almost always have deli bread of some sort around, like sourdough or rye, so that is what I tend to use. I've successfully built dagwoods on hoagie rolls, which make it much more like an Ultimate Sub. :-)
  • DRESSINGS: Classic dressings that go on any sandwich are the norm. I like dressing on the bread only, but some people in Dagwood circles like oil and vinegar ("the juice" say the Jersey Mike's lovers). The key is to look at your fridge creatively. For instance, salad dressings make excellent additions to Dagwoods -- some people like Italian dressing, but if I add dressing it is usually Russian or French. Frank's Red Hot (or Tabasco) also has its place as a condiment if you like 'em hot.
  • CHEESE: Any cheese will work, but it does pay to be adventuresome here. The hardest cheeses to use are crumbly ones (like blue cheese), but they can add a great boost to your sandwich. I discovered to my great delight a few Dagwoods ago that shredded parmesan is excellent on a sandwich!
  • VEGETABLES: Despite the loud objections of some that "salad" does not belong on a sandwich, I do think vegetables are an essential part of the Dagwood experience. For me, vegetables include anything like pickles, relish, giardinera, banana peppers, etc. The only vegetables I do tend to avoid are really crunchy ones (carrots and celery), though thin sliced raw cauliflower was surprisingly good! Avocados are always awesome.
  • MEATS: In the classic cartoon Dagwoods, you see all kinds of cold cuts and meats, ranging from bologna, to fish, to crawdads, to salami. Our fridge usually has a variety of lunchmeat so that forms the foundation of most of my Dagwoods, but thin sliced left-over steak or shredded chicken work great; left-over chicken wings pulled off the bone are an excellent addition! If bacon somehow survives in your house, you could add it -- all I ever have left are bacon bits! I've never done seafood, so if you try it let me know how it goes in the comments!

Step 2: Bread & Condiments

I mostly put condiments directly on my bread. Mustard is always on one of my sandwiches, and my only "rule" is that lettuce goes against the mustard. I'm not a mayonnaise person, but I often use ranch dressing in its stead, and that goes on the other slice of bread. Ranch chip dip is an excellent and awesome addition or substitute for ranch dressing; so is french onion chip dip.

I never just glop the condiment on the bread -- it's got to be spread all the way to the edge to make sure you get some in every bite!

Step 3: Layers

There is some debate among my sandwich loving friends about how to assemble a Dagwood. Some of my friends advocate for keeping ingredients of a type together -- meats with meats, veggies with veggies, etc -- much as you might find in a sandwich from your local shop. I'm of a different mind -- I interleave ingredients, so not every kind of ingredient is together. I think this helps with flavor and, as it turns out, is more authentic to the way Dagwoods were drawn in the original comic strip.

In addition to layering, some Dagwoods are enormous -- creators often interleave extra layers of bread followed by new layers of middle contents. I tend to not do this, as I do enjoy being able to hold and eat my Dagwood as a sandwich.

Step 4: Secret: Capturing Ingredients

Because a Dagwood is made from anything and everything, it is not always constructed from ingredients that like to lay flat in a sandwich -- like cherry tomatoes, or chunky giardinera.

When possible, I try to layer the sandwich so adjacent layers capture things that tend to slide around -- lettuce is particularly good for this task, as are rings of onion slices and large tomato slices with mushy centers. Pickle planks, especially if they are ridge cut, also provide good adhesion for things that like to slide around.

If you have a loose layer, making the next layer droopy lunchmeat often serves as an excellent blanket to hold everything in place.

Step 5: Cutting & Eating

Dagwood sandwiches lend themselves to being large. My Dagwood stacks are usually small enough to hold in your hands, but too large to eat without cutting it in half. Additionally, they are quite a large meal, so I tend to eat half, and save the other half for my next meal/lunch. Depending on how wet you make you sandwich, they may or may not rest well until the next day -- the bread gets soggy.

The pile of vegetables that are too crunchy to put on the sandwich can always be eaten on the side (though thin sliced radishes could go on the sandwich).

A toothpick with an olive is just garnish, the ultimate token of sophistication if you are making sandwiches for friends who are sandwich connoisseurs or trying to impress a date. :-)

Step 6: Nom Nom Nom!

Step 7: Dagwoods I Have Known

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable, and it inspires you to make good use of all that stuff piling up in your fridge! I leave you with some shots of Dagwood sandwiches I have known. They were all delicious!

Please leave some photos of your best Dagwoods in the comments! Happy sandwiching!

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    24 Comments

    1
    nils2u
    nils2u

    6 months ago

    I just stumbled over your instructable, after looking at your (also great) telescope and I must say:

    Thank You!!!!

