Roast Broccoli Hero Sandwiches. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

This sandwich recipe was meant to be.

I first tasted it, as so many others have, at No. 7 Sub in Manhattan: roast broccoli, pickled litchis, salty cheese, pine nuts, fried shallots. What? It was astonishingly good, but I didn’t seriously think about trying to make it at home because, well, I imagined the prep (and shopping) time for each element and assumed this would be one of those restaurant dishes best experienced at the restaurant.

Then I saw chef-owner Tyler Kord’s book, “A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches,” and started laughing at just about every essay, every headnote. Example: “If you are looking for an authentic hummus recipe, then why are you holding this book and reading this recipe right now? Go get a real cookbook that will teach you real things.” Another: One recipe is titled “This Article Is About Meatloaf. For the Singer, See Meat Loaf.”

Still, his recipe for what he calls the Broccoli Classic, the shop’s signature sandwich, didn’t make me run right out to the store — or stores, in the case of the litchis — and get cooking. I love his writing, and I flip open the book to any given page anytime I need another chuckle. But he refers frequently to sub-recipes — you know, those back-of-the-book “base” recipes that require you to reevaluate your time investment on the spot — and that usually stops me.

All was not lost. In his new book, “EveryDayCook,” Alton Brown of “Good Eats” fame writes about his own infatuation with the same sandwich and how he doctors store-bought bread-and-butter pickles to imitate the litchis and pops open a can of French’s Crispy Fried Onions instead of frying up his own. He drops the pine nuts altogether.

The same strange sandwich referred to in two cookbooks in the same year? Clearly the universe was telling me to make it, and guess which recipe I chose. I made a few adaptations from Brown’s take, but the biggest difference is this: I took a colleague’s tip and suggest saving the spiced-up pickle brine and serving it alongside the sandwich, for dipping.

Now it’s something I’ll feel free to make whenever I’m not lining up in New York for the original. Surely, Kord couldn’t find that upsetting in the least.

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Roast Broccoli Hero Sandwiches

4 servings

Alton Brown’s take on the signature sandwich at No. 7 Sub in New York City combines broccoli, doctored pickles, store-bought fried onions and salty cheese. And it works.

Lars Own, an imported brand of fried onions, can be found at some Whole Foods and other markets or online; you may also use classic French’s Original Crispy Fried Onions.

MAKE AHEAD: The pickles can marinate in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in advance.

Adapted from Alton Brown’s “EveryDayCook” (Ballantine Books, 2016).


1 cup bread-and-butter pickles, drained, plus 1/2 cup of their brine

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce, such as Sriracha, sambal oelek or gochujang

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 medium head broccoli (about 11/4 pounds), chopped into florets, stalk thinly sliced into coins

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Four 6-inch French bread rolls

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup prepared fried onions (preferably Lars Own Crispy Onions; see headnote)

2 ounces ricotta salata, shaved


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the pickles and brine, garlic, ginger, chili sauce and toasted sesame oil in a medium bowl. Marinate at room temperature while you make the sandwiches.

Toss together the broccoli, oil and salt on a large baking sheet; roast until the broccoli is bright green, is starting to brown on the edges and is easily pierced with a fork but not soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.

Split the rolls, leaving them hinged. Open them and set on a large baking sheet and lightly toast under the broiler, 1 to 2 minutes; watch closely to keep them from burning.

To assemble the sandwiches, lightly spread mayonnaise on the insides of the rolls. Divide the roasted broccoli evenly among them. Use a slotted spoon to lift the pickles out of their marinade and evenly distribute them on the broccoli, then layer the fried onions and ricotta salata on top.

Serve the pickle marinade with the sandwiches, for dipping.

Nutrition | Per serving (not including marinade): 430 calories, 9 g protein, 39 g carbohydrates, 27 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 1,230 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar

Recipe tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to

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