Pizza Den’s Submarine Sandwich

Frank Bowen sent me this recipe, and here I reproduce his original mail with the reminder that Pizza Den is still open, and Bob’s family is carrying on the tradition of great local food in Oxford. Go see them the next time you’re there.

The following is a recipe that was posted on an Ole Miss Spirit message board several years ago. I made it several times and can attest that it is faithful to the original at the Pizza Den. It is not in standard recipe format, but it tells how to make the sandwich very well. I don’t know who made the post. He had a user name of Reblanta. I have found that the instructions of letting it rest on the counter for 15-20 minutes to simulate delivery is an important step.

Pizza Bob’s Famous Submarine Sandwich

In May, 1983, I had just bought a new car and decided that I would take it out on the road and drive up to Oxford for the afternoon, primarily to drop by Pizza Den and pick up some submarines to take back home and share with my Ole Miss friends that night. Things were slow late that afternoon when I got there but Pizza Bob was in good spirits. Since nobody else was there, I decided to broach the sacred subject on just how Bob made his famous submarine sandwich. Whether he was thinking of the good times he’d had in Nam, the money he had made off of me over the years, or perhaps he just felt sorry for me, I couldn’t tell, but this is what he told me. I watched him make the submarines and committed the process to memory.

Take your baguette, split it down the middle. Pour butter over the open slices of bread, sprinkle on a generous portion of both Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and place several thin slices of ham, salami, AND luncheon meat! Bob dusted all slices in between with the same cheese mixture, then in the middle of the meats he ladled in spaghetti sauce. Over the top of the meats he sprinkled more of the cheese mixture and then placed the other half of the bread on top. Finally, just as he was ready to seal up the sandwich in foil, he poured more melted butter over all. I cook mine about 20 minutes total in 350 degrees, turning it over about half way to disperse the butter evenly throughout. Finally, to make it authentic, take it out of the oven, and leave it on the counter top for about 15 to 20 minutes to simulate the delivery to Fraternity Row. Always remember to press the sandwich down as well.

I make it a point to make “Pizza Bobs” for every first televised football game of the year and I suggest that you do as well. I make mine exactly like he told me to except for that luncheon meat stuff. I hope that when you make your “Pizza Bob” sandwiches, you’ll think of Pizza Bob. I once heard this said and believe it now to be true: If food were a religion, Pizza Bob would be the High Priest.

Reviving Salmagundi

Claiborne—and All Who Sailed in him—declared, “There is something about the word ‘salmagundi’ that has an unmistakable appeal for savants with a leaning toward gourmandism.” (Honestly. I can’t count number of times I’ve wanted to kick that pontifical old queen under the table).

I certainly have no ambition of being a savant, much less one learning towards gourmandism. Like many others, I simply find salmagundi—like pettifoggery, kittywampus or hullabaloo—one of those words you want to just pick off the page, cuddle and tease with a string.

The dish is just as playful. Actually, salmagundi isn’t so much a dish as it is a presentation along the lines of an antipasto or a smorgasbord, of a selection of cold vegetables, pickles, meats, and fruit mounded on a tray.

By precedent, you want your meat, cold poached chicken atop salad greens ringed with pickles, cooked eggs, raw or blanched vegetables, citrus, nuts, sausages, and cold fish—anchovies are a classic addition, but I like smoked salmon, too. Pretty much anything goes with the notable exception of cheese, which isn’t included in any reliable historic recipe. The emphasis should be on piquancy set off by elements that are crisp and bland. Serve with an herby oil and vinegar dressing.

Mississippi Hill Country Stew

Brown lightly floured stew meat with chopped onions and a clove or so of minced garlic. Dust with a bit more flour, stir well, add coarsely diced potatoes, carrots, celery, and water to cover over by a half. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook–stirring occasionally–on low heat until meat and vegetables are tender. Reduce to consistency. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve with rice and/ or cornbread.

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ginger Molasses

My recipe is a riff on that of fellow Calhoun Countian April McGregor, who knowingly writes that kneading makes biscuits heavy.

To 3 cups soft flour sifted with two teaspoons baking powder, cut in a cup of cold cooked sweet potatoes, one stick cold butter sliced into pats. You can add chopped pecans if you like. Combine and quickly mix by hand to a rice-like consistency. Add enough cold buttermilk to make a sticky dough.

Pat out on a floured surface, cut with a sharp edge, and place in a lightly oiled skillet. Don’t use a cake tin, or you’ll burn the bottoms. Place on an upper rack in a hot oven, and bake for about 15 minutes.

