What Actually Goes Into a Good Sandwich? - The Bend Magazine

What Actually Goes Into a Good Sandwich?

As with most dishes, the ingredients chosen should accomplish a delicate balance of salinity and sweetness, acidity and creamy goodness, and finish with a crunch

By: Kayla Butts, MS, RDN, LD  Photos by: Rachel Benavides

Most people don’t have to be sold on the value of a good sandwich. In fact, 50% of Americans eat a sandwich every. single. day.  But what makes a good sandwich? As with most dishes, the ingredients chosen should accomplish a delicate balance of salinity and sweetness, acidity and creamy goodness, and finish with a crunch. 

Sandwich experts agree that good bread is half the battle. Be it a chewy baguette or a pillowy brioche bun, there are a few generalizations that can apply to choosing the perfect starchy base. The bread should be good enough to eat on its own, so opt for a higher quality version that is freshly baked or homemade. Toasted ciabatta can act as the crunchy element in a sandwich, while soft challah complements sweeter fillings like fluffernutter. Caution should be taken with rolls and thickly sliced bread; scoop out some of the innards of your kaiser roll before filling with lobster salad or kale slaw to prevent these precarious fillings from falling out. Hollowing out some of the bun also ensures you don’t end up with an overwhelming mouthful of bread. 

Condiments are also key in avoiding a sandwich foul. They add flavor and moisture, and help seal the bread from juicier ingredients, like sliced tomato or pulled pork. Add some kick to your mayo (or sour cream or yogurt) with lime, chili, or minced herbs. Experiment with tahini, infused oils, or exotic nut butters. Add acid with vinaigrettes or freshly squeezed fruit juice. Explore the flavor combinations of hot sauce or kimchi on an otherwise bland sandwich. 

Perhaps one of the most overlooked elements of a good sandwich, fresh vegetables add flavor, texture, and color. One common sandwich faux pas is forgetting to season the vegetables prior to piling them on. For best results, wash your vegetables well in cold water, scrubbing as needed, pat dry to remove excess water, and season with salt and cracked pepper. 

As for the meat of the subject, protein options of a sandwich are virtually endless. From meatloaf to tofu, all varieties are featured in someone’s favorite sandwich. And while we generally recommend meats thinly sliced with a coating of condiment, we won’t presume to suggest just one—follow your heart. 

Like most research, the conclusion of our sandwich study is somewhat inconclusive. We don’t know everything there is to know about what makes a good sandwich for you, because love for a sandwich is subjective and personal. Perhaps this is why we insist you experiment with new flavors and textures yourself. After all, a good sandwich is the one you like best.  

This recipe incorporates freshly baked sourdough and tuna niçoise salad into a decadent sandwich. Pan Bagnat, or “bathed bread,” is one of several types of sandwich that is intended to change textures over time (translation: it gets soggy, but in the best way). In this version, we cheat a little to get the texture and flavor of sourdough without the painstaking process of creating and maintaining sourdough starter. 


Pan Campagne

Makes 4 boules

Prep time: 10 minutes

Inactive prep time: 8-12 hours, plus 2 hours

Cook time: 30 minutes


3 1/4 cup unbleached bread flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 3/4 cup warm water

2 tsp salt

1 tsp yeast


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and knead for 5 minutes, until a smooth dough is formed. Cover with a tea towel and let rise at room temperature overnight, for 8-12 hours. 

Cut the dough into four quadrants and shape each into a ball. Place on a nonstick baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Let proof for two hours, or until rolls have almost doubled in size. 

Set one oven rack in the middle of the oven and the second oven rack to the very bottom. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom oven rack. Preheat oven to 500ºF. Remove towel from boules and sprinkle with flour. Score the top of each boule with a baking lame or sharp knife. 

Once oven is preheated, reduce temperature to 450ºF and immediately insert boules. Working quickly, pour 2 cups of water into the rimmed baking sheet. Close the oven door and cook boules for 30 minutes, until golden and crisp on top. 

Transfer cooked boules to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature before cutting. 


Pan Bagnat

Serves 2

Prep time: 45 minutes

Inactive prep time: 8-12 hours, plus 2 hours

Cook time: 30 minutes


2 boules of Pan Campagne (recipe on pg.105)

1 garlic clove, smashed with the flat edge of your knife

1/4 cup parsley

1/4 cup olives

1 tbsp capers

1/2 bell pepper

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 tbsp dijon mustard 

8 oz tuna, canned in oil

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

2 boiled eggs, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

Optional: red wine vinegar to taste


Place tomato slices on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Let juices come to the top of the tomato while you prepare the boule and tuna niçoise.

Cut boule in half on the horizontal. Remove some of the interior of the dome, leaving at least a 1/4” bowl. Brush either side with olive oil. Rub both sides of bread with fresh garlic. 

Roughly chop parsley, olives, capers, and bell pepper using a food processor or chef’s knife. Combine these ingredients with olive oil, dijon mustard, tuna, and black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Pat reserved tomatoes with additional paper towels to remove excess moisture. 

To assemble sandwich, layer basil on top of bread base, followed by tuna mixture, tomatoes, eggs, and onion. If desired, drizzle fillings with additional olive oil and red wine vinegar.