Life

Three Food Writers Battle To Make The Perfect Meatball Sandwich

It’s our first quarantine cooking battle. And though my personal quarantine has been mostly meat-free (so that I can focus completely on cheese), we decided to go with meatballs. As a food to eat during a lock-in, I think this challenge works well. Meatballs can be easily reheated or frozen for later. They’re tough to overcook and they’re deeply comforting.

Better still, there’s so much variance in a meatball-driven dish that the burns are sure to flow freely. After all, if you’re going to be cooped up indoors, why not use that time to apply rough-grit sandpaper to the wildest Top Chef-illusions of me, Zach, and Vince?

To help with that cause, we have Chef Tyler Anderson in the mix. Tyler comes fresh off his 7th straight James Beard nom for Millwrights in Connecticut (which was also just named one of the 101 best restaurants in the country). And though judging this contest is technically the bigger accomplishment, that other stuff is cool, too. After his fan-favorite turn on season 15 of Top Chef, Anderson opened Square Peg Pizzeria. It was the pork meatballs in Sunday gravy served at that property that got him this illustrious gig.

Zach also wants to make sure any east coast readers know that the Bao Lobster Roll at High George in New Haven is “the best f*cking lobster roll I’ve ever tasted.” So if you’re in the Connecticut area, you should have plenty of motivation to support Chef Anderson’s staff and restaurants during the quarantine by ordering take out.

— Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director, Uproxx Life

PAST 5 RESULTS (see full results here):

Film and TV Food Showdown w/Binging With Babish: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Breakfast Sandwich Showdown w/Chef Alvin Cailan: 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Thanksgiving Showdown Rematch w/Chef Isaac Toups: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Christmas Movie Showdown : 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Oscar Movie Showdown w/Binging With Babish: 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach

CURRENT SCORE:

We’re giving three points to the winner and one to second place for each round. All votes are counted equally. As it stands, the score is:

ZACH: 42
VINCE: 40
STEVE: 35

STEVE’S GREEK GYRO MEATBALL SANDWICH

Truth be told, an authentic Athens gyro would be my Death Row meal. Or rather, six authentic Athens gyros. When I went to Athens as a backpacking college kid, I ate these three times a day — no joke. I gained 12 pounds in two weeks while having a 19-year-old’s metabolism, dancing six hours every night, and walking literally everywhere. That’s saying something.

My adult life has been filled with attempts to recreate those Athens gyros of my youth. Sometimes I’ll find a shop that does them just the way I like them, but somehow my relationships with these rare gems have always been short-lived. They’ll change their pita or not offer feta or move locations or whatever… It’s tough to find the right gyro in L.A. Hell, it’s even tough in NYC, where shwarma is king.

I’ve been trying to make my own gyro since way back when, too. The problem isn’t the fillings. Even the pita is pretty easily accessible. It’s the meat. You just can’t recreate lamb shaved off a spit. And yet… I’m going to try. Because if I can hit 90 percent of that authentic flavor, then I’ve got a pretty dreamy food coma on my hands. If I can do it while upgrading the fillings of the sandwich, then I might just have a shot at this thing.

The meat:

Steve Bramucci

The photo above shows the gist of what I got at the store. If you watch Chopped, you’ll know that Greek chefs never seem to win the show because the lowest hanging fruit of food show judging is “too many ingredients” and Greek food often has many. I thought of all sorts of lamb-beef and lamb-pork mixture ratios but decided to go full lamb.

Steve Bramucci

Purple onions. Garlic. Oregano. Thyme. Rosemary. Flat-leaf parsley. All into the blender to make a sort of seasoning puree. I mixed that puree with the bread crumbs, lamb, and two eggs. Plus the dry spices — paprika, marjoram, coriander, cumin, oregano (again), salt, and pepper.

Steve Bramucci

The result is:

Steve Bramucci

I wanted those flavors to marry a little, so I put the mix in the fridge overnight and told Zach and Vince I was going to be a little late on the contest.

The next day, rolled out, they looked like this:

Steve Bramucci

Went onto the plancha with oil and some bone broth:

Steve Bramucci

Steamy as Vince’s mom’s… jokes about my mom.

Steve Bramucci

Of course, I had a few. They were light because of all the vegetables and herbs, packed with flavor, and had the deep, earthy lamb flavor that screams gyro. Were they the same as lamb shaved off a spit? Of course not, but they had most of the same qualities and all the same flavors.

Now, onto the accouterments!