    Thank you, for showing me, how far I have unwittingly fallen from grace!
    When I was younger - during my times in the US - the fridge at home would be laden with a multitude of ingredients of all types, flavors and consistencies. You‘d come home from a hard day at school, or training, or windsurfing, or worse.... ;-)
    As typical for a german based household, there was also almost always decent bread around, so as a starving teen, you‘d start experimenting, analyzing results and building....
    Later, during college, the more scientific approach lead to more elaborate and multiculturally influenced constructs - Mexican and asian influences abounded.
    Alas, reality caught up with life as money earned and time spent unbalanced the scales.
    Reading your text, I just realized, that my last „perfekt“ sandwich was almost 30 years ago, near an ancient gold mine in the eastern Egyptian desert, sitting on the ground of a wadi with my Berber driver and guides in the relentless desert heat (>40C), the days old bread and tomatoes, hot peppers, paprika, green onions, a bundle of wilted herbs, white cheese and a bowl of cooked beans, that has been on the stove all of the night before, all on the gravel and dust in the midst of our circle.
    The combination of flavors, aromas, consistencies, the reprieve from the hard work, as well as the great company - they thought I was a crazy geologist and didn‘t understand a word I said, but always managed to communicate perfectly anyway - what a perfect sandwich!
    Your analysis captures the essence of Dagwoods worldwide and provides at long last possible paths to return to the lost pleasures they can provide, if you again learn to appreciate the importance of ALL the ingredients.
    Please excuse my lengthy discourse - and Thank You once again! :-)

    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 6 months ago

    Thanks, I'm glad you like it! Sounds like it is time to try and make a sandwich like you remember from years past -- good luck. :-)

    0
    steddie1
    steddie1

    9 months ago

    I received this in my email and have to admit (no offense) I was disappointed, ONLY because I thought it was a replication of my faaaavorite sandwich, called the Dagwood. If you've heard of the Midwest (and now some locations in the West) chain Portillo's, they had another sister restaurant inside their locations called Barnelli's (not sure why they don't exist anymore). They had the best sandwich, named the Dagwood. I wish it would make a comeback, but thank you for your take on it; I realize we're a boring family when it comes to sandwich breads, and your post has made me rethink the bread we'll buy next time.

    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 9 months ago

    Yes, I know Portillo's -- but I've not seen the Dagwood on their menu -- I just looked online and not there. :-( But I must confess I seldom stray far from the "Italian Beef" on the menu. If we could find one of their Dagwoods (for real or in a picture), it's always possible to try and replicate it! :-)

    0
    steddie1
    steddie1

    Reply 9 months ago

    Yeah, the Dagwood was on the Barnelli's menu (which used to be attached to most Portillo's), but they removed it years ago.

    2
    Thorigol
    Thorigol

    9 months ago

    Oh yum. Thank you for this i'ble!

    One tip I picked up from an Alton Brown sandwich episode I think applies well to this kind of construction... tightly wrap the finished creation and allow it to rest for at least 5 or 10 minutes before cutting in half and eating. This allows the flavors to mingle a little and for the lumpy and/or uneven ingredients to settle into position so everything holds together better during the eating. Try it, it is worth the wait.

    Now I will admit, this is very difficult to do as my mouth is watering and it is hard to wait once that top slice is lowered into place!

    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 9 months ago

    Oh, that's a great suggestion! I've never done that so I'll have to give it a try!

    1
    astacvi
    astacvi

    9 months ago

    I highly approve of interleaving the layers. I find it provides better traction for slippery components and avoids pooling issues for juicy items such as pickles and tomatoes.

    I must take exception to your condiments policy, however. I always make sure each piece of bread is thoroughly insulated with cheese or meat and all condiments reside inside. Otherwise the bread tends to soak up the condiment(s) and mute the flavor. I use aggressive mustard and I want every bite to blast that flavor and not just hint at it.

    What a fine topic for debate.

    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 9 months ago

    LOL! Of course, the only REAL way to resolve debates is to make a sandwich both ways and compare them side by side... ;-)

    1
    JrL1
    JrL1

    9 months ago on Step 1

    Thanks for an inspiring article. I especially like the construction tips. Bravo for seeded rye (the only suitable baked slice, IMHO)!
    Building a sandwich requires both vision (who doesn't enjoy new pleasant sensory experiences?) and restraint (only sadists like sprained jaw muscles). As for veggie alternates, I think fruit & cheese pairing often contributes to great sandwiches. Also, slaw can replace lettuce with succulent results. Two thin slices rather than one thick one (tomato, onion, cucumber, cheese, etc) often make for improved lateral consistency and reduced height. Carrots are better grated than even thin-sliced.
    Yesterday's sandwich (pictured), shared with my wife: sliced chicken breast with thin apple slices, Brie, Cole slaw and blackcurrant Dijon mustard on toasted Jewish rye (my construction tip: put Brie atop the chicken slices on a piece of parchment and nuke for 10 seconds, then place on already-mustard-spread bread and slide off with knife).

    ogiHkiBPRv6IP8dhm%M4RQ.jpg
    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 9 months ago

    All great ideas. And that sandwich looks AWESOME. :-)

    1
    rozzieozzie
    rozzieozzie

    9 months ago

    What a great looking sandwich! Looks like old fashioned loaf was used, one of my favorites as a kid. Excuse me, I have to go buy some lunchmeat!

    1
    sleeepy2
    sleeepy2

    9 months ago

    I made Dagwoods all the time as a teen! Time to get building. Great idea!

    2
    BigPete89
    BigPete89

    9 months ago on Introduction

    I love sandwiches too! I've been having/making them for lunch for years now and the variations in available ingredients always leaves you with a nice suprise :)

    1
    tlebsack
    tlebsack

    9 months ago

    I like the fact that you approached this like an engineer. Thanks for the good tips !!

    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 9 months ago

    LOL! Well, it was kind of a necessity so it doesn't ploof out when you take a bite. :-)

    0
    banman11
    banman11

    9 months ago

    Yeah! That's what I'm talking about...

    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 9 months ago

    :-D

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    9 months ago

    Very impressive looking sandwich :)

    0
    gravitino
    gravitino

    Reply 9 months ago

    Thanks! Not quite as tall as in the comics though... ;-)