IN A CITY of diverse tastes, I’m willing to accept almost anything on a hoagie. Ham, provolone, salami, hot peppers . . .
I’m even willing to concede that, suspect as it may seem, some individuals prefer mayonnaise instead of oil.
But no way should any of us be prepared to accept the abomination that was foisted upon readers recently in the pages of the Inquirer food section:
Georges Perrier’s Hoagie Francais . . . with foie gras.
And not just bourgeoise pate foie gras – the real stuff, 100 percent raw duck liver at 30 bucks a pound.
Yo, I’ve been known to sample authentic French cuisine on occasion, and I don ‘t mean fries. But on what planet are the Inquirer’s editors living in which they ever encountered bird organs on a hoagie?
That’s just offal!
A hoagie, after all, is the all-American lunch of the masses, a healthy, cheap, complete meal – meat, dairy, veggies – on a roll. A hoagie, first packed in the lunch buckets of Hog Island shipworkers, is at its essence a food for the working class.
Turning it into haute cuisine is a moral violation of the worst sort that, if not punished, should be met with severe mockery.
I’m not blaming Perrier. The guy’s a Frenchie. His whole world is truffles and caviar. He wears a beret. He really can’t be held accountable for bastardizing a deli sandwich.
Instead, my ire is aimed at the editors who, in attempting to upscale the hoagie, merely trivialize a beloved Philadelphia institution. Indeed, the paper included another ill-advised recipe for a lobster hoagie – as if tuna fish is somehow unworthy of its readers.
In the Inquirer’s defense, the paper does acknowledge that ” . . . Joe Sixpack will no doubt stick to his traditional Italian hoagie from Lee’s or some other favorite shop.”
I rang up John Connell, a partner at Lee’s, and wondered what he thought about hoity-toity hoagies.
“In my experience, people are looking for the basics in a hoagie. Salami, cheese, capicola. Maybe turkey,” Connell said. “They want a normal hoagie, something like our Cheltenham, which has six meats and two cheeses for $5.80.
“I read that recipe, it looked like a pretty expensive product – probably in the $20 range.”
My rough estimate shows the cost of re-creating the Inquirer’s hoagie is a wallet-crushing $42.33.
The recipe claims it will make 2 or 3 servings, which would put this sandwich in the range of $14-$20 per person. But lemme ask you: When was the last time you actually split a hoagie?
The steep cost, though, is the least of its problems.
For one thing, it takes two days to make this hoagie.
But before that, you have to traipse all over town to find the ingredients.
Try putting your mitts on a bottle of sherry vinegar – not just prosaic red wine vinegar – at the Acme. Even DiBruno Bros. on 9th Street, a world-class imported specialties shop, hasn’t seen jambon de Francais (French ham) in weeks, thanks to high post-9/11 shipping costs.
You might be tempted to substitute Grey Poupon for the Pommery mustard. But if we’re sticking to the recipe, a single 17.5-ounce cork-sealed crock of authentic whole-grained Moutarde de Meaux (served at the tables of French kings since 1632) will set you back $18.95 (plus $7.95 shipping) on the Internet.
What a crock!
Purists will gripe that Perrier’s sandwich is served on a French baguette instead of a nice, fresh Italian roll. But folks, forget the bread; a hoagie recipe that calls for Swiss-made Gruyere cheese instead of provolone is more of a lost cause than the Inquirer’s suburban strategy.
And then there’s the foie gras.
The Inquirer, possibly worried about the fate of that flock of degenerate geese grazing the hell out of Fairmount Park, helpfully guides its readers to Caviar Assouline. At the city’s top-drawer gourmet shop, properly prepared French duck foie gras goes for $30 a pound.
A clerk advised me, though, that for a hoagie, I’d probably prefer the goose liver, which is fattier and “would probably taste better.”
I’m not sure about the taste, but at $29.50 a pound, I’d save 50 cents! That ‘s enough to buy a copy of tomorrow’s Inquirer, which no doubt will offer us recipes for another food atrocity.
Cheesesteaks tartare anyone