Glammin' Up Sammies: 10 Dinner-Worthy Sandwiches

By: Kim Williamson

Not just for lunch: With a few tweaks, a sandwich can be dinner-worthy. See more healthy soups and sandwiches pictures.
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In the 1986 Brat Pack movie," About Last Night," Demi Moore starred with Rob Lowe as a romantic couple living together for the first time. Moore described their culinary situation, saying they each cooked two nights a week, ate out two nights a week, and the last night was Sandwich Night. Moore's BFF mocked her friend for sinking to such domesticity.

Not just pop culture, Sandwich Night is a slice of Americana happening in households all over. Sandwiches for dinner are popular for obvious reasons. This handy-dandy meal has so many positive elements. It is:

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  • easier than a hot, homemade meal
  • great for busy nights
  • accommodates multiple schedules
  • a change from normal
  • casually eaten on the couch while watching TV

On the flip side, Sandwich Night could be considered the lazy way out, showing you don't have the time or inclination to make a hot, nutritious meal. For some, sandwiches are boring -- a BLT, turkey with Swiss or PB&J are items you could buy at a convenience store -- and not filling enough. From a health perspective, most sandwiches don't provide the vegetables servings typically associated with dinner, the main meal of the day. A slice of lettuce or tomato isn't close to satisfying the food pyramid.

But with some creativity and thought, you can break the mold and serve sandwiches that are filling, healthy and delicious. Read on to discover how to elevate Sandwich Night to an art form. Some might call it witchcraft, sandwich-craft, that is.

10: Vegetarian Pita

Meat is usually the main ingredient of any sandwich, but this dinner takes vegetables that are typically just toppings and makes them the mainstay of the meal. The beauty of this sandwich is that you have so many interesting, healthy options from which to choose. Chickpeas, sprouts, avocado, eggplant, roasted or sautéed tomatoes and various types of lettuce make delicious sandwich staples, and you can use all of them, piled high, at the same time. Different sauces, dressings, cheeses and spreads add spice, and you can even jazz things up with various pita or wraps -- tomato basil, spinach and whole wheat all add flavor. Vegetarian sandwiches are versatile, and you can serve them hot or cold, grilled or chilled.

This sandwich deflates the theory that sandwiches for dinner are a lazy and unimaginative choice. After all, mashed chickpeas with peppers, lemon juice and olive oil take time and creativity, and the result is healthier and probably tastier than your average meat-and-potatoes meal. Serve it with a warm soup, and everyone will leave happy.

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9: The Reuben-esque sandwich

A traditional Reuben is stacked high with corned beef and sauerkraut.
A traditional Reuben is stacked high with corned beef and sauerkraut.
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Peter Paul Rubens was a famous painter in the 1600s, famous for the curvy, full-figured female subjects that he painted. The term "Rubenesque" is still used to describe this shape. The Reuben sandwich, while not named for the painter, is full-figured in its own right with rye bread stacked with meat, cheese, sauerkraut and dressing.

This sandwich (which was invented in 1914 by a deli owner named Arnold Reuben) is a great dinner option because there are so many different combinations to use, aside from the traditional sandwich. Start with your bread of choice -- rye is traditional, but again, make it your own. Spread the bread with butter and mayonnaise, and then start building your sandwich. You can't go wrong with corned beef or pastrami, but also try ham or go for a turkey Reuben. To spice things up, add chili, peppers and pickles. Sauerkraut or cole slaw can be the veggie topper, and for cheeses, use your favorite. Grill each slice until the cheese is hot and bubbly, add tomatoes or lettuce, and then sandwich together for a delicious dinner. You'll probably want to use a few toothpicks to hold this full-figured sammie together!

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8: Cheese and Short Ribs

One of the common complaints about sandwiches for dinner is that they don't fill you up. Well, adjust your belt buckle because this dinner dish will leave you stuffed. This cheese and short ribs sandwich is a combination of two winners -- grilled cheese and barbecue.

Short ribs by themselves make a great meal, and in fact, a good idea is to make short ribs for dinner one night, and then later in the week, follow up with this sandwich using the leftovers. Take the cooked meat and sauté in a pot with carrots, celery and onions; then add wine, cooking sherry, beef broth and some thyme and bay leaves for flavor. Leave the meat to simmer until you can easily pull it off the bone.

