Citi Field’s deli pastrami sandwich has a ‘cult following,’ senior executive chef says

Tickets for the first-ever Major League Baseball FoodFest — bringing signature dishes from each of the 30 nationwide ballparks to midtown next weekend — might be sold out already, but you don’t have to attend to try the hometown favorites.

At the two-day tasting event, Yankee Stadium will be serving its adobo bao, a steamed bun filled with chicken and pork rinds, and Citi Field will be offering its classic New York deli pastrami sandwich, one of the stadium’s most popular concession items. You can still grab a pastrami sandwich (for $12.75) at a Mets home game at the Queens ballpark, where Aramark senior executive chef Patrick Schaeffer runs the kitchens.

Schaeffer, who’s predicted his home team will make it to the World Series this season, shares some juicy facts about the meaty sandwich with a cult following below:

It takes a very, very long time to cook the brisket meat just right.

Once kitchen staffers have covered the beef with the stadium’s proprietary (a.k.a secret) rub, they slow cook it.

“We have a team that gets here about 20 hours before the gates even open and starts to smoke and braise these pastrami,” Schaeffer said.

They prepare roughly 800 pounds of pastrami meat a day.

Cooks prepare the meat in a huge commissary kitchen beneath the ballpark’s field level concourse.

“Our main commissary where we do a lot of the bulk production and where the pastrami is actually made and prepared would rival any of the commissary kitchens in any hotel in New York or across the country,” Schaeffer says of the facility’s size. It’s at the same level as the ballplayers’ dugout, and it’s only one of several kitchens in the stadium.

All together, Citi Field employs six executive chefs and anywhere from 250 to 450 cooks, chef supervisors and other kitchen staffers, depending on the size of the stadium crowds.

The pastrami may be made in house, but the rye bread is from a New Jersey bakery.

The Jewish-style, seeded rye bread comes from Anthony & Sons bakery in Denville, NJ, an Italian, family-owned business.

The sandwich has its own baseball trading card.

Last year, the New York City-based trading card company Topps released a special series for opening day, highlighting the best ballpark eats. Citi Field’s pastrami sandwich got its own card, which called it a “celebration of New York’s diverse cuisine.”

The Mets actually eat it, too.

The players are fans of Shake Shack burgers and the Bash Burgers from Josh Capon’s ballpark branch, but their locker room also has its own kitchen and culinary team, so they get to make special requests, too. On Friday, the team dug into pastrami sandwiches, Schaeffer reports.

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