The hummus:

I started by roasting onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary in olive oil for five freaking hours. It went from this:

Steve Bramucci

To this…

Steve Bramucci

Come on, that second picture is porn.

From there, it went into the blender with salt and pepper, chickpeas, and a fair bit of residual olive oil.

A note on the chickpeas: I heard somewhere to boil them until they’re incredibly soft with a teaspoon of baking soda in the pot and so I did exactly that. They came out with an odor… not unlike feet. I rinsed and strained them until that odor was gone, about four to five strains.

Steve Bramucci

The result of roasted vs. raw vegetables was a delicate, nuanced flavor, rather than the “this is liquid garlic” taste that many hummus recipes result in. But even better than the flavor was the texture. With the chickpeas soft, the tahini imported, the veggies tender, and the olive oil plentiful, the hummus came out like liquid silk.

Steve Bramucci

The tzatziki:

You’ve gotta have tzatziki on a gyro, right? And this was no exception. I was getting hungry, so I went down and dirty with this:

  • Persian cucumber
  • Greek yogurt
  • Shallots
  • Jalapeno
  • Oregano
  • Dill
Steve Bramucci

The result was a little thin but the spices and flavors were right and the jalapeno had kick, so why thicken it? It’s a sauce, after all. I had so many ingredients to cover that I figured this would be fine.

Steve Bramucci

The build:

The build was… y’know, gyro stuff. Heirloom tomatoes. Raw purple onions. Feta. Parsley.

Steve Bramucci

Oh yeah, also baby arugula. And a pillowy pita headed on the plancha.

As far as the perfect bite goes? I think I did it. Quarantine food turned up to 11. Some of the best hummus I’ve ever had.

The only problem? I spent all this time and made a dish that I could have gotten for 5 Euros in Athens. Maybe the message is that America needs more gyro shops. Because none I’ve tasted here could f*ck with this.

Steve Bramucci

Vince on Steve’s Dish:

First off, never use the phrase “dreamy food coma on my hands,” especially during a nation-wide baby wipe shortage. Secondly, I can’t really fault your concept, I almost did a Middle Eastern wrap for this challenge until I remembered I’d already made cevapcici on lavosh like five challenges ago. That being said, and this may shock you, but I’ve a few quibbles. I’ll go with the biggest first: you spent five goddamn hours making hummus (I’ll admit I’ve never been to Athens or danced for more than an hour at a clip, but mine takes about five minutes and tastes really good) when you could’ve been making your own flatbread. Come on, man, gimme that dough porn.

Continuing down this Walgreen’s receipt-length checklist of gripes, every sauce in this looks too loose, like the baby diarrhea version of its ideal form. How many herbs do you need in a damn hummus? And did you try to sneak a scallion into that tzatziki without telling us? I don’t mind the loose hummus, even though the rosemary in there sounds super weird, but that tzatziki (with a hot pepper for some reason?) looks like something I want to use to top off a cappuccino, not put between bread. Greek yogurt is famous the world over for being painstakingly strained until it’s all rich and creamy and a spoon stands up in it, and then here comes Steve, waddling up to the blender his cargo pockets bulging with unstrained, unseeded veg to turn the pride of generations into frothy white piss. Somewhere a Yaya just lifted her black veil to spit on the ground.

That being said, I appreciate the perfect roundness of your meatballs, and the artistic symmetry of adding a perfect circle of hard carbon to each of them. Maillard wept.

Zach on Steve’s Dish:

Meatballs on a gyro, huh? While I don’t knock this meatball pita, not sure Greeks would call it a gyro, per se. Also, you never go full lamb, Steve. Everyone knows that!

Look, it’s hard to fault anything here. I want to rent that hummus an apartment in the city and visit during lunch hours on the side. Your meatballs look fine (though, I would have added veal). The yogurt soup (Vince, this is your time to shine!) you made instead of tzatziki sounds like it has the right flavor profile sans the chili pepper. Tzatziki is supposed to counter chili spices not add them!

I’ve been to Greece too, dude. Though, I spent most of my time in Rhodes. And, if I’m being honest, this looks like a gyro I’d try drunk and think is great. Then I’d go back the next day and in the harsh Greek sun realize I was drunk when I ate this one and never go back.

Tyler on Steve’s Dish:

A couple little (big) flaws I see in the dish. The best part of a gyro is the caramelized meat from the thinly sliced lamb. The more surface area, the more caramelization. You’re definitely missing that here. The thin slices add for even distribution of the juices within a gyro, the true glory of the sandwich. The meatball idea fucked that up.

