How often does a scruffy guy open a funky neighborhood sandwich shop that becomes a coast-to-coast culinary sensation? Like never, that’s how often. Yet that’s exactly what transpired not long ago when Mason Hereford welcomed hungry New Orleanians to Turkey and the Wolf and its chefy, stoner-ific sammies loaded with catfish salad, chicken-fried steak and anchovy crème fraîche. Glowing reviews and best-new-restaurant accolades from Bon Appétit and Food & Wine followed, and still keep the joint hopping. Now Hereford channels his sandwich voodoo into a new cookbook, also titled Turkey and the Wolf, and shares some choice recipes with you. But first, a word with the man behind the sandwich sorcery.
How did you decide to focus your culinary skills on a sandwich shop?
I grew up in Virginia eating at a ton of sandwich places, and after I started cooking in New Orleans, found that po’boys and muffalettas dominate the local sandwich scene. So I started adding sandwiches to menus where I worked, and realized they’re an opportunity for culinary expression, with all the layering of flavors. A great sandwich is so much more than meat, cheese and bread.
What were your initial expectations for Turkey and the Wolf?
When we opened, if I could make a regular paycheck and we could have a lot of staff parties, that was enough. Then we got some attention, then lines started to form. The response far exceeded expectations, and frankly, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves.
You make some out-there sandwiches. What the process for creating a new winner?
The starting point is usually someone in the kitchen eating something else that got them really jazzed, like a bag of potato chips or a dish their grandma made. So we bounce ideas, tweak for a long time, come up with an esoteric flavor combo, and then maybe dial it back a bit.
Desert island condiment?
Mayo because it can be turned into so many things. But if I couldn’t add anything, I’d go for hot sauce because it’s spicy and acidic.
How many sandwiches do you eat a week?
A whole sandwich? Just one or two. But I participate in the group-eating of probably 10 more sandwiches.
The Tomato Sandwich (shown above)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
8 thick slices white bread
1/2 cup mayo (preferably Duke’s)
1 cup roasted salted hulled sunflower seeds
Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or Morton)
Fresh ground black pepper
2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Handful basil leaves
2 juicy lemons, halved
Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Swipe butter on each side of bread slices and toast in batches in skillet until golden brown. Move to a rack or stand up so they lean against each other to keep from getting soggy.
Spread mayo evenly on one side of each bread slice. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on four slices.
Sprinkle salt (1 tbsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tbsp Morton) and lots of pepper on both sides of tomato slices, then pile on bread slices that have sunflower seeds.
Top tomatoes with equal portions of basil and dill. (It will seem like a lot, but go for it.)
Squeeze on every last drop of lemon juice.
Top with remaining bread. Cut sandwich in half if desired.
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The Soft-Shell Crab
2 qts vegetable or canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or Morton), plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 big soft-shell crabs (5–6 oz each), or 8 smaller ones, prepped and cleaned
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
8 thick slices soft white bread
Malt Vinegar Tartar Sauce (recipe below)
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 or 2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
1 juicy lemon
Old Bay Seasoning
Malt Vinegar Tartar Sauce
(Makes 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup dill pickle, chopped small
1 cup mayo (preferably Duke’s)
1/4 cup malt vinegar
3 tbsp chopped dill
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or 1/4 tsp Morton
Heat 2 inches oil in a large pot over medium-high heat to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a rack or paper towels.
Stir together flour, salt (1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton) and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Dredge crabs in flour until totally coated, then move to a plate.
Fry crabs in batches so they don’t crowd the oil, flipping once halfway through and adjusting heat to keep oil temp around 350°F, until crispy and claws and legs are fried in place, 5 to 7 minutes. Use tongs to move to baking sheet and sprinkle both sides with salt.
Heat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Swipe butter generously on each side of bread slices. Working in batches, cook bread until both sides are golden brown. When done, move to a rack or stand up so they lean against each other to keep from getting soggy.
Generously swipe tartar sauce on all eight slices of bread. Pile lettuce on four slices, top with onions and jalapeños, then whole crabs. Squeeze lemon juice over, top with remaining bread, and sprinkle tops with Old Bay to taste.
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The Collard Melt
4 bunches collard greens (about 10 oz each)
6 tbsp unsalted butter
6–8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 tbsp white sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning
1 tbsp red chile flakes
2 tsp granulated chicken bouillon
Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or Morton)
6 cups thinly sliced green cabbage, packed
Heaping 1/2 cup mayo (preferably Duke’s)
1/4 cup thinly sliced white onion
1 1/2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
18 slices seeded soft rye bread
12 slices Swiss cheese, cut thick
Tear collard leaves from stems, discarding stems, and chop into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Set aside.
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add sugar, red wine and rice vinegars, hot sauce, Creole seasoning, chile flakes, bouillon, salt (2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton) and 8 cups water. Bring mixture to a simmer for a minute or two, so flavors meld and develop.
Add collards in a few batches, stirring and letting wilt a bit before adding next batch. When all collards are wilted, adjust heat to maintain low simmer. Cook about 2 hours, until collards are soft (even a bit mushy) and liquid has reduced to a rich, “pot likker” broth an inch or so deep.
Let collards cool in pot likker. Makes about 6 cups. Can transfer to an airtight container and keep in fridge up to 1 week.
Combine cabbage, mayo, onion, vinegar, salt (1 tsp Diamond Krystal or ó tsp Morton) and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Massage cabbage so it wilts to about 3 cups of coleslaw. Chill in fridge up to 3 days.
Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from broiler and preheat broiler. In a small pot, warm 1 1/2 cups collards and a splash of pot likker. (Use remaining collards as side dish to other meals, or to make more sandwiches!)
Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Swipe softened butter on each side of bread and toast in batches in skillet until both sides are golden brown. Move 12 slices to baking sheets in a single layer. Top each with a slice of Swiss and melt under broiler, 1 to 2 minutes, and remove.
Place a handful of the coleslaw atop 6 slices of cheesy toast. Top with remaining cheesy slices (cheese side up), then spoon on collards (about 1/4 cup per sandwich). Slather remaining slices of rye with Russian dressing to complete sandwiches. Cut in half and serve at room temperature.
4 Martin’s potato sandwich rolls Mayo (preferably Duke’s)
8 bun-size pieces iceberg lettuce
12–16 dill pickle chips
1 cup French’s Crispy Fried Onions
Spicy Chicken Spices
(Makes 1 Cup)
Mix well, breaking up any clumps:
1 tbsp granulated chicken bouillon
1/4 cup Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
3 tbsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
Kosher salt (2 tbsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tbsp Morton)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Up to 12 hours or as little as 2 hours ahead, brine chicken: Combine 4 cups water with salt 1/4 cup Diamond Crystal or 1/8 cup Morton) and sugar in a medium pot. Set over medium heat and stir occasionally, just until salt and sugar and dissolve, then let cool completely. Transfer brine and thighs to a resealable bag and chill in fridge.
Heat oven to 400°F. Drain brined chicken, pat dry and season all over with 1/4 cup Spicy Chicken Spices.
Roast seasoned chicken on a baking sheet until centers are cooked through (cut into one to peek inside), about 15 minutes. Immediately squeeze on lemon juice and rest.
Warm a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Swipe 1/2 tsp butter onto cut side of each roll half, then toast the cut sides in batches until dark golden brown. Move them to a tray to build sandwiches.
If chicken thighs are too big, cut to fit on rolls. Evenly swipe about 1 tsp mayo on each roll top and bottom. On each roll bottom, pile 2 lettuce leaves, 3 or 4 pickle chips, the chicken and 1/4 cup fried onions. Top with other half of roll.
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