A classic dish synonymous with the United States of America, the club sandwich is believed to have originated at the Union Club of New York City (one of America’s oldest private members’ clubs), with the first known reference dating back to November 1889. Over a century later, the club sandwich remains wildly popular, still seen as a luxurious dish with its three layers of bread and classics fillings of poultry, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.
While the classic club sandwich is highly customisable, with many riffs on the original now common, some elements are absolutely crucial. The bread, for instance, should always be white, lightly toasted and ideally a rectangular tin loaf so the three slices are square and thus easier to cut into triangular quarters. Sliced poultry (either chicken or turkey, or even both), tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and mayonnaise are also essential.
For my take on the perfect club sandwich recipe, leftover chicken is sliced and reheated in a pan, teamed with thinly sliced smoked turkey. Once the chicken is removed from the pan, the tomato slices go in for just a minute or so to warm through, then are removed to make way for the bacon. Any kind of bacon can be used, but nothing really beats smoked streaky bacon – ideally cooked over a very low heat so the fat renders properly and the rashers ultimately cook evenly. Just before removing from the pan, I also pour a generous glug of good-quality maple syrup into the pan and increase the heat until it becomes thick and sticky, like a glaze clinging on to each rasher of fatty bacon. This step is optional, yet it makes a huge difference to the final result.
Elsewhere, it’s worth investing in good quality tomatoes here as they’re arguably the most important element from the vegetable patch. As for lettuce, any green lettuce can be used but I prefer either iceberg or little gem – or even a mixture of both. While not strictly traditional, this club sandwich recipe also calls for thinly sliced avocado as it works exceptionally well with the bacon and chicken, with its softness contrasting the crunch of both the lettuce and the toasted bread.
As for the sauce, regular mayonnaise is fine for this club sandwich, but I choose to mix a little Dijon mustard into the mayonnaise before spreading on to the bread.
- Cocktail sticks
- 6 slices white bread
- 2 large tomatoes
- 8 leaves green lettuce such as iceberg or little gem
- 1 avocado finely sliced (optional)
- 1 leftover chicken breast or fresh
- 6 rashers smoked streaky bacon
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or more to taste
- 6 slices smoked turkey
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil for frying
- Begin by preparing your ingredients and setting them out so you can assemble the sandwiches quickly as soon as the bacon has cooked. Slice the tomatoes and avocado, wash and dry the lettuce, and prepare the bread for toasting.
- Cut the chicken into approx. 5mm slices, then add a drizzle of olive oil to a frying pan and heat until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the pan. Cook the slices over medium heat until thoroughly reheated and lightly browned (or until fully cooked, if using raw chicken) then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the tomato slices to the pan and cook for around 30 seconds on each side to warm. Remove from the pan, set aside and season with salt. Allow the pan to cool slightly.
- At this point, begin to lightly toast the bread and mix the mayonnaise and mustard with a generous crack of black pepper.
- Add the bacon to the pan and cook over low heat until crispy, to your liking. Approximately 2 minutes before the bacon has finished cooking, add a generous glug of maple syrup to the pan and continue to cook until the syrup thickens and coats the bacon.
- Assemble the sandwiches by spreading a layer of mayonnaise on the bottom layers of toasted bread, then top with two lettuce leaves, the tomato slices, then the chicken and bacon.
- Spread more mayonnaise onto another slice of bread then use that to top the sandwich. Top that slice with the turkey, avocado and the rest of the lettuce. Finally spread mayonnaise on one final slice of bread and place on top of the three-layer sandwich. Push down, cut into triangular quarters and use cocktail sticks to hold each quarter together.