When Americans think of Jewish Foods, most think a mile-high pastrami sandwich on rye or bagels and cream cheese with lox. Many insist that these dishes are uniquely Jewish American Creations. And that might be true as we know them today, but Pastrami itself isn’t American.
The origins of pastrami come from a jerky-like pastirma originally developed by the Ottoman Turks. Using beef, goat or mutton, the meat was salt-cured as a way to preserve it, then rubbed with spices and hung out to dry. The Turkish recipe migrated to Eastern Europe along the spice route, and became a mainstay among the Jewish communities of Romania. There the recipe was adapted to utilize goose meat as the preferred pastrami. Eventually the Romanian immigrants settled in New York. There pastrami was changed yet again, using a cheaper and more readily found meat – the beef brisket. When refrigeration came around, Romanians altered the recipe once more, using a weaker salt brine to develop a softer from of pastrami.
It was in New York, around 1887 that a man named Sussan Volk served up what is believed to be the first pastrami sandwich. A Kosher Butcher by trade, Volk claimed he got the recipe for pastrami from a Romanian friend in exchange for storing luggage while his friend returned to Romania. (Hum, so his friend returned to Romania without his luggage? Gotta wonder). Anyway, Volk prepared the meat according to his friend’s recipe, then served it on bread as a sandwich out of his butcher shop. The sandwich became so popular that Volk converted his shop to a delicatessen serving up the now infamous Pastrami on Rye.
Today is National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day. I like mine with lots and lots of gooey cheese and grilled onions on a steak roll. Pass the pickles and enjoy!
Cheesy Hot Pastrami Sandwiches
3 lbs sliced Pastrami
1/2 Purple Onion
6 Hoagie-style Steak Rolls
24 slices Provolone Cheese
12 slices Pepper Jack Cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Cut 6 pieces of foil large enough to wrap the finished sandwiches, set aside.
Divide Pastrami into nine equal piles (3 layers per sandwich). Set aside.
Peel and thinly slice purple or red onion into slivers. Coat a skillet with a little olive oil, then fry onion until almost crisp. Place on paper towels to blot away any oil or moisture. Set aside.
Split rolls open, place bottom roll on each piece of foil. Add first layer of pastrami to each of the bottom rolls. Top first layer with 2 slices of Provolone Cheese, then the second layer of pastrami. Top second layer with 2 slices of Pepper Jack cheese, followed by the final layer of pastrami. Top the last layer of pastrami with remaining slices of Provolone cheese, topped with grilled onions and the top half of the roll. Wrap tightly in foil.
Place wrapped sandwiches on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the heated oven and “grill” for 15 minutes, until heated through and cheeses have melted.
Serve with your best deli style pickles and a bag of chips.