As the demand for all things retro reaches its zenith, childhood staples provide the framework for culinary experimentation. Chefs looking for inspiration this fall need look no farther than the sandwich counter at the nearest cafeteria. Sandwiches, the original fast food and staple of lunchboxes nationwide, are equally enjoyable at ages five and forty-five.
Chef Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate in Chicago includes a number of sandwiches on her menu that breathe gourmet life into a favorite childhood formula. Egg salad receives grown-up treatment with cured salmon and fried shallot, and can be adapted for home use or packed up for a child's lunch. Chef Segal also prepares a pork tenderloin sandwich precisely suited for fall weather. Seasoned with thyme and marinated overnight, thinly sliced pork is covered in melted brie inside a toasty ciabatta loaf and dressed with arugula greens and fig jam. Melted cheese makes several other appearances as sophisticated versions of basic grilled cheese sandwiches. Sharply aged cheddar melted over pumpernickel is complemented by honey syrup, while pungent Taleggio is baked inside buttery brioche squares.