The list of restaurants I’d like to visit in Brooklyn keeps growing, and I just added one more to it. Saltie is a sandwich shop that specializes in putting classic combinations of things that might not have been thought of as sandwiches before between pieces of bread. They rely on local and seasonal ingredients and make their breads, mayonnaise, vinaigrettes, pickles, yogurt, sweets, and soups from scratch. The new book from the shop is Saltie: A Cookbook, and I received a review copy. The recipes include the focaccia and naan they use for sandwiches as well as all the condiments, pickles, and other items they prepare. A few of the sandwiches that jumped out at me were the Curried Rabbit which is a play on Welsh rarebit with cheddar, curried mayonnaise, apple salad, and currant pickle; the Spanish Armada with potato tortilla and pimenton aioli; and the Henry Hudson with fried green tomatoes, bacon, mayonnaise, and fresh basil. Then, from the Soups section, there’s a Cauliflower, Leek, and Gruyere Soup and a Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup I want to try. There are also salads with greens, grains, and bread in some cases. Every dish offers a fresh, savory mix of things you know will taste great together. For instance, I already had a thing for the combination of beets and hard-boiled eggs. So, the Scuttlebutt sandwich had to be my first stop in the book. It’s built on freshly-baked focaccia and layered with pimenton aioli, feta, and black olives. I couldn’t wait to taste it.
First, I followed the recipe from the book for focaccia with an easy, no-knead process. The dough was mixed, then transferred to an oiled bowl, and then refrigerated for anywhere from eight hours to two days. The dough was spread on a baking sheet and left to come to room temperature before being dimpled, sprinkled with salt, and baked. Up next, I made the pimenton aioli. As usual, I’m not capable of making a mayonnaise or aioli in a food processor or blender. I only seem to have luck with a hand mixer. I eventually got a good emulsion. A day in advance, I roasted and pickled some beets, and the pickled beets will last in the refrigerator for up to two months. For the hard-boiled eggs, the authors offer an interesting technique. They suggest poking a hole in the big end of each egg with a thumbtack. The tack should be twisted into the shell and pushed all the way in until the flat part of the tack touches the shell and then removed. Then, the eggs were placed in boiling water and left for ten minutes before being transferred to ice water. I was using very fresh, local eggs, and the shells did come off more easily than they usually do. So, I’ve been repeating this for all the eggs I’ve boiled since. To make the sandwich, the focaccia was cut into squares and sliced in half horizontally. On the cut sides, the pimenton aioli was spread on each piece. Then, sliced hard-boiled egg was added followed by a mix of black olives, capers, herbs, sliced green onion, and sliced radishes. I added the sliced pickled beets last with sliced feta.
This was one of those deliciously messy sandwiches in which everything wants to squish out the sides and you try to keep things intact since you don’t want to lose a single bit of it. You could give up and attack it with a fork and knife, but where’s the fun in that? Until I can plan a food tour of Brooklyn, I’ll keep sampling more things from this book.
Hard-boiled egg, pimentón aioli, feta, black olive, capers, fresh herbs, pickled beets
Recipe re-printed with publisher's permission from Saltie: A Cookbook.
“I’m English, and the Scuttlebutt is really a sandwich my sister used to make for me of salad on white bread with salad cream. . . . It’s obviously tweaked a bit, but when we said, ‘Oh, we’re going to make sandwiches; what was your favorite sandwich?’ I’d say I had this really awesome sandwich of hard- boiled eggs and whatever was in the fridge—a Dagwood Bumstead. It was really delicious.” —RC
Makes 1 Sandwich
There is so much to say about the Scuttlebutt. It really has earned its gossipy title. It’s the sandwich that is most likely to change, as the ingredients rotate with the seasons and with what’s in the refrigerator. In summer, it has tomatoes and arugula; in winter, squash and a chiffonade of Tuscan kale. There is a rotating cast of pickles, the most popular being the beet. Some people order the Scuttlebutt as “the sandwich with the beets,” which never fails to disappoint when those particular pickles are off the menu. The staple ingredients remain pimentón aioli, hard-boiled egg, feta, capers, and olives. The rest is a free-for-all that for some can end in tears. The Scuttlebutt makes people emotional. It is an exercise in impermanence.