Mix a cup of molasses with a quarter cup water in a small saucepan; add a few slices of ginger and simmer until thickened.

The Cheese Straw Alternative

Admit it; making cheese straws is a pain in the butt.

Though they’re a must on your browsing buffets (if not, someone sniffy is bound to say, “Oh, I should have brought you MY WONDERFUL cheese straws!”), they still aren’t something you might feel like throwing together for a more casual gathering like a bowl game, backyard picnic, or that special moment when y’all decided to get married all of a sudden and your mother(s) held a reception.

Simply make a dough with one cup plain flour, one cup grated sharp cheddar and one stick of softened butter, add a little salt, a little white pepper, roll out, shape with a cookie cutter (which is quite easy to clean) and bake at 350 until nice and crisp. Dust with paprika and a little cayenne.

Watergate Cake

We of an age remember Watergate as a by-word for what seem in retrospect the petty political machinations of a former day, but the younger likely find it nothing more than a name.

1 box white cake mix
1 cup oil
1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding
1 cup lemon-lime soda
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup shredded coconut

2 (3 oz.) envelopes Dream Whip
1 1/2 cups milk
1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Bake batter in two greased and dusted 9-inch round baking pans. Whip Dream Whip and milk into peaks, gradually add pudding mix and keep beating into a fluff. Assemble cooled cake, frosting between layers, then frost completely. Refrigerate overnight, and top with crushed pistachios and grated coconut. before serving.

Spatchcocked Game Hen

An aromatic dish for small gatherings. These can be prepared on a sheet pan, but skillets make a better presentation. Preheat oven to 400. Rinse hen, pat dry, remove wing tips and backbone. Turn breast side up, open it up like a book, and whack it a time or two with your fist to crack the breastbone and flatten it out. Tuck the wings under the thighs. Oil the hen, season with salt and plenty of good black pepper. Line a well-oiled skillet with rosemary and garlic, place bird on top, and bake until browned.

Jesse’s Little Red Ribs

Cut two pounds of meat and end bones from a rack into more or less bite-sized pieces. Mix a half cup each hoisin and brown sugar, stir in a quarter cup each rice/cider vinegar, vegetable oil, and lite soy. Add a toe of grated ginger, and a teaspoon (or so) red food coloring. Mix very well with rib meat, and marinate for at least an hour. Drain, spread meat onto a sturdy well-oiled pan, and roast on low heat until crisp. Boiled Irish potatoes are nice option, fresh onion an absolute must.

Comeback Sauce

This concoction has been employed as a cold sauce across the South for a long time, but in Jackson, Mississippi, it’s called comeback.

Its commercial popularity in Jackson harkens back to the Rotisserie, a restaurant the Dennery family ran at Five Points way back when that part the city was cool, probably around the time poodle skirts were all the rage. I’ve seen comeback referred to as “Mississippi Comeback”. I like that; if Mississippi were to have a signature dish, it should be one that beckons her weary children home. As a Mississippian, knowing how to make a good comeback should be as much a part of your repertoire as knowing how to pass a tractor towing a bat wing bush hog on a two-lane highway.

Most recipes for comeback involve an emulsion combined with chili sauce or ketchup. Some prefer salad dressing instead of mayonnaise. I suspect that because the main ingredients are kitchen staples, and since the resulting mixture looks and tastes a lot like Thousand Island without pickles, this Ur-comeback became a popular substitute for store-bought. The basic combination was often taught in home ec, but many learned it at their mother’s knee.

My version of comeback is quite simple, involving no more than mayonnaise, chili sauce, Worcestershire, and black pepper with a smidgen of onion powder. For seafood, a little lemon juice is needed along with horseradish and fresh parsley.

Cream Soup

Cream soups add a warm touch to any cool-weather occasion. These soups involve many of the same procedures and ingredients as others: aromatics, broth, vegetables, or seafood, but with an enrichment of cream.

In my experience, a bisque (“twice cooked”) usually refers to a cream soup containing seafood such as shrimp, crawfish, or lobster, though some tomato cream soups fall into the category.

If you happen to be a domestic deity and have homemade stock on hand, then by all means use it; if not, use a quart of store-bought. Add a cup of diced onion, celery, and carrot along with a few pinches of thyme and parsley. Let it sweat on a low heat for about an hour or so. Strain and set aside.

Make a light roux with a ½  stick of butter and a quarter cup of plain flour. Drizzle into the stock and mix with a whip until it begins to thicken. Add a cup of whole cream and about two cups of your choice of prepared meats or vegetables.

Let soup rest off heat before serving with a little swirl of butter. This recipe makes about about six 12-oz. servings.