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2000s Archive

Book Review: ’wichcraft

April 2009
Every day ’wichcraft patrons across the country order upward of 5,000 sandwiches. What makes them so irresistible? A new cookbook reveals all.

Superstar chef Tom Colicchio began his rise in the mid-’90s at Gramercy Tavern, in New York City, then moved on to build the Craft restaurant empire (Craft, Craftsteak, and Craftbar). In 2003, a storefront opened up next to Craftbar, and Sisha Ortuzar, one of Colicchio’s longtime sous-chefs, proposed selling sandwiches. (Ortuzar often made them for the staff meal.) A sandwich aficionado himself, Colicchio jumped at the idea and opened the first ’wichcraft later that year. Today, there are more than a dozen outposts in New York City, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, selling some 5,000 sandwiches a day.

That passion has now been translated into a new book, ’wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal—and a Meal into a Sandwich (Clarkson Potter; 208 pages; $27.50). Here, Colicchio and Ortuzar provide the recipes for re-creating their extraordinary sandwiches at home. “Ask yourself,” Colicchio writes. “Why is a sandwich made from Thanksgiving leftovers so good? Because everything in it was originally crafted for a great meal. The turkey is roasted for the table …. The gravy, the cranberries—it’s all made from real food, and nothing is ‘filler.’” Same goes for the steak sandwich, in which tender braised beef is paired with charred red onion, roasted red pepper, and a cloak of Gruyère. Granted, this sandwich takes about three hours to prepare, but it’s worth it. Seriously.

This isn’t to say that a sandwich must be demanding to be delicious. For instance, the Fried Eggs with Bacon, Gorgonzola, and Frisée, a play on salty, eggy, and vinegary flavors, is now a breakfast favorite that I can whip up in minutes. And the Roasted Shrimp Salad with Tomatoes and Olives is so refreshing, I’ll be making it regularly this spring as a quick weeknight dinner. In addition to 58 of the best breakfast, cool, warm, and sweet sandwich recipes imaginable, this book gives plenty of tips—toast bread on one side only and place the toasted side on the inside of the sandwich to support the filling; leave poached chicken in liquid until it’s ready to be used to lock in moisture. The result? The humble sandwich is humble no more.

Act Like a Chef

In recent years, Tom Colicchio has seemingly dedicated more energy to being a celebrity than he has to being a chef. His mode of atonement: a bimonthly dinner for which the reality-show judge turns up at the 32-seat private dining room of Craft, his flagship Manhattan restaurant, and personally prepares a tasting menu built around seasonal ingredients that inspire him (like this winter’s wild Scottish grouse, for example). You can book up to six weeks in advance, and you should; reservations are hard to come by. The price tag is high, too. (The tab depends on the ingredients used.) But the food proves that Colicchio is still just as comfortable in the kitchen as he is on a soundstage. (tomtuesdaydinner.com) —Chris Dudley