The world’s greatest sandwiches are exquisite specimens of balance. Toppings should add flavors that elevate the stack, and each layer should provide textural contrast without dominating each bite. Condiments need to be cohesive and evenly distributed. And nothing—nothing—should compromise the structural integrity of the bread that’s holding it all together.
So, I need to say it: Sometimes the pickles on my sandwich are a nuisance. This is hard for me to admit. I love pickles, almost as much as I love mayonnaise, which is my go-to condiment for many types of sandwich.
Taking cues from tartar sauce, as well as the rich and spicy relish of giardiniera and mayonnaise that the Cook’s Country team developed for these Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwich recipe, I propose we turn more sandwich pickles into condiments by mixing them with mayonnaise.
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A well-deployed dill, spicy, bread-and-butter, or otherwise pickled vegetable can enliven everything from an Italian grinder to fried chicken to a Vietnamese banh mi. But these one-time cucumbers—or cauliflower, green tomato, daikon radish, etc.—can be sliced so thick that each crunchy bite of sandwich is a briny burst of too-much pickle. And I can’t be the only one who nearly loses their appetite when a pickle—clearly transferred directly from jar to bun—releases all that excess moisture into the bread, making it soggy and impossible to hold.
Combining them just makes sense. Coarsely processing ingredients that have a lot of moisture—such as pickles, olives, capers, and giardiniera—helps bind them and leaves behind extra liquid, as the sandwich-perfecting efforts of former test cook Andrew Janjigian reveal.
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Mixing the chopped pickles with a thick, creamy condiment brings just enough acidity and richness to your sandwich in one spreadable step. It also more evenly distributes the crunchy character that preserved vegetables bring to a sandwich.
If you’d like to try this method at home, here’s the basic idea:
- Drain a 16-ounce jar of pickled vegetables. For especially salty preserves like capers, quickly rinse them.
- Hand-mince or pulse the pickled vegetables in a food processor until finely chopped.
- Blend chopped pickles with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.
- Season to taste with red pepper flakes, lemon or lime zest or juice, etc. Let the condiment sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld before using.
For sandwich aficionados partial to pickles and mayo, it’s a pretty slick trick.