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Next, caramelize some onions and arrange your buttered sandwich bread on a baking sheet -- any crusty bread works well. Top each slice with rib meat and sauce, cheese (Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack works well) and top with a spoonful of caramelized onions. Using a griddle or large skillet, grill each slice until your cheese is gooey. Add a bit of arugula for extra taste and color.

This sandwich is not only filling, it's a true knife-and-fork meal that your family will love.

7: Tastes Like Chicken

Adding herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme or cumin brings unexpected flavor to a chicken sandwich.
Adding herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme or cumin brings unexpected flavor to a chicken sandwich.
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Every restaurant always has a chicken sandwich, so duplicate this at home for a great dinner. The appeal of chicken is that it really does go with anything, so you can jazz up this sandwich any way that you please.

First rule of thumb -- season it! Use rosemary, thyme, pesto, curry or even cumin for some extra taste and spice. Or, make it international with curry, teriyaki, soy or wasabi sauces. Cheese goes wonderfully with chicken and you have so many choices. Melted Fontina cheese, blue cheese crumbles, feta, pepper jack or Gouda are great options.

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Now, the fun really begins. For toppings, add lots of vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, shallots, radicchio or onions. Arugula or romaine lettuces make great toppings and tomatoes are always a good selection.

Chicken sandwiches are so versatile and most can be served chilled or warm. For that extra touch, take a few minutes to put it under the broiler.

6: Meatball or Sausage Sub

A meatball or sausage hoagie may not be original, but it's a great follow up to a spaghetti dinner. Next time you have pasta, save some of your red sauce, and meatball sandwiches will be a snap to prepare.

These sandwiches are not for wimpy paper plates, but are another knife-and-fork meal. Start off with some sort of roll to hold all the cheesy, saucy goodness. Based on your family's preference, you can use meatballs or sausage as the main ingredient, or some people prefer a little of both. Spice up the sauce with garlic, oregano, basil or other Italian seasoning, or add crushed red pepper for some extra zing. Top the meat with the sauce and generous amounts of cheese such as Parmesan, provolone or mozzarella. Finishing touches include peppers, olives, onions or all of the above.

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Like most Italian dishes, these sandwiches go great with a side salad, and it's an easy way to sneak in those extra servings of vegetables.

5: Grilled Steak and Onions

Grill everything needed for this sandwich -- including beef, onions and veggies.
Grill everything needed for this sandwich -- including beef, onions and veggies.
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Just like the short rib sandwich before, a steak sandwich is a perfect way to use leftovers or put a new twist on a tried-and-true dish. After all, your average teenager might prefer a steak sandwich to a salad and filet mignon.

With this sandwich, you want to grill the key ingredients, including your vegetables -- the onions, green peppers and tomatoes. Mix up a seasoning of olive oil, salt and pepper to brush on the steak, tomatoes and onions, and then add a touch of blackening spice to the onions for extra flavor.

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Use crusty bread -- French or focaccia work well -- and add lettuce to complete the sandwich. This sandwich uses many of the same ingredients as a steak dinner, served in a casual, fun style for your family.

4: Tuscan Tuna Salad

Traditional tuna salad may include celery, onions and lots of mayonnaise, but why go traditional for dinner when you can go gourmet? This tuna salad is mayonnaise-free, and tastes like something fresh you made from the Italian wine country.

First, take Italian tuna mixed with olive oil, Kalamata olives, basil, celery and red onions. Add a little salt, pepper and lemon juice for zest. For the bean spread, mash cannellini beans with more oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and then add in some savory Italian spices -- garlic, parsley and basil.

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Once you have your two concoctions, alternate spreading the tuna and the bean mixture on slices of bread. Separate the layers with watercress or romaine lettuce. The result is a delicious tuna salad sandwich that will have your children exclaiming "Mamma mia!"

3: Talking Turkey

Why not make your turkey sandwich a turkey wrap?
Why not make your turkey sandwich a turkey wrap?
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A traditional turkey sandwich, usually made with Swiss cheese and mayo, won't cause your family to take notice. But, break out of the mold, give it a little pizzazz, and it makes a great dinner.

