Words and photos by Clark Adomaitis
Graphic by Aspasia Celia Tsampas
Since the coronavirus pandemic put the world in a state of emergency, CCNY students are participating in remote learning. Most students are not in Harlem on the regular anymore. As a result, we are missing the foods we love that are unique to Harlem. The Chopped Cheese is the quintessential Harlem sandwich that you probably are eating way less of now. You are going to miss this gorgeous blend of cheese, meat, crunch, soft, moist, and goo unless you read my recipe. Eat up!
Ingredients (yields one sandwich)
- Hamburger beef patty or a quarter pound of ground beef
- Sandwich Roll (any shape/size)
- American Cheese (2 pieces)
- Romaine Lettuce
- Green Pepper
- Salt and Pepper
- Heat up your frying pan on medium heat. Make sure that the pan is lubricated with some oil of your choice.
- Prep your ground beef by molding it into the shape of a hamburger patty. Circular, but not totally spherical, a bit flattish on either side. Season it liberally with black pepper and a little bit of salt. If you’ve already got a hamburger patty, simply season it liberally.
- Cut open your deli roll and toss it in the toaster on low heat, around 250°, for eight or so minutes, until the roll has a thin layer of light brown, and so the outsides are a tad crunchy and the insides stay soft.
- Toss that patty on the hot pan for 3 – 4 minutes. Flip it and chop it up in the pan with either a metal spatula or a fork and knife. Let it fry for another 3 minutes. Next, move your chopped up pieces close together and lay 1.5 pieces of American cheese on top (enjoy that leftover half a cheese slice as a snack). Lower the heat and let that cheese get melty for one minute.
- Remove the pan from heat. Prepare your bun by layering both ketchup and mayo on BOTH sides of the bun. I prefer to go lighter on the mayo to reduce the overall saltiness of the sandwich.
- Lift your fried meat and cheese with a spatula(s) and plop it right on that bun. Make sure it all fits. If any falls off, feel free to toss it right back on. Slice two pieces of tomato and add four leaves of chopped romaine lettuce on top.
- Close your bun and gently press the finished sandwich with your hands to give the ingredients the chance to stick together. If you want to take this further, you can wrap the sandwich in parchment paper and/or aluminum foil to match the deli chefs’ technique. IMPORTANT: Cut the sandwich down the middle with a sharp knife. Enjoying the cross-section of a large sandwich is an essential part of appreciating the blend of warm, cool, crunchy, and gooey you have just created.
Take a photo of that art and share it on Instagram with the hashtag #CoronaChoppedCheese. I’ll check that for sure.
Clark Adomaitis is a Staff Writer for the Campus Magazine. He specializes in investigative review-style pieces.