Saturday, September 20, 2008

The ultimate italian hoagie: Primo Hoagies

I am fortunate enough to live a few doors down from Primo Hoagies, objectively the top sandwich place in Philly (though I haven't tried Sarcones). However, the place is only open for lunch, and I'm almost never around during the day. Luckily, I got a chance this saturday to test it out.

My first experience with an Italian sandwich was from Marzullo Brothers in Montclair, NJ, who sold a ridiculous amount of homemade foods, including my alltime favorite: fresh mozz.

Primos is a weird place. It's really bare looking, all white with just a big menu up front. Like the cheesesteak places, there is no real line, just two registers and a dude in an apron who looks like he's wasted away his youth taking sandwich orders.

I got the Old Italian, which, unlike a regular Italian hoagie, has dry-cured capacola and sharp provolone. $7 bucks, about a foot long, with oil, vinegar, peppers and lettuce.

The sandwich was actually much larger than I expected. It honestly had a substantial heft when the guy handed it to me, like when someone hands you a bowl of something and it turns out the bowl is full of pennies or something (good analogy, brad).

Anyway, long story short, I have never enjoyed a sandwich as much as this one. The ingredients were fresh sliced to a perfect thickness (the capacola was thin, but the provolone and proscuitto were thick, which somehow makes sense). The bun was a little warm, perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, unlike the sweet doughy mess that Subway serves. It was a beautiful thing. I might make this a Saturday tradition.

Breaking Bread

So bread is my new challenge. This is something you can't just throw together, like most of my meals. I've tried the super basic no knead recipe made famous by the NYT and Sullivan Street Bakery, and it turned out well, just not perfect. This most recent recipe is a new and improved version with some added beer and vinegar, as well as less water so the dough is more manageable.

Let's start with the ingredients: flour, water, beer, salt, rice vinegar, and yeast.

Mix it up, let it rise overnight with plastic wrap on top. Then knead it 15 times and proof for a few hours.

I tried to double the recipe, and that's where it went horribly wrong.

The rectangular loaf actually puffed up much nicer and had a more regular crumb, but the round one was too damn flat. I think my dutch oven is too big.

So lesson learned: either use a smaller vessel (forget preheating it, you're just wasting energy) or use more dough. At least it tasted good.