A couple of pro tips for tzatziki or the Juice from Zeus as I lovingly call it. Dice your cucumber ahead of time, season with salt, let sit for ten minutes at room temp, drain off juice, reserve. Add this pre-salted diced cucumber to your yogurt mix, avoiding this shitty watery mess. We don’t want “Juice from the ass of Zeus after too many ouzos the night before.” Add in reserved cucumber juice to thin to desired consistency. And use dehydrated mint! 15 seconds in the microwave will do it.

I love the infused oil thing in the hummus … might steal it, don’t care.

Keep up the mediocre work.

VINCE’S ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP WITH MINT GARGANELLI

Vince Mancini

Meatballs are tough because they’re the ultimate culinary blank canvas. Aside from boring (but delicious) old spaghetti and meatballs, the first dish that came to mind was this dish I had at Perilla, Harold Dieterle’s (Top Chef season one winner) old restaurant in New York. I used to eat there once a month or so when I lived in New York — it was the perfect splurge spot for a non-rich person, because it was upscale without being fussy and while it was too pricey for an everyday joint (at least for me) it wasn’t exactly the French Laundry either.

The dish was duck meatballs with mint cavatelli, served with a raw quail egg. I must not have been the only one who loved it, because he demonstrated the dish on Martha Stewart. It gave you that classic meatball comfort food feeling but in a unique way, somehow both decadent (because of the yolk) and refreshing (thanks to the pasta and mint).

I wanted to recreate that feeling without plagiarizing the dish exactly (and let’s be honest, I’m not going to beat a Top Chef at his own game), and make it a little more home cook. My idea? Italian Wedding Soup. It’s traditionally made with chicken broth, a leafy green, meatballs, and an egg drop. It has that same balance of hearty and somehow Spring-y (it’s so named because of the marriage of flavors, not because you actually eat it at a wedding), it sometimes includes pasta, and it even mimics the egg.

Plus I liked the idea of an Italian meatball dish that didn’t involve a big potta da red sawce. AY, I’M STIRRIN’ HERE!

For the meatballs…

Vince Mancini

Not reinventing the wheel here. It’s your classic meatball. I’m making them small, because I like small meatballs. Giant meatballs look great as an app at a cheesy family-style joint but I much prefer the increased surface area and eat-ability of the smaller version.

  • About half and half 80/20 beef and ground pork
  • Chopped parsley
  • Minced shallot
  • Crushed garlic
  • Parmesano Reggiano
  • Pecorino Romano
  • Torn Italian bread
  • 2 Eggs
  • Salt n’ Pepa
Vince Mancini

When you see how far a little ground meat stretches you understand why meatballs are such a classic peasant dish.

For the pasta…

Vince Mancini

I didn’t mind stealing Harold’s recipe for this part.

  • 00 flour
  • Ricotta
  • Mint
  • Egg
  • Salt

It’s the construction that’s tricky. I honestly don’t know if I have the small-digit dexterity for cavatelli, and I don’t have the neat little machine that cranks them out like they used on the Martha Stewart show. So I made the shape that was on the manual for my gnocchetti — garganelli, which maybe isn’t as pretty and delicate as cavatelli but it’s also hollow and has ridges. It’s basically a square that you roll into ridged tubes, supposedly typical of the Emilia-Romagna region — where my grandmother’s family was from. Not that I ever saw her make these. Just cut the pasta sheets into squares, put on the gnocchetti, and roll into a circle with a tiny rolling pin. I used a little water on one side of the square so the two sides stuck together. Anyway, it seemed right and I thought they came out pretty good.

Vince Mancini

For the broth…

Again, not reinventing the wheel here. Just browned some chicken backs real good and then added carrots, some old parsley stems I had in the freezer, and a couple bay leaves. Add water, boil for a few hours. Skim off some of the fat and sediment. After I strained it I added some parmesan rind like I saw Steve do a couple challenges ago (see, Steve?? I do respect you sometimes!).

Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini

Puttin’ it all together…

Vince Mancini
  1. Brown off them meatballs and drop them in the broth. Not strictly necessary, but I like that little bit of char on the meat, one extra flavor layer.
  2. I’ve seen this recipe with escarole, I’ve seen it with curly endive — still a *little* early for those — I’ve even seen it with spinach. I used Swiss chard. It’s less peppery than endive, but very hearty and savory, it goes great in meat ravioli. Anyway, I just cleaned and chopped the leaves, took out the biggest stems, and dropped in the hot broth with the meatballs.
Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini

(you can see my parmesan rinds before I fished them out)

3. Next, pasta. I partially cook it in boiling water (just a minute or two) to get it going and let it finish in the soup. (Do you need to see pasta boiling? Probably not)

4. Finally, the egg ribbon. Just two beaten eggs, poured slowly over the soup as you stir.

Vince Mancini

5. Finish with a little cheese, serve with a nice slice of bread, and you’re done.

Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini

It doesn’t get much more comfort food-y than that homemade chicken broth plus meatballs. Then the hit of mint from the pasta, plus the gnocchi-esque texture of the ricotta dough and the savory chard… Folks, it was good. It’s a soup that has everything but it doesn’t feel cluttered.

