Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sandwich King Spreads the Love

The Food Network's Newest Star Jeff Mauro "The Sandwich King" premiered his new show this morning at 11:30, and he left no doubts about the judges decision last week to award Jeff with his own show. Presenting an engaging personality and quality recipes, Jeff effectively introduced his show by revealing the secrets of the perfect Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich. Flipping back and forth between his time in the studio kitchen and a feature trip to the Italian beef restaurant of his youth, Jeff's show was a lot of fun. Shooting on location from Johnny's Italian Beef in Elmwood Park, Illinois, Jeff introduced the idea of the sandwich with stories of visiting the shop after a day at his Chicago Catholic school. He explained the way the sandwich is prepared, as well as the atmosphere of the scene, with most people eating the sandwich standing up. I could practically smell the "juice" as Jeff took a trip to Italian beef nostalgia.

In the kitchen Jeff walked through the steps of recreating this Chicago staple at home by starting with a pot roast, and then cooking up a nice pepper and onion relish to put on top. As most people don't have a meat slicer at home, Jeff recommended the roast which could simply be pulled apart for the sandwich. While the roast was cooking Jeff also presented a unique creation he calls a Focaccianini = a panini sandwich using a nice mortadella, cheese, and homemade fig spread. Because he doesn't have a panini press in the kitchen (who does?), Jeff pressed the sandwich on a griddle with a bacon press. Great tip and amusing idea. I loved Jeff's description of the mortadella - "the rich man's baloney" - and his comment that every house should have a pound of it on hand. When the beef sandwich was ready, Jeff walked us through creating the au jus, or as Chicagoans call it, "the juice." The sandwich looked - and practically smelled - heavenly.

The Food Network has come a long, long way from the early days of single camera cooking lessons with simply a chef, a studio kitchen, and a recipe. In fact, there's ample evidence to the argument that the Food Network is producing some of the best television on the air today. Jeff's show neatly juxtaposed his work in the kitchen with a little slice of life with the visit to Johnny's. Additionally, the multi-camera editing and split screens created an entertaining montage of shots of Jeff cutting up and preparing the onions and peppers. It was a refreshing change from the often laborious shots of cook's cutting veggies and trying to fill the time with banter - not that stand-up specialist Jeff is ever at a loss for words. But, overall, the producers made some nice editing decisions in giving America its first "taste" of The Sandwich King.

Nice show, Jeff.

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