Today’s Sandwich: “The Polish Express” (Homemade)

Originally, I wanted to recreate a sandwich my parents used to make for me all the time when I was growing up: Polish kielbasa sausage, sliced horizontally, on white bread with onions and peppers. Only, I always opted to leave the onions and peppers off of my sandwich, instead applying mayonnaise liberally. Listen, I never said I was an athlete.

They were delicious, those halcyon days of sausage slathered in mayonnaise, but I knew I wanted to ratchet my version up even further, before I presented it to my family. I started thinking about this Polish restaurant I used to go to when I got my first job in New York, tucked on a side street in Midtown next to an Oriental rug dealer. Polish food wasn’t in my regular rotation, but the place provided an incredible value for my very thin 22-year-old wallet. I could go in at lunch time, and get huge grilled smoked sausages whose casing snapped as you bit through them, big plates of potato pancakes served with sour cream and applesauce, and great bowls of steamed vegetables. At the end, I would get a bill for, I dunno, four dollars. It was paradise.

Kielbasa Sandwich

It’s those meals, where I would try to eat enough in one sitting to last me all week, that inspired this sandwich. A sandwich roll, topped with homemade chunky applesauce, a few grilled sausages, some onions and green peppers, and then finished with two perfectly fried, crispy golden latkes, and a drizzle of horseradish-spiked sour cream.

It isn’t authentically Polish. Hell, it may even be considered borderline offensive, for all I know. But it was certainly delicious.

Kielbasa Sandwich

"The Polish Express" Sandwich
 
Author:
Serves: 2 sandwiches
Ingredients
For the applesauce:
  • 2 honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups water
For the potato pancakes:
  • 1 cup shredded potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons grated onions
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Oil, for frying
For the horseradish cream:
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
For the sandwiches:
  • 2 sandwich rolls, split
  • ½ white onion, sliced
  • ½ green pepper, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 kielbasa sausage, cut into quarters and halved lengthwise
Method
For the applesauce:
  1. Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until most of the liquid evaporates an apples are soft, about ½ hour. If liquid cooks away before apples are soft, add more water and keep cooking. Mash soft apples with a potato masher, and set aside.
For the potato pancakes:
  1. Place shredded potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible. Combine potatoes in a bowl with onion, eggs, flour, and salt.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form ¼ to ½ inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and set aside.
For the horseradish cream:
  1. Combine sour cream and horseradish. Thin with a little milk, if desired.
For the sandwiches:
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, combine butter, onions, and pepper. Saute until onions soften and begin to brown. Meanwhile, cook sausage under the broiler or on a hot grill until brown and bubbly. To assemble sandwiches, spread the bottom of each sandwich loaf with a layer of applesauce. Top with 4 pieces of sausage, half of the onion and pepper mixture, and two potato pancakes. Just before serving, drizzle with the horseradish cream and top with the other piece of bread.
 

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed “Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road,” as well as the taco-centric blog “Eat More Tacos,” and the junk food-centric “Spork & Barrel.” His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, “‘Wich, Please,” was named “Hottest Restaurant in Maine” for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

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