bookmaker’s sandwich

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When I first heard the name of this sandwich I was caught up in this beautiful romance trilogy set in Ireland. The author, Nora Roberts, had mesmerized me with the green, earthy setting of the place. One of the main characters owned and operated a charming pub and “built” bookmaker’s sandwiches for his customers, often accompanied by a tall, frothy pint of Guinness stout.

“What a romantic title for a sandwich!” I thought. I imagined someone in an ancient, dimly lit press room, making their own handmade paper flecked with flower petals, stitching books by hand, all the time wearing a bulky, hand-knit fisherman’s sweater and listening to harp music. Of course he or she would have to take a break for refreshment from time to time, and when they did they could enjoy a thick wedge of this hearty, filling sandwich with a steaming mug of black tea to go with it. Because these bookmakers of yore had access to book presses, the advent of this pressed sandwich made total sense to me.

You can imagine my disappointment when I found out the actual way this sandwich was named.

A bookmaker, or “bookie” is a person who bets on various sporting events and mainly horse races. Unable to leave his station during a meet or race, he had to have access to filling, substantial fare to get him through the day. Thus, the Bookmaker’s “Bookie” Sandwich was born.

A Bookmaker’s Sandwich is not only hearty, it’s HUGE and therefore sharable. It’s also portable, so if you’re not inclined to frequenting the race track, you could bring it on a camping trip, nature hike or picnic.

I recently read a review of bookmaker’s sandwiches where the author of the post was illustrating how to make one, all the time criticizing the idea of the sandwich as a whole. After trying the sandwich for myself, I have no idea what he could be talking about. It’s absolutely phenomenal.

To my way of thinking, a sandwich is indeed only as awesome as the sum or it’s parts. Therefore, use the best ingredients whenever possible and you won’t be disappointed. This is a “bready” sandwich, so be sure to serve it with plenty of **condiments such as: butter, grainy mustard, mayonnaise, black or white truffle-infused olive oil, mango chutney, marmalade, pickled banana peppers and/or pickled veggies. I also think this is a perfect sandwich to serve with your favorite soup or au jus sauce for dipping.

Follow the instructions in the link provided for the loaf of homemade bread pictured in this post. Otherwise, purchase the freshest, crustiest loaf you can find so it will hold up to the juicy fillings.

Traditionally the bookmaker’s sandwich (also known as a shooter sandwich) is made with grilled steaks cooked only until medium rare. Feel free to substitute steak for the medium rare roast beef in this recipe if you wish.

for one big, sharable sandwich (approximately 10 servings) :

1 large, round loaf rustic, crusty bread (I doubled THIS recipe)

1/4 cup real mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons creamy horseradish sauce

 1/4 cup beef broth or stock (divided)

salt and pepper

2 lb. medium rare roast beef, sliced thin

1/4 cup olive oil (divided)

1 large yellow onion, cut into quarters and sliced (or four peeled, chopped shallots)

16 oz. washed, sliced Portobello mushrooms

1/2 cup dry red wine

3 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

3 large cloves garlic, minced

3 to 4 Tablespoons grainy, country-style mustard or grainy Dijon

Heat 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add mushrooms, onions and thyme.

Stir and saute until everything is golden-brown and sticky. Deglaze pan with the red wine.

Reduce mushroom mixture again until sticky and moisture is absorbed. Turn off heat. Set aside.

In a separate skillet, using the remaining olive oil, saute 3 large cloves of minced garlic for 1 minute (until golden and fragrant.) Turn off heat. Set aside.


Cut a “cap” off the top of the bread loaf, remove excess bread from inside of cap and set cap aside. Hollow out loaf, leaving a 1/2 inch “wall.” Reserve bread from inside loaf and cap for another use (such as making stuffing or bread pudding.)

Drizzle 2 Tablespoons of the beef stock all over the inside of the loaf.

Slather the inside of the loaf with a mixture of the mayonnaise and horseradish.

Sprinkle inside of loaf with freshly ground pepper and salt (be generous with the pepper.)


Layer 1 lb. of the roast beef in the bottom of the loaf “bowl.”


Tamp meat down. Add the mushroom sauce mixture…


Sprinkle sauteed garlic over mushroom mixture…


Top with the second lb. of roast beef slices. Tamp down so everything fits. Drizzle reserved beef broth/stock over meat.


Slather bread “cap” interior with the grainy mustard and place it on the sandwich.


Tightly wrap sandwich loaf with several pieces of cooking parchment. Secure tightly with twine, as shown below…



After loaf is wrapped well, tightly wrap it in a layer of aluminum foil.

Press loaf down and place it in a book press (if you have one,) or under something heavy such as books, clean bricks or a large Dutch oven lid (which is what I use.)

Place weighted sandwich in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight (up to 12 hours.)

Remove weights and unwrap when ready to eat.

Cut into large wedges and serve with your favorite accompaniments/ **condiments.




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