Zach on Vince’s Dish:

Would I eat this? Yes. Do I want this? Yes. Do I see errors here and there? Yes.

My main gripe here is with the broth. No aromatics? Where’s that bouquet garni? Where’s the collagen? Where’s the depth? Did you even put salt in? I do appreciate the parmesan rind but there’s nothing here drawing me in. And, let’s be honest, a bad broth kills what might have been a great soup. For a guy who nicknamed our guest judge “Henry Roll-ins,” I think you need to step up your broth game, son. You know your mom likes it salty, dude. Don’t deny her.

Steve on Vince’s Dish:

Oh, hold up one sec. Did I hear someone say Vince made pasta? No. Not my man Mancini! He wouldn’t dare. He doesn’t like to go back to that well too often. Exploring foodways all over the world is more his vibe.

Okay, I kid. Do I love this dish? Yes, I do. Very much. It did something for me that I love as a food editor and hate as a competitor: It made me hungry. Like real stomach growling shit. I spent summer 2019 in Emilia-Romagna and this doesn’t just feel reminiscent of that region, I legit think I ate it there like six times.

With that said, I’m not sure Vince really and truly knows how to make a perfect broth. Where is the seared off garlic? The onions? The HERBBBBBBBBBS? THE CHICKEN FEET? If that shit wouldn’t turn into Jello after five minutes in the fridge, it doesn’t get to come to my quarantine party.

Also, that egg ribbon is the weirdest, least necessary, most visually odd thing I’ve seen in such an otherwise delicious looking dish. The only reason I’m not making a big deal about it is that egg + pasta + pork + cheese is not the sort of thing I make a habit of objecting to.

But that pasta. And those meatballs. And even the chard. Well played, Mancini. It was a bold notion, making pasta, but it served you well here.

Tyler on Vince’s Dish:

Full disclosure, the guy who did this one referred to me as the fat fuck punk rock chef while I was on Top Chef [the official nickname was “Henry Roll-ins” -ed]. My mom cried for a week when she saw that, my dog ran away, and my wife left me all out of sheer embarrassment. Truth be told, I wanted to exact my revenge here. I wanted to like this one the least.

Unfortunately, it might be the one I like the best. It is also by far the least creative. You came up with some pretty creative nicknames for me on Top Chef, maybe use some of those creative juices with your dish next time.

The pasta looks delicious, the meatballs aren’t a complete mess like the egg ribbon technique is. What kind of weirdo has parsley stems in their freezer?? Let me guess … Do you also buy two-ply toilet paper and then unwrap it so you get two rolls of one-ply? You probably tip like shit too. Also, I agree the broth could have used more love.

Congrats Ichiro, you hit another single with no one on base and I hope you get thrown out at second trying to steal.

ZACH’S OAXACAN BAHN MI

Zach Johnston

You can’t beat a good meatball. But, they can be a bit boring from time to time. I don’t like boring. I also have been a little light on my recipes recently and felt the need to go all-in on this one. So, I’m channeling one of my favorite human beings (and chefs), Roy Choi on this recipe.

Where Choi blended the cuisines of L.A.’s taco scene and his Korean heritage, I’m taking some hardcore Indigenous Oaxacan foodways and delivering them via Vietnamese methods … well, Franco-Vietnamese, I guess. I’m making a pork meatball smothered in a classic mole served in a classic Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich. I’m basically going Vietnamese with the delivery system, Oaxacan with the meatballs, and a bridge between the two with the pickle.

Huge disclaimer on this recipe. The actual making of the sandwich takes about five minutes. The prep for all the components takes a day. My tactic was to make all the components the day before and let them settle into their flavors. That way, the next day, it was just a matter of making some meatballs and putting together an amazing sandwich. Plus, now I have dope pâté and an amazing mole leftover for spiking dinners and lunches for the rest of the week.

