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Sandwich-mas

I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

Before the kids came along, there was a Christmas that just didn’t work out well for anybody.

My then-wife drew the short straw and had to work on Christmas. My parents were out of town. My sister-in-law was out of state. So when my brother Jerry called me a few days before, he seemed just as out of sorts as I was.

“What are we supposed to do?” he wondered.

This confused me on a number of levels. Despite being the older brother, I wouldn’t say I was ever much of a “big” brother to Jerry. For one thing, quite literally, Jerry has been bigger than me for most of our lives. I’m a fairly big guy, topping out over 6 feet, but he’s at least 6’6” and actually built for it.

More to the point, I don’t have any sort of big brother expertise. He got married before I did. (Though I beat him to divorce! (He’s still happily married, so hands off, ladies.)) He moved out of state. He is physically fit instead of physically fat.

So I did the one thing I’m good at: being very lazy.

“How about you come over?” I asked. (That way I wouldn’t have to leave the house.) “We can hang out.” (No firm deliverables.) “We’ll just make sandwiches.” (No cooking necessary.)

Little did I know I was creating our newest family tradition.

The Elwells are lazy bunch, down to our genetics. When it became clear that we could both celebrate Christmas and do absolutely none of the grueling prep work that usually comes with holidays, it was a hit.

I love turkey. I love ham. Roast beef? So, so good. And while preparing these isn’t that difficult, putting them together as part of an enormous meal is stress on top of stress on top of stress.

People coming over means cleaning up. Getting out the fancy china. Decorating. And at Christmas, you have to deal with buying and wrapping gifts, adding psychological and monetary strain.

Instead of adding a big, stressful meal to a big, stressful day, Sandwich-mas means you do minimal prep work for maximum sandwich eating and just sit around being suuuuuuper lazy. Would you like to enjoy this lazy, useless holiday for yourself? It’s easy!

Just head to the grocery store and pick up the following items:

  1. At least two kinds of bread. Be mindful of what makes a good sandwich. For soft fillings, you want soft bread. Tuna salad, turkey and ham require a pretty tender loaf. This is precisely what sliced bread is made for. If you’re getting heartier fillings, like hard salami or prosciutto, you need a more pliant bread, like hoagie rolls.
  2. Lettuce, tomatoes and red onion. Somehow, the addition of crisp lettuce and large, juicy slices of tomato makes the simplest sandwich seem fancy. The red onion adds a nice crunch and a bit of heat. Be sure to slice this veeeeery thin. Use a mandolin or V-slicer to get really uniform slices, but a very sharp knife will do in a pinch. Other good vegetable options include sweet peppers, pickles, avocado and cucumber slices.  
  3. Cheese. Look for a variety. Yes, Kraft American slices are required, because at least one person is going to complain about too much “fancy cheese.” But you also need some fancy cheeses, because not everyone likes American slices. (I like all cheeses, because I’m not a monster. I’m a Muenster. Sorry. That pun was just hanging out there.) Get some sharp cheddar, because it’s great, but also grab some double- or triple-creme brie. It’s great as an appetizer, but also excellent on sandwiches. Brie is pretty mild, though, so pair it with a more assertive flavor.
  4. Condiments are key. Mustard and mayo are required, but grab some hot sauce while you’re at it. Hummus? Yes. And then a couple of secret weapons: onion salt and garlic salt. This little burst of flavor is what will put your sandwich over the top.
  5. Get a cornucopia of meats. One kind of ham will probably suffice, but go for a smoked AND a spicy turkey. Peppered or Cajun turkey are excellent on sandwiches. Roast beef is good, but I’m always a bit suspect of grocery store deli roast beef. If you’ve got the time and the inclination to make a roast a few days before, it’s a much better quality of meat. But, in a pinch, deli roast beef will do. (This is where I always use the garlic salt, btw.)
  6. Chips. So many chips. And dips. Really go all out here. This is the coup de grace on the whole meal.
  7. Get a few heating options. Roasting sandwiches in the oven is pretty baller, but a panini press or warm, buttered skilled are good, too. Some people want them cold. Whatever. The beauty of Sandwich-mas is you do whatever you like.

For dessert, I like to grab a package of graham crackers, some large marshmallows and cheap milk chocolate for s’mores. You can broil the marshmallows on top of the graham crackers in the oven if you don’t have a fire going. (I never have a fire going.)

If people want to bring stuff over, that’s fine. Usually someone has received a gift basket or two and can bring over extra cheese, snack mixes, or some juicy pears. Always better to share the bounty, right?

Do you have a lazy way to get around holiday meals? Share your tips in the comments, please.

About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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