For someone who recently claimed she could “barely make salad,” Stephanie Smith is making quite a name for herself thanks to a new book all about cooking. Well, kind of.
Smith’s 300 Sandwiches: A Multilayered Love Story . . . with Recipes—which began as a blog that almost immediately received international attention—started as something of a joke.
“My then-boyfriend and now-fiancé Eric cooks beautifully, he can make anything under the sun, and I can’t cook much at all,” Smith, a New York Post reporter, explains. “He made a joke that all he really wanted me to make for him were sandwiches, and that became a running gag between us. So one day I made one—turkey, Swiss, very basic—and he went gaga for it and blurted out, ‘Honey, you’re 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring!’”
What Eric meant as a joke, Smith took as a challenge. “I realized I could actually, physically do that,” she says now. “So I decided to try and see what would happen.”
What happened was a website (300sandwiches.com) chronicling the endeavor—from early creations like Italian Sloppy Joes and lobster rolls through more recent dishes including jalapeno and cheddar-stuffed burgers—and, now, a book. And still, Smith says she hasn’t lost her taste for sandwiches.
“I’m not sick of them yet,” she says. “The creativity that’s involved has made it really fun; I think about how I can put a new twist on each element of the sandwich, so I’ve been able to be really innovative.”
One thing about sandwiches, however, never seems to change. Smith says, “Sandwiches do taste better when someone else makes them for you!”
Here, Smith shares her must-haves for any amateur sandwich chef.
“I like a good, crusty-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside loaf of bread. And I pay attention to the bread when I’m making a particular sandwich—I’m thinking about texture and sturdiness. When I shop, if I can find Balthazar’s bread, which is amazing, I pick it up. But any sort of fresh bread from a bakery will do. Though, there are also some sandwiches that are better on plain, old Wonder Bread.”
“I’m not talking about table salt here. The right salt really does help to add flavor to a sandwich, and with a nice, flakey sea salt you only need a pinch. I prefer Jacobson’s, which is made in Oregon and his great big flakes of salt. It really brightens up everything. Another great option is Dean & Deluca black truffle sea salt. Other truffle salts are cheaper, but this one is more fragrant—with a smoother, buttery scent—and at about $30, worth every dime.”
“I’m a freak for this stuff. And what’s great about it is that it’s really very versatile, it’s not just heat for heat’s sake. You can use it plain—like on vegetables or eggs—but I really love to add it to condiments, especially mayonnaise, to add a little spice.”
“Can you tell I’m a condiment nerd? We have a lot of mustard in our refrigerator. At one point I counted eight different bottles. My favorite brand is Maille and I like to have at least one whole-grain mustard on hand, one Dijon variety and one spicy variety.”
“I use Greek yogurt as a base for creamy condiments. And if I’m making something like chicken salad, I cut the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt to add in that extra, zingy flavor. Fage is the king of all Greek yogurts, in my opinion.”
Meat & Cheese
“Everyone has preferences for specific meats—some people like turkey, some people like ham—but no matter what I’m using, I try to only buy those things from a human—a butcher or a cheese monger—because I get fresher products and I tend to only buy what I need.”