|The Holiday Victual Sandwich Recipe Card|
2 slices bread
1-2 Tbsp mayonaise
2-3 Tbsp cranberry sauce
4 oz. turkey
2-3 oz. stuffing
1. Spread one slice of bread with mayonaise.
2. Spread one slice of bread with cranberry sauce.
3. Layer turkey, then stuffing, on one piece of bread.
4. Cap the sandwich with the other slice of bread.
5. Enjoy the best sandwich you will ever make!
See? All of you food bloggers out there, was that so friggin' hard? Do you even see what I did there?
I showed my readers at least a tiny bit of respect by not making them read my drivel about how I loved my nana's turkey, and some extremely lame attempts at humor, to get to the recipe. OK - let's be honest, it's more like, I didn't make them scroll down - because no one other than me gives a flying fuck about my nana or my lame jokes.
Oh, don't get me wrong - I am not a food blogger, but I am well and truly a food blogger level of douchebag in many areas of my life, so the drivel is coming. I am a West Point graduate FFS. The drivel is most certainly coming. Drivel in droves. I just respect my readers enough to give them the most important content up front.
You may have also noticed that there are not 47 different ads and autoplaying videos and other bullshit on my page. If that is what you need to make a buck from your content, then guess what that says about the quality of your content?
OK, off my soap box, and on to the douchebaggery!
BackgroundI wanted to put this section in here to do a little bit of housecleaning. I want to thank someone that inspired me to actually document this, as well as highlight a little bit about the process by which I came to develop this sandwich over the years.
First and foremost, I would like to tip my cap to Dan Kim who started a series of Twitter threads entitled "Cooking for Lieutenants." Suffice to say, this really resonated with me. As a young LT in Korea, I would have loved to be able to cook...even a little bit. Hopefully, there are a few hints in the "Listen up, LT" section below.
I am not really talking about making a sandwich. Seriously, if you need help assembling a sandwich, then you might just be too far gone. And it would be called "Cooking for Seargeants Major," am I right? To be sure, this is a bomb-ass sandwich. You should make it around the holidays, or whenever you want. It is so damn good.
This is the "why should you listen to me" section. I have been making myself this sandwich with Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers for over 40 years. And I have really perfected the recipe, in terms of the amount of each ingredient that makes it taste completely awesome, for me. Your mileage may vary. Play around with it yourself, and find what makes it taste best for you.
This year, as I was sitting there eating what I presumed to be the last Christmas-leftovers version, and thinking about how cruel it was that I had to wait almost 11 months to have the sandwich again, something weird happened. You see, that is when it finally, after OVER 40 FRIGGIN' YEARS, dawned on me that all the ingredients to make this sandwich are not only available at the holidays. Sure, around the holidays, they are just kind of in the fridge, and already cooked*, but there is nothing in the sandwich that is not pretty easy to buy already prepared or prepare myself.
*- I know that these things do not magically just show up in the fridge. I know that my wife, who is an amazing cook, toils endless over them. But for the purposes of this sandwich and the availability of already prepared ingredients thereof, this is an accurate representation.
Anyway, now that I realize I can get these ingredients year round, I have already made myself this sandwich several times in January. I suspect you could get sick of it, just like you could get sick of anything, but I think I have a few tips to keep that from happening. You'll just have to scroll farther into the douchebaggery to find out!
Listen up, LT.
Here is the typical food blogger section. Luckily, I do not really know fuck all about cooking. As in, the only training I have is what I have taught myself over the years. Hopefully, that will result in mitigating any condescending language like most food bloggers like to employ. Although, as a fat bastard that has this damn sandwich dialed in, the temptation will be strong to pump my own tires.
OK - let's get to the nice meaty content that should help some lieutenants out there that are just trying to come up with something other than cutting up hot dogs for their boxed mac and cheese, which, if you have not heard, is both a staple of the single lieutenant diet, and an unmitigated delight. I still doctor up boxed mac n cheese. Current favorite is to add whatever cooked meat leftovers are around and a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salsa. Fiesta.
The first thing I want to highlight is that cooking, like anything else, is a learning experience. You should focus on the marathon, not the sprint. Think like a scientist. Experiment, and take notes. It will help you in the long run.
