How to make an authentic Philadelphia Hoagie
The most comprehensive explanation of the origin of the hoagie I found on Wikipedia. The history of the hoagie and the etymology of the word are exactly what I have heard as long as I can remember. So courtesy of the internet here it is.
The term hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin reported, in 1953, that Italians working at the World War I era shipyard in Philadelphia, known as Hog where emergency shipping was produced for the war effort, introduced the sandwich, by putting various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread. This became known as the "Hog Island" sandwich; shortened to "Hoggies", then the "hoagie".
The Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen's Manual offers a different explanation, that the sandwich was created by early-twentieth-century street vendors called "hokey-pokey men", who sold antipasto salad, meats, cookies and buns with a cut in it. When Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta H.M.S. Pinafore opened in Philadelphia in 1879, bakeries produced a long loaf called the pinafore. Entrepreneurial "hokey-pokey men" sliced the loaf in half, stuffed it with antipasto salad, and sold the world's first "hoagie".
Another explanation is that the word "hoagie" arose in the late 19th to early 20th century, among the Italian community in South Philadelphia, when "on the hoke" was a slang term used to describe a destitute person. Deli owners would give away scraps of cheeses and meats in an Italian bread-roll known as a "hokie", but the Italian immigrants pronounced it "hoagie".
Shortly after World War II, there were numerous varieties of the term in use throughout Philadelphia. By the 1940s, the spellings "hoagie" and, to a lesser extent, "hoagy" had come to dominate less used variations like "hoogie" and "hoggie".By 1955, restaurants throughout the area were using the term "hoagie",
The Hoagie at Home
When I was a child one of my earliest memories was going with my father every now and then on a Sunday evening to the Hoagie Shop down the street. Sunday dinner was long over. Macaroni only lasts so long. By five or so everyone could do with a little something. And it was something we could have while watching Lassie and Walt Disney.
I can still clearly see how those hoagies were assembled. Later, when I was in around fifth grade I worked for the Hoagie Shop as a morning delivery boy. I would go around to the baker to pick up the hoagie shops tray of pastries for the coffee customers. I earned seventy five cents a week. Seventy five cents was the price of a Frisbee at the local hobby shop.
Then, when I was a teenager, I worked weekends in my uncle’s delicatessen. I made more hoagies than I can count. The method of assembling them was exactly the same as what I recalled from the Hoagie Shop and from the Silver Slicer.
The assembly method that I use here is the very same one.
Later, what was then considered an upscale (even though the word did not exist) hoagie shop opened called The Silver Slicer. It had that name for two reasons. First, of course, the slicer was silver. But, more exciting to a young kid, if your receipt had a red star on it you got a real silver dollar! Remember them?
The Hoagie and its structure.
Few hoagie makers know or practice the traditional method anymore. Hoagies tend to be assembled in random layers with the lettuce and tomatoes either on top or on the bottom, often from pre-sliced meats that have compacted from sitting out. Nothing could be more wrong
Look at this photo of a hoagie from a most popular Philadelphia establishment. It is the image of all that is wrong. First, think about how you eat a hoagie. You can only bite into one side or the other at a time. If the meat is on a different side from the tomatoes and lettuce then your bite gets either one or the other. You don’t have an equal blend. By the same token, the cheese needs to be away from the bread. If the cheese is the first layer, as in this photo,it will congeal with the crumb and that makes mush. In the same way it should not be on the top or as already mentioned you only get the cheese every other bite. Then too, as you can see, all the meat is merged into one. You can't distinguish one taste or texture from another.
Correctly assembled a hoagie should look like this image. This is a store bought hoagie but you will see that the cheese is not against the bread. The meats are separated and the tomato and lettuce are in the middle. This is what you are looking for.
This hoagie is from Colonial Village Meat Market in Manoa outside Philadelphia.
The meats and cheese on a hoagie must be Italian and sliced fresh at the deli. There are however, some variations that are permissible. Since meats like prosciutto can be extremely expensive a few slices of the domestic variety are acceptable. In a really difficult situation you may be forgiven for using ham, but only the best quality ham. Genoa salami is required as is capacolla which may either be hot or sweet according to taste. Other meats are optional and may include anything from cullatello to soprasatta. But these meats are expensive and used sparingly in paper thin slices. Slicing pepperoni can also be a nice finish to the assembly. The cheese can be nothing other than provolone. There is also orthodoxy to the condiments. First and most serious, a hoagie may only be dressed with oil and sometimes a bit of vinegar. Mayonnaise is by far the most egregious sin. With mayonnaise it is no longer a hoagie but a sandwich.
Now, as to the garden elements. First, the old time lettuce was regular old grocery story Iceberg that was shredded on the slicer. You can use a mandolin or a very sharp knife. These days, with the availability of various other types of lettuce the tendency is to use the full leaf. Here again, is another contemporary mistake. If you must use a leafy lettuce, shred it in a chiffonade. The texture is most important to the mouth feel. Tomatoes, in season, must be Jersey’s. Out of season, it matters little since they are all like eating tasteless cardboard. Onions are often an option. As with the lettuce they should be thinly sliced. Vidalia are the best. After the trinity of lettuce, tomato and onion other additions are pretty much to taste. Most common are sweet or hot peppers and sometimes a slice of two of dill pickle.
The foundation of the hoagie, of course, is the roll. For the purest Philadelphia hoagie you can have only one kind of roll and it comes from Amoroso’s. And yes, it’s called a “roll” not a sub, not a hero or anything else. Now, I have seen Amoroso’s rolls as far away as Charleston, South Carolina. But, if you cannot find Amoroso’s be sure that what you have is not overly bready or dense. If you still have no luck and find only dense breads, pull out the center crumb.
Finally, remember, as you assemble your hoagie, do not pack it heavily. Lay the meat and cheese down lightly. Do the same with the lettuce and tomatoes and onion. A good hoagie should actually be delicate and assembled so that you can taste all the distinct textures and tastes.
And, of course, don't forget the traditional Pennsylvania Herr's Potato Chips.
Making the traditional Philadelphia Hoagie
Putting the hoagie together
Slice and serve with the obligatory "Herr's" potato chips