Ingredients:

Zach Johnston

Making a mole takes a lot of ingredients. Instead of giving a comprehensive list that’s 50 ingredients deep, let’s just dive into the recipe.

Mole:

Zach Johnston

The first step is to get some tomato, garlic, onion, and peppers roasting in the oven to get a nice char to them (I’d do this on a firey grill if I had a backyard). I chop three big tomatoes, one large yellow onion, about four red chili peppers, and six cloves of garlic. I place that on a lined baking sheet, cover in olive oil, and salt liberally. I then bake those for around 30 minutes in at about 400F until a nice sear starts forming.

Zach Johnston

While that’s in the oven, I toast about 1/3 cup of white sesame seeds, 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, juniper berries, allspice berries, cloves, broken cinnamon stick, broken star anise, and black peppercorns over low(ish) heat until fragrant.

Zach Johnston

I dump all of that into a pestle and mortar and grind until you have a fine spice. Luckily, I have plenty of anxiety over the coronavirus, so grinding these seeds for 15 minutes serves as a great stress-reliever.

Zach Johnston

In the meantime, I’m soaking some dried chilis in boiling water for 15 minutes. I’m using a dried and smoked Chipotle, a Pasilla, and four Morita.

Zach Johnston

I’ve also toasted off a corn tortilla over the flame on my stove. You want that burnt ashen edges to add serious depth to the gravy. That burnt corn brings a serious x-factor to any mole.

Zach Johnston

Once the tomatoes and whatnot come out of the oven, I puree them. I then pulverize the tortilla in a stand mixer and mix it in the with the seed and spice mix.

Zach Johnston

I add everything plus the juice of about three limes to a small pot over low heat and stir until it starts to simmer.

Zach Johnston

Next, I add in a bar of 88 percent dark chocolate. I bring the mixture back to a bare simmer and let bubble away for three whole hours — stirring every 20 minutes or so. I also slip in about two tablespoons of pork lard and smoked brown sugar.

Zach Johnston

Finally, after nearly four hours of simmering, I work the mole sauce through a fine-mesh sieve. This takes a while but gives the sauce a velvet texture that helps it pop. I taste test and add a little salt and that’s it.

Protip: Don’t throw away the mush you strain out. Save it in the fridge and use it the next time you make chili.

Pâté:

Zach Johnston

Pâté is one of those things that seems really hard but is actually really straightforward.

Zach Johnston

You start by melting about a half-a-stick of unsalted butter in a pan. I then add in a finely chopped red onion and a de-stemmed sprig of fresh thyme with a good pinch of salt. And, wow, there are few smells better than onion and thyme simmering in butter.

Zach Johnston

I then add in about one-pound of fresh chicken livers, which I’ve trimmed of the sinew. You want to just brown them on one side, flip them over, and cover them in about 1/2 cup of port wine. Crank up the heat and reduce that port by half. By then, the livers should be cooked but still pink on the inside. It should look like a medium-rare steak.

Zach Johnston

I load all of that into a stand mixer and add another half-stick of unsalted butter, about 1/4 cup of heavy cream, generously salt and pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of the mole.

Zach Johnston

Blend until a velvety sauce forms. Taste test of seasoning. Mine needed a little more salt. It should have body to it but still pour out of the blender jar. Scrape out the remaining pâté with a spatula into a food-safe storage vessel, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, you should have a beautiful, set pâté.

Meatballs:

Zach Johnston

This is the star of the show and a delivery system for the mole. I’ve combined a pound of locally-sourced ground pork with two de-cased and crumbled Italian sausages, a finely chopped red onion, two finely minced large cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of dried basil, an egg, white pepper, MSG, and about 1/3 cup of white masa.

Zach Johnston

I use a wooden paddle to mix and pack the ingredients together until a smooth meat paste forms. I then roll out 15 meatballs. I roll them out about golf ball size because they’ll lose about 1/4 of their size as they cook, making them more bite-sized.

Zach Johnston

I add a couple of tablespoons of pork lard to hot a skillet and sear off my meatballs in batches, making sure to brown all sides.

Zach Johnston

I put the balls into a lined baking pan and pour off the excess fat from the skillet over them. I then finish the meatballs in an oven set at around 300F for about 30 minutes. The result is a crispy on the outside and lush and moist on the inside meatballs.

Mayo:

Zach Johnston

The main condiment of any great bahn mi is a mayo. I’m spicing that up a bit by combining Kewpie mayo with a diced chipotle from a can, the juice of one lime, and garlic powder. Combine, rest in the fridge, done.

