The Beach Sandwich: An Anatomy |

The Beach Sandwich: An Anatomy

Next week in Boston, temperatures will finally surpass 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is, for me, the cutoff for beach weather. At 75 degrees, the wind whipping off the water still feels a bit too chilly to truly enjoy, even if that’s the ideal temperature in the city. Once it hits 80, the summer has officially begun, even if the summer solstice is still weeks away.

Though the beaches in Boston may be a far cry from the sandy, idyllic beaches of somewhere like Puerto Rico or even Florida, they do the trick when you want a day with your toes in the sand, the sun beating down on your head and a bottle of slightly too-warm beer in your hand. But no beach trip, regardless of location, is ever complete without a full meal to keep you satisfied as you lounge.

There are plenty of easy-to-eat dishes you can bring to the beach, ranging from pasta salad to cut fruit to chips or Chex Mix. But one beach meal rises above all the rest: the beach sandwich. It’s hearty, it’s handheld and it’s guaranteed to keep you full even after hours of swimming (or napping). It’s also ideal if you’re drinking; the combo of carbs and fat is essential for preventing a day-drinking hangover.

But what makes a sandwich a beach sandwich? And how can you ensure that your sandwich-making game is up to par for your next beach trip? Read on to learn about the anatomy of the beach sandwich.

1. The Bread

The bread is arguably the most important part of the beach sandwich. It may be overshadowed by meat and other fillings, but it provides the structure and base flavor for the sandwich. In other words, if the bread isn’t good, the sandwich itself will be lackluster.

I wholeheartedly believe that plain sliced bread is not appropriate for a beach sandwich. It’s too weak, too flimsy to hold all of the ingredients you need to make the best possible sandwich. Rather, you want to look for something more substantial, like a baguette or focaccia. Since these types of bread are harder and chewier, they won’t fall apart easily or get soggy after a couple of hours in the cooler. For best results, use homemade or bakery-fresh bread.

2. The Protein

A sandwich absolutely does not have to contain meat to qualify as a quality beach sandwich, but it does need to feature some sort of flavorful protein. Cold cuts are always an option, of course (and I am partial to cured Italian meats), but so is a particularly flavorful bean-based spread. Tuna-salad style smashed chickpeas are one of my favorites. Alternatively, tofu and tempeh make for solid plant-based protein choices, so long as they’re properly seasoned. Even if you’re working with a lot of other flavors from the toppings, it’s important to make sure your protein of choice is also packing a punch on the flavor front.

3. The Veggies

The next step is adding your veggies. Generally, you’ll want to start with greens of some sort. Lettuce is among the most popular options, but don’t be afraid to switch it up with spinach, arugula or even massaged kale if you’re craving something different than the norm. Then, you’ll want to add something juicy, like tomatoes, if you like them, and something that has some crunch to it, like radishes, pickles or bell peppers. Finally, add in your onions—if you ask me, no sandwich is complete without them.

4. The Sauces

Finally, we come to the sauces. This is where some people screw up their beach sandwiches. You’re not going to want to use a ton of sauce, as it can make your sandwich messy and therefore difficult to eat at the beach. At the same time, you’ll also want to avoid using too little sauce, as a dry sandwich is particularly unpleasant when you’re thirsty from swimming and sitting in the sun all day. Choose one or two sauces and add just enough to keep your sandwich  moist. Preferably, one should add fat to the mix, and the other should provide brightness. For example, mayo and mustard is a great combination because the mayo provides fat and the mustard cuts through that fat. Oil and vinegar play a similar role in a good beach sandwich.

5. The Chips

Once you add your sauces, you may think you’re done constructing your beach sandwich, but there’s still one more ingredient you’re missing: the chips. Sure, you can eat them on the side, but they also belong inside the sandwich so you get that satisfying crunch and an extra dose of saltiness with each bite. You can place them in the sandwich all at one time, or you can add them as you eat to prevent them from getting soggy.

May your summer—and your sandwiches—be long and delicious.

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