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The Fat Jack Sandwich

The Fat Jack is a dependable and surprisingly luxurious sandwich that crosses all social boundaries, enjoyed by bus-boys, bankers and beauty queens alike. It traces its origins to the company lunch wagons at fish canneries along the east coast. The necessity to feed large groups of men cheaply introduced novel ways to present leftover fish scraps as a meal. Starting out as little more than a glorified tuna salad sandwich, the Fat Jack established itself through years of innovation.

The name developed from the common use of Monterey Jack cheese as the main condiment. The most important evolution of the sandwich came when the mayonnaise in the tuna salad was replaced with a thick, spicy brown mustard. This utilitarian upgrade came about in effort to address inadequate refrigeration, for the spicy mustard didn’t develop the foul smell associated with mayonnaise left too long in the sun.

Soon it became custom to server the sandwich hot, frying up the whole thing in a skillet so the cheese melted through the thin cut thick crust bread, dripping over the sides to sizzle into brittle brown teardrops. The classic recipe has become well established, although an adventurous sandwich maker can try various adjustments to twist and tweak the result.


-4-6 (depending on size of loaf) slices hefty thick crust baker’s white bread, thinly sliced

-3 oz. canned tuna

-1 tbsp spicy brown mustard

-1 tbsp chopped pickled pepperoncini

-handful of fresh spinach leaves

-monterey jack cheese

-stick of butter

-pickled plum tomato

Mix tuna, mustard and pepperoncini in a bowl to even consistency. Spread result onto slices of bread about a half inch thick. Stack spinach, then cheese on top. Finish with a slice of bread. Turn over and butter the top of each sandwich (the tuna side). Lay onto skillet, tuna side down. Cut sandwiches in half at this point to maximize heat dispersal. Cook at medium low heat, and be careful that bread does not burn. While tuna side is cooking, spread butter on the top slices of bread. Once cheese shows first signs of melting, flip them over. Cook until the cheese has started to spill down the side and bread is a nice toasted golden brown. Spear a pickled plum tomato on top for the traditional garnish. Enjoy.

Tips: The real work here is to melt the cheese and toast the bread without burning it. The canned tuna is already cooked, so the reason to start with the tuna side down is to apply the heat evenly and get the tuna to a good warm temperature, as the cheese will melt very quickly otherwise. For variation, try using different cheeses (white cheddar, pepper jack, swiss). Or swap out the bread with bagels and melt the sandwiches open face in the oven.

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