Sometimes, you take the simple things in life for granted.
Maybe because they’re not fancy, not expensive, not trendy, not sexy, not this, not that…
Often, the great simple things in life are just complicated things distilled down to their essence, stripped of all the unnecessary frills, clutter and hoopla and devoid of all of the extraneous debris.
Sometimes, “less, is indeed more”.
Yet even the great “simple things” in life sometimes come with certain expectations.
Simple, when it comes to food means each ingredient needs to play a vital role and that in turn means each better be darn good because there aren’t as many other ingredients to confuse the palate.
Simple is precise. Simple comes with the expectation that less BETTER be more or, less is a mess.
Sandwiches are a great example of this concept and two great examples are the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (which I blogged about in my: In Search of the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich and another very simple sandwich, the Fried Bologna Sandwich.
I can’t exactly remember how old I was when my mother made me my first Fried Bologna Sandwich but I remember the black, cast iron skillet she used to fry the thin sliced Kowalski bologna in, how the aroma filled my senses and exactly how it tasted.
Why I never asked her to make it for me more often defies explanation but each time she did I savored every bite.
But as happens to all of us, life rushes along and our youth is all too short. Careers, marriages, family and every imaginable distraction carries us away from things we once enjoyed until we can barely remember we enjoyed them at all.
Fast forward to 2011.
No longer a young boy I’m exhibiting my Supreme Grand Champion cat in his last show at the State Fair Grounds, Raleigh, North Carolina.
I think it goes without saying that from a culinary perspective, a local cat show wouldn’t be the place you’d choose to look for a gourmet meal.
Yet each year the show organizers booked this one vendor who had a small trailer that he parked right outside the show hall. It’s specialty? Yep.
Fried Bologna Sandwiches.
Now I had heard about these sandwiches, in fact, in the annals of cat showing, they were legendary. Yet in the 3 years I had attended this particular show I had yet to have one. It was time.
Expectations can play tricks on you. And if you’re not open minded, you can miss out on the opportunity to fall in love with something just because it was different than you expected. This was a case in point.
What I expected was my memory of thin slices of bologna stacked on toasted bread with mayonnaise and iceberg lettuce leaves.
I was handed my chips and soda first, then my foil wrapped sandwich.
Back at my benching area I carefully unfolded the leaves of foil expecting my childhood memory to be revealed like the opening of an unearthed treasure chest filled with gold and jewels.
What emerged was a something different. What the?
Sandwiched between a butter-grilled bun (which by the way smelled heavenly) was a single, ½” thick slab of grilled bologna, caramelized by grilling to be slightly blackened and crispy around the edges (you fried bologna connoisseurs’ know EXACTLY what I’m taking about). On top of the bologna was shredded iceberg and a sauce of homemade mayonnaise (the nice “eggy” kind) finished with a squirt of spicy brown mustard.
This was like no bologna sandwich that I’d ever seen let alone tasted.
I bit, I chewed, I swallowed, I loved.
I will say that it took a few bites to get accustomed to what I could only describe was a grilled bologna steak sandwich but once I got over that, I can’t honestly imagine liking it prepared any other way.
I later found out that some folks actually added ketchup and mustard to their sandwich which, when I tried it, almost tasted like a Coney Dog, something else to consider.
So, if you wished you recreate my personal Ultimate Fried Bologna Sandwich, here are some tips:
Skip the bread…Try a bun
I know, I know, this almost sounds sacrilegious but trust me on this one. There are a lot of buns to choose from but you want one that’s firm and can hold up to grilling. Softer buns collapse as you try to hold on as you eat you sandwich. The result is that the bun ends up being a swished and soggy panel. My suggestion is Brownberry’s Signature Kaiser Rolls.
Grilling the Bun
Use a pat of whole salted butter and griddle the bun on both sides until golden and slightly crispy.
Not just because I’m a traditionalist but Kowalski is STILL the gold standard for bologna. They make 3 kinds; Regular, Beef and Garlic. All have their following. I prefer the regular which I cut one ½” slice and then grill on medium high heat in a non-stick fry pan (with just a teaspoon of vegetable oil) until each side is slightly blackened & crispy.
I’m not expecting you to make your own. Hellman’s will be your best choice in my opinion. (And for gosh sakes, if you even think of using low-fat mayonnaise you’re missing the point)
- Choice A: Red Pelican Spicy Hot
- Choice B: Mucky Duck (If you can find it)
- Choice C: Any Honey Mustard
Iceberg lettuce is really THE best choice for your greens.
Never take the simple things in life for granted. Enjoy a Fried Bologna Sandwich soon and perhaps you’ll revisit a childhood memory as well.