1 sandwich-size piece of Focaccia (see separate recipe)
2 tablespoons Pimentón Aioli
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon pitted oil-cured olives, chopped
1/2 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup Fresh Herb Mix
2 tablespoons chopped pickles, ideally Pickled Beets (see separate recipe)
1 radish, thinly sliced (optional but nice)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce sheep’s milk feta
Cut the focaccia in half horizontally and put on a plate, cutsides up. Spread both cut sides with aioli. Arrange the egg slices evenly on the bottom half of the bread. Set aside.
In a bowl, toss the olives, capers, herbs, pickles, and radish (if using) with just enough olive oil to coat lightly. Mound the salad on top of the egg. If you can, slice the feta and arrange on top of the salad. If you can’t get a nice even slice of feta, you can either crumble it on top of the salad (although it will tend to roll off the top of pile), or you can toss the feta with the salad. Quickly replace the top of the bread before the sandwich falls apart, pressing gently to help it hold together, and serve right away.
Focaccia is the bread that we use for most of the sandwiches at Saltie. The reasons for choosing this soft-but-chewy Italian yeast bread were equally pragmatic and delicious. We considered what we could reasonably produce and decided a bread that we could make on a baking sheet would be much more economical in terms of time and space than one that required more individual attention. As has been the case with many of our choices at Saltie, landing on focaccia at first may have seemed the solution to how to do something in the best and most efficient way, but it quickly became the fact-of-the-matter only possible choice that it is today. Now I can’t imagine life without focaccia. Its fluffy, oily welcome greets me daily.
Enough for 8-10 sandwiches
6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and drizzling
Coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the warm water to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and a sticky dough forms (no kneading required). Pour the 1/4 cup olive oil into a 6-quart plastic food container with a tight-fitting lid (see Note). Transfer the focaccia dough to the plastic container, turn to coat, and cover tightly. Place in the refrigerator to rise for at least 8 hours or for up to 2 days.
When you’re ready to bake, oil an 18-by-13-inch baking sheet. Remove the focaccia dough from the refrigerator and transfer to the prepared pan. Using your hands spread the dough out on the prepared pan much as possible, adding oil to the dough as needed to keep it from sticking. Place the dough in a warm place and let rise until about doubled in bulk. The rising time will vary considerably depending on the season. (In the summer, it may take only 20 minutes for the dough to warm up and rise; in the winter it can take an hour or more.)
When the dough is ready, it should be room temperature, spread out on the sheet, and fluffy feeling. Pat down the focaccia to an even thickness of about 1 inch on the baking sheet tray and begin to make indentations in the dough with your fingertips. Dimple the entire dough and then drizzle the whole thing again with olive oil. Sprinkle the entire surface of the focaccia evenly with sea salt.
Bake, rotating once front to back, until the top is uniformly golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then slide out of the pan. Use the same day.
Note : This easy recipe calls for a large plastic food-storage container, about a 6-quart capacity, with a tight-fitting lid. Otherwise, you can use a large mixing bowl and cover the dough with plastic wrap. Unfortunately, focaccia suffers a rapid and significant deterioration in quality after the first day. It is also impossible to make bread crumbs with focaccia. Ideally, bake and eat focaccia on the same day. If there is some left over, wrap it tightly in plastic and store at room temperature for one day more. Day-old focaccia is delicious in soup.
These are the pickles that have caused our customers to ask for the Scuttlebutt not by name but as “the sandwich with the beets on it.” People love beets! Go figure. Here’s what they are talking about.
Makes 2 Quarts
2 bunches beets (about 10 beets, or 5 pounds total weight), scrubbed and trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 whole star anise, broken up
8 whole allspice berries
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the beets in a roasting pan. Add just enough water to the pan to evenly cover the bottom. Salt the beets and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about an hour, depending on the size. Let cool until you can handle them, then peel the beets, slipping the skins off with your fingers or a kitchen towel and using a paring knife where they stick. Cut into slices 1/4 inch thick and put in a large, heatproof bowl. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and spices and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. When the sugar and salt have dissolved, pour the pickle over the beets. Let the pickles cool at room temperature and then put them into a plastic or glass container, cover, and refrigerate. The pickled beets will be ready to eat the next day and will keep for up to 2 months.
Variation: Pickled Red Onions
Follow the main recipe, substituting 4 large red onions, thinly sliced, for the beets.