Monday, May 16, 2011


Shooter's sandwich. © Ryan Schierling
I'm not exactly sure when the term "SILF" entered the food lexicon, but it's been bandied about on sandwich-enthusiast websites, sandwich-heavy photo threads, and even graced a t-shirt over at BustedTees. I have no doubt the acronym has been used at some point to describe the fabled "Shooter's Sandwich," a glorious and grand old Edwardian tradition of the highest order.

Often described as the "best sandwich ever," this meat-heavy hunter's special is a visually-stunning creation, and has reverent, fervent followers all over the web. When Julie sent me the link to the UK Guardian story detailing how to create this mythical beef beast, all I could do was text back "ME. WANT." and make a grocery list.

Once I got home and started working the meez, I began to think about how this was actually going to come together. A hearty, crusty loaf of artisan bread was the vessel, a pair of nice steaks were the precious contents, and a sauteed mess of mushroom, garlic and shallot (hit with some worcestershire sauce and a splash of brandy) bound everything together. Add some whole grain mustard and a slathering of horseradish, and this sandwich was shaping up to be a serious punch in the mouth.

I don't want to discount hundreds of years of English tradition, but there were a couple of things about the recipe that bothered me. One, the steaks went into the bread "bowl" hot, not rested. All jus and bloody goodness (I don't mean that in an proper English way, I mean it in a medium-rare way) would soak into the bread, especially the bottom, when this whole thing was pressed overnight. Soggy bread is disgusting, unless you're making stuffing. Two, steaks are eaten with a steak knife for a reason, no matter how tender and juicy they are. Trying to bite through a crusty loaf and a pair of fat steaks with just your front teeth – normal sandwich-eating style – was not going to work.

I put my reservations aside and prepared the sandwich per the recipe's instructions – bread bowl bottom, hot steak, mushroom-shallot mix, hot steak, mustard and horseradish, bread bowl top. I wrapped the whole thing in parchment paper and tied if off with butcher's twine. I placed a cutting board on top of it and set our Kitchen Aid stand mixer on top of the cutting board to make like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars.

This was either going to be a brilliant hat-tip to Edwardian times, or it was going to be a soggy, chewy, unfortunate waste of a good loaf of bread and two steaks.

Turns out, it was a SILF.

But not like that... more like "Sandwich I'd Like to Fix." And by "fix" I don't mean prepare. I mean repair. Both of my concerns were valid – the bread was soaked through on the bottom, and I could barely chomp through the steaks each bite. I was like a dog mauling a piece of meat by getting my teeth into the sandwich, pulling and shaking it from side to side.

It's not often that I want something that seems so brilliant, so badly, and when I finally get it, I am nearly destroyed when it falls so short of my expectations. If only I'd listened to those niggling doubts. If only I'd listened to my gut

So what would I change if I made this sandwich again? The steaks would be cooked to medium rare, rested, and sliced thin against the grain. The meat would be added to the sandwich, same layering as the regular shooter, at room temperature or cold. I'd add more seasoning to everything. More mustard, more horseradish, more woozy, more salt and pepper, for a real punch-in-the-mouth sandwich that wouldn't end up a tough, soggy mess.

(L) Sandwich bondage. (R) Veg version of a shooter. © Ryan Schierling
Truth be told, I may be a meat-eater but I'm not really much of a gunslinger. I also made Julie a vegetarian version of this – a "Gatherer's Sandwich" – substituting fat slices of herbed brie and roasted zucchini for the steak, and it worked wonderfully

Now that's a sandwich I'd like to... uhm... finish.


  1. is TWO steaks in a loaf of bread. Maybe not a SILF, but def. a sandwich I would like to take out on a second date and get to know better.

  2. I'm kind of a sandwich slut, but this one would take some serious improvement for me to give it a second chance.


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