December 16, 2013 Updated: December 16, 2013 at 9:10 am
A pastrami sandwich stirs passion. A New Yorker, raised among authentic Lower East Side delis with talk-back waiters and a constant clatter of dishes, seltzer bottles and Dr. Brown's black-cherry soda cans, will say that Subway should back away from selling pastrami sandwiches.
However, a healthy Midwesterner with unclogged arteries will think Subway nails the pastrami sandwich.
Here's the Big Hot Pastrami Melt blueprint: slices of lean pastrami, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard on Italian (white) bread.
That was the blueprint, given my options at Subway. If I were building the perfect pastrami sandwich, it would have Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, kosher pickles and Russian dressing on crusty rye bread with seeds. That's a pastrami sandwich. But we're not in the Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue anymore.
If you're unfamiliar with pastrami, it's a hunk of beef, typically a brisket or bottom round, that's been brined, peppered and steamed. It's usually held in a steam drawer to keep it moist and tender before slicing to order for each sandwich.
Pastrami, straight up, is delicious. Pastrami, in a deli, also can be scary fatty. But at Subway, the pastrami is super-lean and trending toward dry. It's been sliced off-campus and waits, at room temp, next to the ham and turkey and other sandwich meats at the front of the Subway assembly line.
Subway doesn't have rye bread. The "best available" bread is plain Italian. No sauerkraut or Russian dressing, either. So let's slap some mustard on our sandwich. Wait, no spicy brown mustard? I'm going to have to use that super-bright-yellow nonsense. OK, whatever.
The Big Hot Pastrami Melt is slid into Subway's Doppler 6000 turbo oven, which softens the pastrami and gooeys the Swiss. Heating makes the pastrami come alive, or at least gives it a pulse. Now you have a reasonably flavorful, salty, chewy, deli-LIKE sandwich.