Pickle:

Zach Johnston

This is pretty straightforward and. I chop some carrots, white radish, red onion, red chili peppers, and the rind of one lime and add it to a jar. I then bring 1/3 cup each apple cider vinegar and water to a boil with two tablespoons each honey and salt, a few juniper and allspice berries, black peppercorns, fresh thyme, and fresh bay leaves to a simmer and then kill the heat.

I then pour the pickling liquid over the contents, put a lid on, and throw in the fridge to do its thing.

Sandwich Assembly:

Zach Johnston

First things first, I set up a sandwich-making station. I have the pâté, mayo, pickles, white sesame seeds, and chopped cilantro ready to go.

Zach Johnston

The first step is to use the same skillet I fried the meatballs in to heat up a ladle full of mole with the three meatballs. I just bring it to a simmer and kill the heat.

Zach Johnston

I measure out a length of my fresh baguette and slice it open like a hot dog bun. On one side I layer on a nice smear of pâté. On the opposite side, I smear on a nice layer of the mayo.

Zach Johnston

I then fish out some enough carrots and white radish to make a layer of each on one side. I add in the meatballs and make sure to spoon some of that amazing mole over the top.

I then sprinkle with white sesame seeds, pickled red onion, and fresh cilantro and done.

This is an amazing sandwich. The flavors are complex and complimentary. There’s a deep sense of sharp and earthy spice to the mole that never overwhelms with a little dose of sour on the edges. The meatballs are meaty, juicy, and full of umami goodness with a hint of sweetness from the masa. The pickle provides the perfect level of crunch and the white radish cools everything down. The pâté is a wonderous edition with a deep meaty creaminess that blends with the mole and mayo to make a super condiment that I can’t stop thinking about. I would stand on a line for an hour to eat this again. And yes, Vince, you can get your mouth around it as it’s about as wide as a hot dog with two dogs in the bun.

Steve on Zach’s Dish:

Holy shit, I’m exhausted. This is the sort of dish that Zach never seems to make when crashing on Vince’s couch in LA, then he does four days a week in Germany. Make us your day-long sandwich sometime, buddy!

So let me see:

  • Mole
  • Meatballs
  • Pate
  • Mayo

Do you think this is rich enough, Zach? And though the pickle element is essential in a Bahn Mi, somehow the idea of drowning pickled carrots in pate and mole with giant meatballs skidding across them seems off.

Would I eat this? A million times over. But… it’s probably muddled, right? Like just has too many tastes and sauces going to really speak to one POV. Maybe if the mole was infused in the meatball pre-cook?

Technique-wise, if there’s something to fault I don’t recognize it. But I’m not sure I’m getting messy for this sandwich more than once.

Vince on Zach’s Dish:

As wide as a hot dog with two dogs in the bun? Who even does that, your mom? I kid, I kid. I actually like a lot of the things you did in this. I’m not a huge mole fan (I remain open to conversion) but it does seem like an ideal texture for a meatball sauce (did you not toast your chilis? What the fuck!). And I see you made enough pate to last your family six winters, which is nice (I imagine your kids getting pate handprints all over the walls, their feet all covered in pate up to the knees). I don’t know that we needed mole, pate, and mayo on there, but I am a moistness queen so I’m not against it. In fact, I kind of wish you’d served it with a cup of mole, French dip style. Keeps the sharp bread from cutting up the roof of my mouth.

I think you correctly preempted my biggest criticism because you know it’s true. The best thing about a banh mi is portability — it lays nice and flat because of the flat meat (something something your mom’s tiddies) and minimalist toppings. By contrast, you’ve got big ol’ pickle slices and big round meatballs and now the bread is all splayed open like your mom’s legs (I think the overkill is the joke now). The flavors all sound great and I like where your head was at, but the construction still seems a little clunky. Since it’s already tube-shaped, I think burrito might’ve been the play here. I mean I’d still eat this but I’d probably want to cut the meatballs in half or thirds first.

Tyler on Zach’s Dish:

This dish gets the award for the biggest (meat)balls. There is however a very fine line between fusion and confusion. I don’t know if I love or I hate this one. The idea of chocolate from the mole and chicken liver pate makes me hungry and want to throw up at the same time.

But… If you’ve ever had the pork liver covered in chocolate dish at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, you’ve had these flavors work together amazingly.

I’m never a fan of taking two iconic dishes from two wildly different cultures and putting them together. The idea of Pho al Pastor doesn’t sound too bad but a Larb Tamale sounds disgusting. No major cooking flaws here, I am just very, very confused.

This dish makes me feel like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.

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