teen twists: the cure for leftover ham

If your family is like my family, you spent your Easter enjoying each other’s company and soaking up the spring weather, but mainly stuffing yourselves with honey ham. No matter how much ham we eat, though, there are always leftovers. Stacks of ham slices get shoved into gallon-sized Ziplocks and sent home with every pork-weary relative. My dad, who is in all other circumstances vehemently anti-leftover, makes magic happen from that bag of ham. The night after Easter, he will put the ham to its highest and best use: the Teen Twist, a griddled hot ham and cheese topped with lettuce, tomato, and secret sauce served on a twist roll (also known as an egg bread roll).

teen twist

Why is the Teen Twist so good? It’s the sauce. And the roll. And the American Cheese. The sauce is a slightly sweeter, slightly thinner mayonnaise mixed with just enough sweet relish to give it a quiet tang. Like the sauce, the roll has a subtle sweetness. It also has a pleasing texture that is denser than an ordinary hamburger bun but not as bread-y as a Kaiser roll. Plus, twist rolls look snazzy, which makes this a fun sandwich to admire and devour. As for the cheese, maybe you’re not into Kraft singles, but the mild flavor and superior melting qualities of those orange squares is nothing short of the perfect complement to the sweet and salty ham.

griddle with the ham-side down

griddle with the ham-side down

We call these sandwiches Teen Twists because they were inspired by sandwiches of the same name that were served at the old Hot Shoppes restaurant chain. Hot Shoppes were beloved hangouts in the D.C. area when my dad was a teenager. At the mere mention of Hot Shoppes, he’ll sigh, look somewhere in the distance, and speak in poetry about the incomparable Mighty Mo burgers, malts, onion rings, and of course, Teen Twists. The Hot Shoppes were a Marriott venture that ended decades ago, leaving a generation of locals with a hungry nostalgia and elevated expectations for a hot ham and cheese. Not one to be deprived of an excellent sandwich, my dad hacked the Hot Shoppes recipe and has been slinging these from his home griddle for as long as I can remember. They’ve always been one of my favorite sandwiches and I wouldn’t know a Hot Shoppes from a HoJo from a Bob’s Big Boy.

teen twist 02

Ed and I couldn’t make it to Virginia for the family Easter ham-a-thon this year, but there was no way I was going to spend the holiday without Teen Twists. That would be like not having malted milk balls at 8 a.m. on Easter Sunday: unthinkable. I had a plan to bake a little ham for the two of us to enjoy on Sunday evening so that I could make Teen Twists tonight using the leftovers. On Friday, I came to my senses and just bought ham at the deli counter and made the sandwiches for our main Easter event. Ed and I couldn’t help but eat two a piece – the salty, melty, crispy, creamy combination is sandwich perfection.

teen twists in progress

teen twists
inspired by the Hot Shoppes restaurants

Most grocery store bakeries sell twist rolls (also known as egg bread rolls), either individually in bins or bagged in multi-packs. If you can’t find them, a sesame seed-topped hamburger bun makes a decent substitute.

For the cheese, if you use Kraft Singles or another pre-packaged kind of American, you will only need one slice per sandwich. If you use deli-sliced American (which always seems to be sliced thinner), use two slices.

This recipe makes about 4 sandwiches.


1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
4 twist rolls
8 ounces deli ham or leftover baked ham
4 slices of pre-packaged American Cheese OR 8 slices of deli-sliced American Cheese
two small tomatoes, sliced
four iceberg lettuce leaves, shredded (you’ll need about a cup and a half total shredded lettuce)


Make the secret sauce: dissolve the sugar in the white vinegar. Whisk in the mayonnaise and relish until completely combined.

Slice the twist rolls horizontally such that the top and bottom halves are separated.

Heat a griddle or a non-stick pan over medium heat.

Arrange cheese slice(s) on the bottom half of each twist roll. Pile three or four separated deli ham slices (less if you’re using thick-cut ham) on top of the cheese. Place the stacks of roll, cheese, and ham ham-side down on the hot griddle. Place the top half of the roll cut-side down on the hot griddle to lightly toast it (a little smear of butter on that bread before toasting wouldn’t be a bad thing).  Leave undisturbed until the cheese melts and until the bread toasts lightly. Once the cheese has melted, remove the stacks from the pan and place them ham-side up on your serving plate. Top with two tomato slices and lettuce sufficient to cover.

Once lightly toasted, spread the top half of the roll with the secret sauce. Place top bun on the cheese-ham-tomato-lettuce stack and enjoy.

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