To class up this bird, start with thinly sliced smoked turkey. Spread opened French baguettes with an orange marmalade. Top the bread with smoked turkey, creamy brie and lettuce (arugula or romaine are good choices). The sweet taste of marmalade contrasts wonderfully with the smoky taste of turkey and smooth brie.

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For another option, mix your veggies and fruits as sandwich toppers. Still using thinly sliced turkey, top your bread with a spread of mustard, the meat, Gouda cheese, pickled onions, spinach leaves and fresh cherries. The result is an explosion of tangy, salty and sweet that tastes nothing like your Thanksgiving Day leftover sandwich.

2: The Monte Cristo

Many people are familiar with Alexander Dumas' 1844 novel "The Count of Monte Cristo," but did the sandwich derive its name from the literary work? Food historians think that the sandwich was named after the French sandwich, croque monsieur, which is basically a grilled cheese made similarly to today's Monte Cristo. Some versions of the story do say the sandwich's name was a tribute to Dumas' book. Regardless, we know this sandwich originated in France and was served in a Paris café around 1910. It hit the California coast sometime in the mid-1900s, and then made the menu in Disneyland. The rest, as they say, is history.

So, what exactly is a Monte Cristo? It combines elements of breakfast and lunch, so serving it for dinner might just make some odd sense. This sandwich starts with three fairly boring deli staples -- turkey, ham and Swiss cheese -- and combines them between some thick, crusty bread spread with a touch of mustard and mayonnaise. Then, the whole sandwich is dipped in an egg mixture, much like French toast, and fried, giving it a tasty combination of salty and sweet. It's common to serve this sandwich with a side dish of jelly or even sprinkled with powdered sugar.

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Like the novel which shares the same name, the Monte Cristo is a classic and this stacker is definitely dinner-worthy.

1: The Pressed Italian Sub

Italy is known for its food, so it's no wonder there are a few Italian concoctions on this list. The beauty of this sandwich is there is seasoning and spice on every layer -- after all, that's Italian! First, start with ciabatta bread. Smooth on some olive tapenade and sprinkle oil and vinegar. Then, start the layers of deli meat; beware -- if you're a vegetarian, this sandwich is not for you!

Salami and capicolla are standards, followed by prosciutto, mozzarella, peppers, and Italian spices like basil or oregano. Pepperoni and black olives are also great toppings.

Next, you want to press the sandwich, and you do this by wrapping it well in plastic wrap. Place a heavy, flat object like a cutting board on top of the sandwich and put weight on the cutting board. Ideally, you want the weight to be between 2 to 4 pounds (907 grams to 1.8 kilograms), so a pack of soda, a large pot or even a handweight will work. The cutting board helps distribute the weight evenly. After a couple of hours, you can remove the sandwich and cut into eighths.

The result -- a delicious pressed sandwich that can be served at dinner with a soup, or taken to the park, ballgames or wherever your busy family is headed.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Bleimes, Ashley. "Sandwiches: They're What's for Dinner."USAToday. December 18, 2006. (November 18, 2011). http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-12-18-sandwiches_x.htm
  • Carlos, Brenda. "Fascinating Facts about the Sandwich." Chefs. (November 29, 2011). http://www.chefs.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?articleID=70
  • The Food Timeline. "FAQs: Sandwiches." (November 19, 2011). http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodsandwiches.html
  • The Kitchen. "Easy Gourmet: 9 Classed Up Sandwiches for Dinner. (November 15, 2011). http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/recipe-roundup/easy-gourmet-9-classedup-sandwiches-for-dinner-148139
  • Rosenfeld, Tony. "Sandwiches Worthy of the Dinner Table." The Washington Post. July 5, 2011. (November 11, 2011). http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/sandwiches-worthy-of-the-dinner-table/2011/06/24/gHQAHLNyyH_story.html
  • What's Cooking America. "Monte Cristo Sandwich: History of Monte Cristo Sandwich." November 29, 2011). http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Sandwiches/MonteCristoSandwich.htm
  • What's Cooking America. "Sandwiches: History of Sandwiches." (November 29, 2011). http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/SandwichHistory.htm
  • Woman's Day. "12 To-Die-For Dinner Sandwiches." June 3, 2011. (November 14, 2011). http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/12-to-die-for-dinner-sandwiches-2492787.html

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