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The Best Thing I Ever Made: Part 3; Hoagies

September 13, 2021
6 min. read

Hi! I am Wendy Cowan, and I am the marketing manager at Martin’s. Yes, that is me in 1974, and yes, that is me now. (I know. I know. The “then and now pictures” look exactly alike. HaHa!)

Wendy with Hoagie - ThenWendy with Hoagie - Now

But seriously, I do love hoagies.  It isn’t really a secret. Ask anyone who knows me, for real, and they will tell you that I love hoagies.  This blog is supposed to be about the “Best Thing that I Ever Made,” and to be totally honest, I am better known for some other dishes.  I have my family duly brainwashed to think that I make the absolute best lasagna, macaroni and cheese, as well as the best vegetable dip in all of south-central Pennsylvania.  But for me, personally, it’s my hoagies.  Sure, there are many restaurants and delis that sell good hoagies.  In fact, all of my adult life I have had hoagie shops easily accessible across the street or at the end of my road.  But I like mine the best.  And I am even more convinced of my hoagie preference after eating so many of my own hoagies during the quarantine!

My love for hoagies started young, as you can see from the picture.  It was a special occasion, to go to town and walk into the deli (which smelled heavenly from the combination of aromas of onions, baked goods, and roasted meats floating out of the kitchen) and get a hoagie made specially for me.  At some point in grade school, my parents rewarded me (or motivated me) with my favorite food.  A birthday or a good report card was sure to land me a trip to town to my favorite deli for a hoagie.

In my teen years, I decided that I would show my parents that I could make my own decisions and make my own money, so I got a job (what a rebellion!). I landed a job in my favorite deli that made my favorite hoagies.  I felt like I had “arrived.” Such good memories were made at Sunny Way Diner and Deli in Greencastle, PA.  I learned many cooking techniques from working in the kitchen and deli.  I also made lifetime friends, one of whom I work with now, here at Martin’s!


Hoagie #1: Classic Ham Hoagie

I like many different kinds of hoagies.  Fresh-cut turkey breast, Italian, chicken salad, cheeseburger, and salami are high on my list of favorites.  But my favorite go-to hoagie is similar to one from those deli days, which, by the way, I made hundreds of before I was 20 years old.  It is a simple ham hoagie.  Well, it is simple, but it has to be made correctly.  You have to have the following:  thin cut ham (I prefer Virginia baked ham), thinly sliced onions, iceberg lettuce, juicy, fresh tomatoes, provolone cheese, oregano, hot pepper relish, mayonnaise (quite a bit, but not too much), and, of course, a soft-but-stable Martin’s Hoagie Roll.

Here are the step-by-step instructions to making a fantastic ham hoagie:

  1. Start with Martin’s Hoagie Roll and prepare your favorite toppings.
  2. Slather on the mayonnaise.
  3. Sprinkle oregano over the mayonnaise.
  4. Add hot pepper relish. (Even if you do not like heat on your hoagie like I do, I believe that a little hot pepper relish is needed to add some complexity to the combination of flavors.)
  5. Add one layer of provolone cheese.
  6. Pile on thin-cut Virginia baked ham.
  7. Add a layer of thinly cut onions. (We like extra onions at our house!)
  8. Add tomato slices to cover the onions.
  9. Top with iceberg lettuce (this kind of lettuce is used for its crunchy texture and mild flavor).
  10. Close. Cut. Eat.

Pro Tip:  The best side dish for this hoagie is Gibble’s Potato Chips.  (These potato chips are no longer made by Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, but they are still yummy!)


Hoagie #2: Cheesesteak Hoagie

As much as I like ham hoagies, sometimes you need (or want) a hot meal.  A cheesesteak hoagie can be the perfect solution.  I have experimented with cheesesteak hoagies for many years.  I have crashed and burned (sometimes burned the steak) many times. But I have come up with a combination that is pretty good and has received the “husband-approved” stamp.

First, the meat will make or break a hoagie.  It has to be the right thickness and cut so it is not chewy or gristly. We are fortunate to live in an area that is rich with farms.  When buying meat for our freezer, we are able to request the type of cuts of beef that we want, and I ask for the round steaks to be cut/shaved into thin slices for steak hoagies.  The meat also needs to be seasoned correctly, cooked well so it has a nice texture, and it can’t be greasy.  (No pressure.)

Rather than having all cold toppings on my cheesesteak, I like to combine some vegetables in with my steak, such as peppers, onions, and garlic.  This not only adds flavor, but it adds additional textures to the fried steak.  I also use seasoned steak salt, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh parsley to deepen the flavor profile of the protein.  I melt the cheese on the steak before adding to the sandwich.  This takes all the guess work out of when the cheese will melt when serving because it is already melted!  When building the hoagie, I use many of the same ingredients as the ham hoagie, such as mayonnaise, oregano, onions, tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce.

Here is a step-by-step guide to make my best cheesesteak hoagie:

Toast the buns

  1. Brush Martin’s Hoagie Rolls with garlic butter.
  2. Toast in heated oven for 5 minutes until golden, flipping once.

Prepare the steak

  1. Sauté peppers, onions, and garlic in 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a frying pan.
  2. When vegetables are soft and onions start to caramelize, add steak. (I like to cut my steak before adding to the frying pan.)
  3. Add seasoned steak salt, parsley, and Worcestershire sauce to steak.
  4. Chop steak and vegetables as they fry. Cook until well done.
  5. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese; cover until melted.

Assemble the Cheesesteak Hoagie

  1. Start with garlic-butter-toasted Martin’s Hoagie Roll and all your toppings.
  2. Slather roll with mayonnaise.
  3. Sprinkle oregano over mayonnaise.
  4. Pile on hot cheesesteak mixture.
  5. Layer on fresh onions.
  6. Layer on fresh tomatoes.
  7. Layer on banana pepper rings.
  8. Finish with chopped iceberg lettuce.
  9. Close. Cut. Eat.

Pro Tip:  I like using red, yellow, or orange peppers because they are sweet.  Green peppers can be used, but they do change the flavor profile.  (I also add mushrooms sometimes.)


So, there you have it! Two of my favorite hoagies.  But remember, I love hoagies!  Hoagies come in endless varieties of ingredients (as well as other names such as subs and grinders!).  You can switch it up by changing the protein or the toppings.  I like to experiment with different sauces and dressings, such as the ones found in this Creative Sandwich Spreads blog.   Start with your favorite meat and match flavors that accent the flavor and texture.  And don’t forget to use the best roll for the job: Martin’s Hoagie Rolls!

Find more hoagie inspiration from these recipes!

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