Syncronicity, Coincidence or Just Plain Baloney?
Updated: Jun 23
Last week my friend, Michelle, texted that I should make a baloney sandwich for my blog. Not just any baloney sandwich, but a copy of the one we had at Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. During our girls trip, we had time to kill before a tour of nearby Mardi Gras World. Though we had already eaten lunch, I suggested we pop into Turkey and the Wolf for a fried baloney sandwich. Most people would not be down to eat a second lunch right after the first one, but these girls are exceptional. Part of my extended karate family, the four of us started traveling together because we are all single, adventurous and easy going. The previous night we had been at a casino hotel in Mississippi, when Michelle and I smelled gasoline on the casino floor. It was overwhelming. Within five minutes, we dashed back to the room, informed Chantalle and Jesse, packed and had completely evacuated. Any other group of people would have questioned us, wanted more information, thought we were panicking or insane. In the very least, they would have wanted a discussion. Not these ladies.
Though there are many karate virtues and maxims we live by, "Be sorry for what you did, not what you didn't do " is one of the main ones. Better to evacuate and be safe than blown up and be sorry. Bonus: Somner, my neice, welcomed us into her home shortly thereafter. Like my friends, Sommer is flexible too. She also likes a good story. Forever more, she can remind me of the time I barged into her house at 2 a.m. with three friends, driving all the way from Mississippi over a gas smell. Back to the baloney. Another reason we travel well together is that we are all food freaks. One bite of that sandwich, and it was suggested that I try and recreate it when we got home. To that end, I wrote down the ingredients: baloney, Texas toast, American cheese, shredded lettuce, kettle potato chips and a sauce that reminded me of McDonald's special sauce. Now the sauce could have been the power of suggestion. Our sandwich had been served on a Ronald McDonald plate. Or it could be that special sauce, or a Thousand Island type dressing was the closest thing I could think of to match what Turkey and the Wolf served.
Pictured below is our sandwich at Turkey and the Wolf.
When I gathered my ingredients to make the sandwich, I made sure I had everything, including the dressing ingredients. Despite the quarantine I was able to get all but the Texas toast. Having just made challah the day before, I figured I could slice it thickly and it would make a fine substitite. What I didn't count on were my wayward taste buds and the know-it-all internet. Google Turkey and the Wolf bologna sandwich and Chef Mason Hereford's recipe pops right up on the Duke mayonaise site. https://www.dukesmayo.com/recipe/turkey-wolfs-fried-bologna-sandwich/ Well, duh. Looks like I was wrong about a few things. Why hadn't I thought to look it up before I bought ingredients wily-nily? The sauce was Duke's mayonaise mixed with something called Tay's mustard. The recipe called for Pullman bread, not Texas toast, and the potato chips weren't plain but had been brined in vinegar. How could my taste buds have been that far off, I wondered? A search of both Pullman bread and Texas toast revealed that Texas toast can be made by slicing Pullman bread twice the normal size. Texas toast is also buttered and griddled, as is the bread in this recipe. Vinegar is an ingredient in Thousand Island dressing, or copycat McDonald's special sauce. So I had tasted the vinegar, just not in the right place. Though I hadn't hit a bullseye, I wasn't that far off of the target. I played around with the dressing/sauce ingredients that sounded good to me, griddled the bread, fried the baloney, melted the cheese on it, then assembled the sandwich.
