Once upon a muggy Maine August, I ate a game-changing sandwich. It was at a nothing-special deli in a run-down town somewhere between Bar Harbor, ME and the great American hinterlands of the north. I was on vacation with my family, and we were reaching that point in the day when touristy delight is quashed by raging hunger pangs – the deli was an “I don’t care where we eat, but I want food in my stomach now” sort of group decision.
The deli was clean, and it was nice, and it had some funky sandwich combinations that left me feeling good about our restaurant decision. But then I bit into my sandwich and my feelings about the deli shot from good to great. That first bite had it all – the crunch of a toasted wheat baguette followed by the sweet tang of cranberry sauce mixed with honey-roasted turkey and rounded off with a lovely note of creamy pesto mayo. It was all the perfect flavors of Thanksgiving in one bite (and in August, when the flavors of Thanksgiving are usually nowhere to be found). Excuse me while I go wipe the drool off of my chin.
Three entire pages of my journal are devoted to the food I ate in Maine on that vacation, and sitting proudly in the center of the second page is a detailed diagram of the Thanksgiving sandwich. Every component is there, with the proper sandwich layer order recorded, and a little note – “Please, future self, find a way to replicate this sandwich.”
I decided to switch up my version of the Thanksgiving sandwich just a smidge. I used toasted rosemary olive oil bread, added some baked sweet potato (remember my obsession with sweet potatoes?), and used a Thanksgiving chickpea salad instead of turkey. But the Thanksgiving sandwich is very open to personal improvisation, and it is, of course, the perfect opportunity to use up those beautiful Thanksgiving leftovers in your fridge.
(Putting it all together!)
(The final, majestic product.)
Someday I’ll return to the great northern wild, find that deli again, and feast on Thanksgiving sandwiches. But until then, this version will do quite nicely :)
2 thick slices of rosemary olive oil bread, toasted
2 Tbsp cranberry sauce (you can use canned or homemade, depending on your preference. I used this recipe.)
2 Tbsp pesto (Again, buy or make, whichever you prefer. I used the classic pesto recipe from The Joy of Cooking.)
Thanksgiving chickpea salad (See recipe below.)
2 slices of baked sweet potato
A couple leaves of fresh spinach
I trust that you know how to assemble a sandwich. From the ground up, it’s cranberry sauce, sweet potato, chickpea salad, spinach, pesto. And enjoy!
Thanksgiving Chickpea Salad
Note: This is best made a day or two before sandwich assembly so that all the flavors can meld together.
1 can of chickpeas
2 Tbsp. tahini
3/4 C. celery, chopped
1/2 C. red apple, chopped
1/4 C. white onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
A sprinkle of salt and more than a sprinkle of black pepper
1. Mix the chickpeas, celery, apple and onion together in a large bowl. Add the tahini and mix until everything is well-covered in tahini.
2. Season with the sage, thyme, salt and pepper, and mix it all around again. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it!