The Bobbie – Capriotti’s, Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA

thebobbieI’ve covered Capriotti’s before, and was not tremendously pleased with what they had to offer. The Bobbie is listed first and foremost on Capriotti’s menu, and as I’ve discussed previously, that’s a big signal. I had cause to return to Capriotti’s, so I figured it was only fair to take their best effort and give it a try. I intentionally avoided the Bobbie when I went previously, thinking that it wasn’t the right sandwich with which to judge the franchise. As a thanksgiving sandwich, it doesn’t have the highest degree of difficulty, and I thought it wouldn’t tell me much about Capriotti’s. Sweet mercy, was I wrong about that.

As it turns out, the Bobbie says a whole heck of a lot about Capriotti’s. Specifically  it says that they either don’t know much about a good sandwich, or they don’t care to make the effort. Two things really took this sandwich off the rails, one of which was expected and one of which was a surprise. To start with, apparently mayonnaise is an acceptable substitute for gravy, or at least the folks at Capriotti’s see it that way. I mentioned mayo in my guide to the thanksgiving sandwich, but any application has to be minimal. There’s no need to get to the level of slathering, and heaven help you should the mayonnaise announce itself. The Nobadeer at Jettie’s uses mayo, but it’s minimal and restrained. If you feel your sandwich is lacking moisture, well, that’s what gravy is for. If you aren’t willing to keep some gravy warm for the purposes of a thanksgiving sandwich, perhaps you should do some thinking on why you’ve placed it at the top of your menu.

The mayo fiasco was half expected, as the menu clearly states the sandwich comes with mayo. My policy is to take sandwiches as they are offered/designed, and sometimes this sort of thing happens. The second issue I had with the sandwich came as a surprise, and that was the fact that the cranberry sauce was stone cold. I wasn’t visiting first thing in the morning, and even if I were that wouldn’t be any kind of excuse.

This isn’t a tricky one to make. You get some tasty things that go together, and you put them all between bread. It’s the very essence of sandwich making. With the thanksgiving sandwich, all you really need to do is understand what’s going on and stay out of the way. Sadly, that seems to be a bit beyond the capabilities of Capriotti’s.

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The Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich – General Sandwich Discussion

I’ve had my fair share of thanksgiving sandwiches. Not that it’s a tremendously complicated matter requiring some strict recipe, but all the same I thought it might be beneficial to consider what important considerations are involved in taking thanksgiving leftovers to the perfect sandwich.

The issue informing the entire construction is filling creep. Between the stuffing, the gravy, and the cranberry sauce, you’re dealing with a number of ingredients that are all too happy to pitch from hand to plate. No one wants to eat a limp, half-full sandwich and then have to fetch a fork to finish the job, so take some early precautions to avoid mishaps.

Firstly, use soft bread. This is important. Filling creep results when the frictional hold of your ingredients can’t bear the pressure of your bite, and the easiest way to reduce the pressure of your bite is to make sure your bread yields easily. The turkey is the toughest thing on the sandwich and whether it’s sliced or shredded there’s unlikely to be much resistance to your tooth, so once the bread gives way the whole thing should come away in a clean bite. But if you’ve got a stale or well-crusted roll containing things, good luck finding any sandwich remaining after you pull the old clamp-and-tear. Toast if if you want some crunch to things, but avoid a sturdy crust.

Personally, I like sliced bread, as seen in the Nobadeer from Jetties, pictured above. Avoid rolls like the one seen in the Thanksgiving on a Bun from The Village Bakery.

Using soft bread introduces the risk of things turning soggy, so one must compensate. A thin (and I emphasize thin) layer of mayonnaise on each piece of bread will help keep things from getting sloppy. If you don’t like mayonnaise, a thin layer of butter would have the same effect. If you don’t like either, careful sandwich construction and a haste in consumption should steer you clear of any trouble.

The third factor in filling creep involves ingredient ratios and layering technique. I can’t rightly tell you how much stuffing or dressing or anything else to put into your sandwich, but I beg you to remain sensible. Have two sandwiches if you suffer from insatiable hunger, don’t build yourself a tower that will only topple to terrible disappointment. Keep your gravy on the lesser side, my advice is to toss shredded turkey in a few spoonfuls of gravy, don’t just pour it directly on to your sandwich.