It was so good. I would have to try Turkey and the Wolf's version again, before I could tell you if it came anywhere close. Chances are it didn't. But I'm okay with that. Kenton loved the sandwich. Sam raved. I promised to make Michelle one when quarantine is over. Two days later, Mason Hereford was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef South. Wow, I thought. Was that just coincidence or could it be syncronicity? Syncronicity implies a larger force at work than just coincidence. The next day a friend texted me, "Were the panelists drunk and stopped in there for a bite? Maybe best hangover food." Another friend messaged me on Instagram. "For a f**king bologna sandwich? Bullsh**!" Of course, the thought of elevating the lowly baloney sandwich to the level of James Beard award made me laugh a little, too. Then I thought about it. In 2017, when Turkey and the Wolf was named the best restaurant in America by Bon Appetit Magazine, I was surprised. It was how I learned of the restaurant, the chef and the sandwich in the first place. Back then, and even more so now, I saw it as a shift in the paradigm of cuisine in our country. More often than not the chefs and restaurateurs receiving the highest accolades serve food at the high end of the price point spectrum. Multi-course tasting menus and molecular gastronomy has been par for the course for a long time now. The farm to table movement, pioneered by Jeremiah Towers back in the seventies has flourished. Fusion cuisines, mashing up the flavors and specialties of different cultures has also had a moment. What is left? What matters most now? Comfort. Nostalgia. Affordability. For all of the flack Millennials face, they are a generation in flux. For the first time in recent history, the average worker has almost nothing to look forward to in their job. Pensions, medical benefits, promotions, vacations. What? Plenty of part-time jobs out there. Grocery shoppers, delivery people. Adjunct professors. Doctors being absorbed into big corporations. The changes aren't limited to the uneducated. Of course, there are opportunities now that didn't exist before. Programmers and game players, Youtubers and influencers. Is it coincidence that the chef of a sandwich shop is a finalist for best chef, or is something larger at work here? When does a baloney sandwich become more than just a sandwich? The James Beard Foundation mission " is to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making American food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable for everyone." No doubt that Mason Hereford's food is delicious. Though I had found him through the Bon Appetit award, I soon learned there was much more. Turkey and the Wolf was also named one of the most important restaurants of the decade by Food & Wine magazine. Labeling the cuisine, "stoner," the writer said, "This goofy-ass place is seriously excellent." Eater says Hereford, "brings a certain Dr. Frankenstein glee to every dish he makes," and that his sandwiches are "magnificently aberrant." The New York Times said that Hereford "spun culinary gold," while GQ listed Turkey and the Wolf as one of the 40 most important restaurants of the decade. Not too shabby. Neither, it turns out, are the origins of Hereford's bologna sandwich. I found an interview where he talked about how the sandwich came to be. It was his attempt to reimagine the bologna sandwich he loathed as a child. His mom's sandwich was the inspiration. Cold bologna on white bread with mustard. Gross. A friend's mom had a great recipe for homemade mustard. The Tay's mustard on the Duke website. Then the mayo of mayos, Dukes. Next came a friend with an awesome Pullman bread recipe. Hereford found a baker who could commercially bake it for him. Bologna from a local, artisan butcher. House made, vinegar brined kettle potato chips. Not just any lettuce, but shreddice. Lettuce finely shredded. A lifetime ago I attended a Gourmet Magazine function where renowned French Laundry chef, Thomas Keller, lectured that the little details are what matter the most. Almost fifteen years later and I'm reading about a chef who is nominated for making a baloney sandwich more delicious, diverse and sustainable for everyone. If that doesn't fit the definition of the James Beard Foundation mission, then I'm not sure what does. Don't get me wrong, Hereford is nominated for more than just a baloney sandwich. But it is that baloney sandwich that I think he is most known for. While most of us can't read about the James Beard awards then retreat to the kitchen to duplicate nitrogen ice-cream or use our spherificator to turn truffle oil into caviar pearls, we can make a baloney sandwich. We can try to make Tay's mustard, or our own special sauce. We can crack open a bag of vinegar kettle chips, or slice a potato and make our own. If Pullman bread or Texas toast isn't available, we can make a challah. What we learn from Mason Hereford is that the kitchen can also be our playground. Fantastic food isn't the providence of chefs or the wealthy. We can all eat well, and have fun doing it. At Turkey and the Wolf, Hereford tops his wedge salad with Everything Bagel seasonings. You can buy that for a few dollars at Trader Joe's. Thinking about it makes me wonder what else can I use it for? Hereford also makes a collard green melt that people rave about. I've had collard greens on a roast beef sandwich in New Orleans, but never one with melted cheese and Russian dressing. Another jumping off point. Time to get to my kitchen and start experimenting. Though my attempts could be a disaster, it's a chance I'm willing to take. I'd rather be sorry for what I did than what I didn't do. For a vegan version of this sandwich substitute Yves vegan bologna for regular bologna, a quality vegan cheese for the American, and a good vegan spread for the butter.
For Mason Hereford's sandwich, click on the Duke's link above.
Fried Baloney Sandwich For the Sandwich
2 slices thick sliced bread
Softened butter 3 slices bologna 2 slices processed American cheese Shredded lettuce Kettle potato chips
Savory sandwich spread
Savory Sandwich Spread 2 tablespoons mayo 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika 1/2 teaspoon spicy mustard 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish 1/8 teaspoon onion powder 1/4 teaspoon sugar
Combine spread ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Spray a nonstick skillet with nonstick spray, then heat on medium high. Butter the bread generously on both sides.
Griddle the bread in the nonstick pan, being careful not to burn it. You may need to reduce the heat depending on your burner. The edges of the bread should be browned and crispy.
Place bread on a plate propped up in a tent like fashion, so the bread stays crisp.
Using the same pan, turn the heat to low. Fry the baloney on one side until the edges are crisp. Turn over and place one slice of cheese on top of two of the slices. Be careful not to burn. Once the cheese has melted and the other side of the baloney is browned, remove onto a plate.
Assemble the sandwich by spreading the savory spread on the inside of the bread, then layering all of the other ingredients. Cut in half and serve immediately.