Next point, RTFM. I have always said that I learned how to cook when I learned how to read. As a STEM major in school, and someone keenly aware of my own mental limitations, I arrived at the main principle for cooking of: don't be a fucking hero. Use Uncle Google to help you. Search for what you want to make. HINT: include the words "awesome," or "amazing," or "best ever." Then, read the comments...if it's not so awesome/amazing/best ever, people will let them know.
Now that you have a recipe you want to try, don't be a fucking hero. Plan everything out. Do what the recipe tells you to do. No more, no less. If you know that you need to cook something until it boils, then boil for 3 minutes, then add something else...have that something else ready beforehand...and when it starts to boil, use the timer on your phone, and follow the recipe. Don't put the other shit in there at 2:55 or 3:05. If the recipe says 3 minutes, that is what you do.
If you take this approach, you will eventually be able to make things (first one thing, then two, then eventually a full repertoire) without consulting a recipe and/or watching the timer like a hawk. Until you get there, use the recipe/Google and use the timer. There are no extra points for degree of difficulty, and life is an open book test.
Now, let's talk about this particular sandwich, and how you can experiment with the ingredents and expand your skills. Be advised: not all of the options will be possible for all lieutenants. If you are living in a BOQ somewhere, and all you have is a microwave and a hotplate, you might not have the option of making your own bread, unless you have a counter-top bread maker. Make sense? OK, let's proceed.
Quality of Ingredients
First and foremost, this sandwich, like all food, will only be as good as the quality of its ingredients, or the quality of the chef and/or preparation. Don't worry if you screw something up. Other than the financial hit, and the ding to your pride, think of it as getting better over time. There are no losses, only wins and learning.
However, even if it seems at odds with that last part about quality ingredients, you can make an excellent version of this sandwich with minimal prep work and low-quality, easily available ingredients. I am going to talk about each ingredient, since there are going to be some relevant tips for young lieutenants that are more appropriate to mention there.
But there are local cafeteria-style restaurants, corporate cafeterias, and even military chow halls that have a weekly or monthly holiday meal. Turkey and everything that comes with it. Go ahead and order two lunches, and pack one up for the fridge. You should get at least two good sandwiches out of a lunch-sized portion.
This sandwich is completely fine with jank-ass white Wonder Bread. It really is.
But since we are trying to help the yoots here, everyone should know how much better you can do than Wonder Bread. Here is the upgrade path:
- Better bread from the bread aisle. There are all kinds of options out there. Better tasting, healthier, and even both. My local Kroger has a series of wide pan breads in all kinds of "flavors" - white, Hawaiian, wheat, flax 'n chia, multigrain, etc. You can do way better than Wonder.
- Bread from the bakery. You can get great bread from a bakery, or even from the bakery at the supermarket. Of course, this will depend on your individual supermarket. These loaves of bread can get very expensive. It's like you are paying for artisan labor, just because they call it artisan bread. I almost never choose this option, since I can do the same thing at home for about 1/3 of the price.
- Frozen dough. You can buy frozen dough, already portioned out into a loaf size, and all you really have to do is take it out of the freezer and let it sit out a bit before you bake it. No messing around with yeast or anything else. And the only "tooling" expenditure is to get a loaf pan. $5 or less at the Super Walmart. Super easy option here.
- Bread maker. Some folks would say this is technically easier than the "Frozen dough" option. There is more prep work involved, but the actual cooking part is a lot more "fire and forget." Suffice it to say, if you have a breadmaker, you can follow the instructions and make some awesome bread for this or any other sandwich.
- Full-on bread making. Feel free to explore this option, if you like. You will learn new cooking terms and techniques, and learn about yeast and fermentation and other science-y stuff. It's fun, and tasty for sure, but it is definitely more work, and more things can go wrong.
Use your favorite. Or one that is not your favorite. Experiment. Hell, go ahead and use Miracle Whip.*
There are all kinds of upgrades here as well, in terms of fancy mayos with all kind of flavorings and such. You can even look up how to make your own mayonaise and experiment with that as well. I have done it twice, and could not achieve something that would justify that added work over buying it from the store. My current favorite is Duke's. If you haven't tried it, give it a shot.
*-Just kidding. Miracle Whip is for communists and losers.
I use the cheap ass store brand jellied cranberry sauce here. To start, the jellied cranberry sauce is the best for the version of this sandwich I like, because it is easy to spread on the bread like, well, jelly. And the taste of Ocean Spray is not better than the store brand, at least in the sandwich, with all those other flavors in play.