As for the stuffing and the cranberry sauce, some schools of thought put the turkey between the two, others put the two together on one side of the meat. It’s a question of aiming for one shifting layer instead of two, or instead trying to keep them apart so as to not allow them to combine their mispositioning power. I happen to think both settle about equally, so just run with whichever seems more sure in hand.

Above all, allow your layers to come in slightly as you build up. This allows the top slice of bread to bend down slightly and form a cap, allowing your hands to seal if off at the seams, keeping everything tidy as you eat. It’s a delicate trick that makes all the difference in the finished sandwich.

I think that covers most of the groundwork, but this is something that tends to vary quite a bit from person to person. I hope that your thanksgiving sandwich game plan steers you to a fine result, and I hope that if you’ve got some strong ideas you’ll share them with me.

Thanksgiving on a Bun – The Village Bakery, Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

There are countless sandwich archetypes. The ham & cheese, the turkey pesto, the Italian, the French Dip, the Reuben, the Club Sandwich, the BLT. One of the things I enjoy about sandwiches is how many different types there are, and the variety that people find within the limits each form presents. But I also enjoy those limits for their own sake; I am something of a traditionalist and I prefer when someone makes a sandwich that exists comfortably within the form of what I understand a particular sandwich to be. What I enjoy about this is that everyone who’s making that sandwich is essentially attempting the same task. They might go about it in different ways or with different tools, but everyone’s aiming for the same mark. It allows for a kind of 1-to-1 comparison that isn’t possible in a lot of criticism.

In this case, we have the classic thanksgiving sandwich, previously seen here. The root of the form, of course, is thanksgiving leftovers. Roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce seem to be the standard requirements, and that seems to be a fine base, as I don’t know if I’ve ever consumed a thanksgiving sandwich that didn’t leave me satisfied. It is the rare sort of sandwich that has both a very high ceiling and a fairly high floor; it can certainly excel but the average example isn’t so bad.

The example at Village Bakery, thankfully, tended more towards the excellent half of that scale. The cranberry sauce was particularly choice, well spiced and full of cranberries, served on the side so you could pile on as much or as little as you wanted. The stuffing had been crisped up in a skillet or on a griddle, something that doesn’t make a huge difference but is certainly a welcome touch. The roast turkey was juicy, and the gravy was tasty and not excessive. The only complaint I have concerns the roll, which associates tell me can vary quite a bit depending on what’s being baked or who’s doing the baking. The taste was fine, but the exterior was just too tough. Toasting it might have crisped things up, but as it stood it took some effort to tear off a bite. That didn’t cause a catastrophic level of filling creep, but there was plenty of sliding going on. Thankfully, though, the sandwich was delicious and well worth the effort to corral things.

Nobadeer – Jetties, Foxhall Rd NW, Washington, DC

Countless sandwiches are born of food left over from another meal. We at On Sandwiches have had a number of fine sandwiches in that mold. The Nobadeer is the supreme sandwich of the category, the undisputed sovereign of the leftover sandwich. It is the Thanksgiving sandwich. Of course, it isn’t my Thanksgiving sandwich, or yours. Mine involves dark meat, for one, and a touch of gravy. No, this is just the broadest outlines of the archetype: Soft white bread, turkey breast, stuffing and cranberry sauce. (There’s a layer of mayo as well, but it neither adds nor detracts so I’m ignoring it.) That’s the rub of a sandwich like this; you run the risk of stoking a person’s nostalgia without the necessary fuel to really get the fire going. Some restauranteurs see this problem and surrender. They put forth no effort, counting on the simple fact that they’re appealing to sentimentality to carry the sandwich through. That never ends well, dry turkey, bland stuffing, cranberries that are more jelly than sauce.

The folks at Jetties don’t take the coward’s way out. No sandwich is going to be everything to everyone, so they just put forth a quality sandwich and dare you to be disappointed. And make no mistake, the Nobadeer is a quality sandwich. Named for a beach in Nantucket, it features freshly carved turkey that’s about as juicy as you can expect a turkey breast to be. The stuffing was moist and savory, and the cranberry sauce, with big bits of cranberry, was neither too sweet nor too tart. It wasn’t a perfect sandwich, with some problems in construction. The cranberry sauce and the stuffing were concentrated towards the center of the sandwich, leaving both absent at the edges. With a mediocre sandwich this kind of error can ruin things, but the quality of the ingredients in the Nobadeer carried things through and left it, a few bland bites aside, a great sandwich.