Dagwood Sets the Tone For Father's Day

Father's Day and barbecues seem to be synonymous - or at least joined at the grill.

Many of us bestow a new hibachi, a giant sized-gas cooker, or an oversized set of barbecue tools on our favorite dad for his special day. Then, after presenting him with his gift, we expect him to get to work and produce a great grilled feast for the entire family, cooked on (or with), his new toy.

Poor dad.

Why not make this Father's Day something special, and totally for him - no obligations, no food production, and no clinging-smoke-steeped polo shirts.

Plan a meal with guy-sized gusto - huge Dagwood sandwiches, BLTs or, a stuffed Russian Wolfburger jam-packed with his favorite cheese, hot or sweet peppers, and bacon, served on a giant bun, or a sandwich soiree of unusual breads.

History credits England's John Montague, fourth Earl of Sandwich, with giving the two slices of bread and whatever, its name.

A compulsive gambler, the earl had his manservant bring him hunks of cold, sliced beef between two slices of bread when he refused to leave the gambling table for a meal. Since then, most cultures have come up with their own adaptations. (Some Scandinavian countries have even gone so far as to dispense with the top slice of bread.)

So what actually qualifies as a sandwich?

Virtually, it's any combination of ingredients "sandwiched" between slices of bread; put in a pocket (pita bread); or wrapped (lavash or flour tortillas).

Remember Dagwood Bumstead, that bumbling character of comic book and movie fame? His devoted wife, Blondie, joyfully created huge sandwiches layered with ingredients for her always-ravenous husband.

"Dagwood" sandwiches would be perfect for Father's Day - incorporating all dad's favorite lunch meats, cheeses, pickles, and onions, slathered with mustard and mayonnaise and surrounded on top, bottom, and maybe in the middle, with his favorite bread.

How about huge BLTs stuffed with thick, maple-smoked bacon; leaf lettuce (no iceberg, please); huge slices of beefsteak tomatoes; giant-sized slices of bread spread with lots of mayonnaise, and served with a platter of potato chips and ice-cold kosher dill pickles?

Tramezzini, panini, and muffaletta are fairly new on the American sandwich line-up. They are Italian in origin, and a bit unusual and different in their approach. Tramezzini are small Italian sandwiches made with a high-quality crustless white bread - often filled with a black olive pesto and cheese.

Panini, which means "little breads" in Italian, are filled rolls (panini imbottiti). Italian muffaletta is a traditional sandwich made from a whole round loaf of bread - filled with wonderful stuffings of cheese, meats, and various vegetables, then drizzled with a vinaigrette and topped with its own bread lid, and cut into wedges for serving.

The "hot wraps" of the '90s - those rolled-up sandwiches seen in every gourmet and upscale grocery store - are easy and fun to make with dad's favorite ingredients and condiments. These are sure to be a winner.

Lavash bread comes in two sizes; small and large. Sticking with the theme of guy-sized, go with the large ones - these are not dainty teas sandwiches. These paper-thin bread rounds also come in white and whole wheat.

Flour tortillas will easily work as a bread source and come in different sizes. When putting these sandwiches together, lay them flat, spread them with mustard, mayonnaise, or any favorite spreadable, add a favorite luncheon meat, tuna salad, egg salad, sliced rare roast beef, smoked turkey breast or any other filler of choice, or combination of two or more. Add some lettuce and any other greens, and top with onion, and cheese. Roll them up, and they're ready to go!

If there are children in the house, it might be fun for them to make a special menu for dad.

Have them draw pictures of the various sandwiches, and if they're not at the writing stage, perhaps an adult hand could fill in the captions or do the labeling.

And, if the man in your life really does love his barbecue fare, don't punish him; let him have his grilled goodies - but this day, you wear the apron.

Stuffed Russian Wolfburgers

These stuffed burgers can be filled with almost anything and made from any ground meat you choose. Keep in mind that your burger size can vary from reasonable to huge - use the desired amount of meat per patty, and then cook according to desired doneness. Serve with French fries, onion rings, potato salad or potato chips.

3 to 4 roasted peppers (hot, sweet, or a combination) see below

3 pounds ground meat (beef, bison, lamb, or turkey)

12 tablespoons shredded cheese (any type of your choice)

1/2 pound bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and cut to fit inside burgers

Sliced onion (optional)

6 large buns

Cook the peppers whole over an open flame, (a gas stove top, an out door grill, or a broiler) turning occasionally, until they are blackened and blistered. Remove the peppers to a glass container and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the peppers sweat for about 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin, stem, and seeds. (Do not rinse peppers under water to remove skin, it will diminish the flavor.) Slice the peppers into thin strips.

Divide the meat into six equal patties, (about 5-inches in diameter). Place several strips of pepper, two tablespoons of shredded cheese, and strips of bacon and onion if you wish, on three of the patties.

Place a plain patty on top and seal the burgers by gently pinching the edges and patting it all the way around. The patties may open slightly during cooking, depending on what ground meat you've chosen, and the fat content.

Grill the burgers by placing them on an outdoor (well-sprayed with non-stick spray) grill, or indoor grill pan - and cook to desired doneness. Place the burgers on large buns and serve with an assortment of condiments.

Yield: 6 manly servings.

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