I tried (experimented) with chunky store bought cranberry sauce. I have tried homemade cranberry sauce. For this sandwich, the jellied one makes it taste the best, for me. In fact, this sandwich is the only reason why jellied cranberry sauce is still part of my family's holiday tradition.
The star of the show. This is where you can really experiment. First and foremost, at least to me, none of the myriad turkey options out there make the sandwich taste as good as (you knew it was coming) my nana's turkey. Since that is no longer an option (R.I.P. nana), I have had to make due. Whatever you use, you can really change the taste, and even the texture, of the sandwich by experimenting with different turkey options. In fact, just this past week, I purposefully had two separate kinds of turkey on hand, so I could have a couple different versions of this sandwich.
- Lunch meat turkey. Virtually limitless options here. Roasted, rotisserie chicken style, peppered, smoked, black forest, you name it. And there is a new one that just came out (check it out HERE) that is the best damn lunch meat I have ever had on a sandwich. Not the best version of THIS sandwich, but still, it is awesome. Find it in your town.
- BBQ. Just about every BBQ place has a smoked turkey option along with the other meats. And they usually sell it by the pound. It makes a wonderful version of this sandwich.
- Holiday lunch. This is the option that you can get at the chow hall, or corporate cafeteria, or local cafeteria-style restaurant. It is very seldom not good when you eat it at the place. It is similarly good in the Holiday Victuals sandwich. Plus, wherever you find this, you are almost always sure to find prepared stuffing and mashed potatoes as well (see below).
- Cook a turkey breast. Find a recipe you like and stick with it. Use whatever method you like. Oven, grill, smoker, fryer, you name it. Obviously, this is more work than any of the options so far, but you have much more control over getting the exact flavor you want. Plus, brines, marinades and bastings are fun!
- Cook a full bird. Same as above, but with a whole damn bird. Even more work, tho.
I have tried this sandwich with mashed potatoes probably 50 times. It is a fine sandwich that way. However, it tastes so very much better with stuffing that I now refuse to use leftover mashed potatoes in this manner. The potatoes are so much better next to the turkey on a plate, IMHO.
As for stuffing, once again, I have experimented. Turkey flavor vs. chicken flavor vs. sage flavor. Stove top vs. the ones in the bag vs. store brand. Boxed/bagged vs. homemade. They all make a good sandwich. But for my money, the best option for me is the Kroger brand turkey flavored boxed stuffing. It takes less than 10 minutes to make, and it costs 69 cents per box.
In terms of sandwich assembly, this is probably the coolest part. If you end up making this regularly, and you have some stuffing in the fridge, either from a box or from an outside source...it is usually a little dry. So, you get to kind of mush it up into a patty, like raw ground beef. The key is to keep your hands wet, as you work with it, to keep it from falling apart. Just grab a chunk of the stuffing, roll it into a ball and then smush it between your hands. Like Play-Doh for adults!
Last point about the stuffing, or other starch - it is not really the star of the show. If you had one sandwich made with store brand stuffing and one with Stove Top side-by-side, I am sure you could taste a difference. You might even like the Stove Top better. You'd almost definitely like nana's stuffing better. But for the 11 months of the year you don't have access to nana's stuffing, the store brand will do just fine. Similarly, if you want to try this with mashed potatoes, homemade mashed potatoes are better than the microwaveable real mashed potatoes which are better than the instant potato flakes. But every damn one of them can make a fine sandwich.
Go nuts here. Experiment. I have added just about every typical sandwich topping on here: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bacon, etc. And every type of cheese you can think of, from havarti to pepper jack and everything in between. You will notice I have not included a single one of these things in the "official" Holiday Victuals Sandwich recipe card at the top of this post. Your mileage may vary. Try it all.
Same with what you put on the side. If you like pickles as a sidecar for your sandwich, have at it. And chips, too. Use what you like. But if you have never had a sandwich like this before, experiment with different chips, alongside, and even on top of, the sandwich. Chips that might not be your favorite for other applications might be perfect for pairing with this sandwich. Once again - experiment.
This sandwich is awesome. It is also pretty much foolproof, provided you like turkey and stuffing and mayonaise and cranberry sauce. If you don't like one of those things, substitute it. If you don't like two or more of those things, you might want to try a different sandwich. As always, your mileage may vary. Make sure to experiment with different options. Expand your tastebuds, and expand your cooking skills.