by Steve Haruch
For the inaugural Bites insane sandwich (henceforth to be known as a Madwich), we look to the Chinese-American restaurant menu for inspiration. The happy family, though it varies in execution, always presents itself for the indecisive diner with its harmonious combination of beef, chicken and shrimp.
As Prince once said, "Let's get nuts."
For our Happy Family Madwich, we chose:
Roast beef from Arnold's.
Boneless hot chicken breast from Dee's Q in East Nashville.
Shrimp diablo from the smoker at Judge Bean's.
All on one of our favorite rolls around town, courtesy of Mitchell Delicatessan.
Putting it together wasn't quite as hard as I feared it would be, and the sandwich itself was less of a mess than I was expecting. We simply put down a layer of the roast beef, sliced the chicken across its length and, after removing the toothpicks, set the diablos in place.
Et voila! It was even better than I had hoped, just a delicious, crunchy, spicy thing of beauty. And it made a convert of a certain staffer, who, though he was deeply skeptical at first, called it "an explosion of flavor." The Happy Family definitely had its fans, and the jalapeno got a couple of votes as the deal-sealer—it cut through immediately, with the spicy crunch of the chicken coming in behind it, giving everything a nice burn. (Enough of a burn to drown the roast beef out, as one taster noted.)
Some were even afraid to try it. "I don't have the cajones for the insane sandwich," one staffer said, backing away.
Of course, not everyone who did try it loved it. "It's lower on the gross scale than I was expecting," one staffer said. "Instead of an eight, it's more like a three." Not exactly high praise. Several tasters felt that the roast beef was the weak link, either because it didn't add enough to the sandwich or because its mere presence was overkill. But even those who weren't crazy about our crazy concoction didn't write it off entirely: "It's hard to argue with fried chicken," one taster said.
So, I'm going to call our first excursion into madness a success. Mind you, in addition to the travel involved in putting this bad boy together, it wasn't cheap. The rolls were donated (thank you, Chef Helton), but the bill for the other ingredients added up to nearly $40 for enough to make two sandwiches. (The shrimp diablos, at $20 for a six-pack, really set the pace.) Also, this is probably not a sandwich for clean freaks. All told, the ingredients passed through a lot of different hands before assuming their final, insane configuration. It was a lot of fun, though.
And, as importantly: A pair of free Iron Fork tickets goes to whoever comes up with the best idea for our next Madwich.