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Dish Deconstructed: Italian Peppers and Eggs Sandwich

One of my favorite, old-time Fort Lauderdale eateries was Dan's Original Submarines on Sunrise and Old Dixie Highway. Dan's was a perfect mixture of greasy spoon and sandwich shop -- the tiny, simple storefront packed up during lunchtime with construction workers and businessmen and was a favored stop of Fort Lauderdale police officers (hmmm, it's beginning to sound a little bit like the Village People in there).

It served a mean cheese-steak sandwich, Dan's did. But I usually went for the peppers and eggs sub. A 12-inch sub slathered with softly rendered peppers and scrambled eggs cost about four bucks. It was one of my favorite cheap, quick, and tasty lunches.

Sadly, Dan's closed nearly ten years ago to make way for the Home Depot that now sits at Sunrise Boulevard and Fourth Avenue. But if you want to have an Italian peppers and eggs sandwich like the one at Dan's, it's pretty easy to make it yourself.

Start with three large eggs, and scramble them in a bowl with a splash of milk. Make sure to scramble them well, so they're nice and airy. Set those aside, and place a nonstick skillet over medium heat.

The peppers are really what made the sandwich at Dan's. They had been cooked slowly at low temperature so they softened up completely and became very sweet. While your pan is warming, chop one large bell pepper into a one-inch dice. What type of pepper you use is up to you. The classic sandwich at Dan's used only green bell peppers, but a mixture of red and green would work well too. Add a half a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil to the skillet, and toss your peppers in. Add salt and continue to cook over medium heat until the peppers have softened.

If you wish, you can add onions with the pepper as well. It's entirely up to you -- sometimes I feel like the onions enhance the dish; other times, I long for the simplicity of just the peppers.

Once the peppers are soft, add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet and melt. Then toss your scrambled-egg custard into the pan and allow the peppers to spread throughout. The flavor of the rendered peppers will mix throughout the eggs along with the butter and lend them a delicious flavor.

When scrambling eggs, don't scrape them off the bottom of the pan. Your eggs won't turn out fluffy but flat with hard, crusty bits. Instead, cook over medium heat and stir the eggs gently from the center. The heat will distribute evenly, and you'll get nice, fluffy eggs.

Scrambled eggs are done when they are still slightly runny. Carryover heat will continue to cook them afterward, and nothing is worse than dry eggs. (You can also add cheese now if you like, and the heat from the eggs will make it melt.) Place the egg and pepper mixture into a warm piece of Italian bread or a hoagie roll, and serve with plenty of hot sauce. Just like Dan's.

For more info on peppers and egg sandwiches, check out this YouTube clip from Depression Era Cooking with Clara. The stories she tells are pretty nifty.   

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John Linn

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