Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Art of the Sandwich

Neither of my girls will consume a sandwich. Not turkey, not grilled cheese, not even plain old PB&J. It's maddening for many reasons. I mean if there's no sandwich love in the house, what the Hell goes in the lunchbox?

But here's the most maddening reason: I make a kick-ass sandwich. I do. In fact, my hubby commented the other day, after I'd made a particularly toothsome specimen, that I am "Queen of the Awesome Sandwich."

I am waiting for my crown to arrive.

And it should, any minute, because NO, my dishwasher still isn't fixed. So I'm making hella lotta sandwiches lately.

I had a brief period of elation Monday when the service technician told me the dishwasher wasn't "fixed" per se, but was at least useable until the new part came in...but that rat-face lied to me. That sucker still dead.

I digress. Anyways, the reason I make awesome sandwiches is simple. I love sandwiches. My hypothesis: Shitty sandwiches are made by people who don't love them. Want an A-List Sandwich? Make sure it's made my someone who respects the sandwich.

True sandwich connoisseurs know that it takes a delicate balance of textures, flavors and mojo to achieve Sandwich Greatness.

For me, it's all about balance. A great sandwich needs something salty/savory/umami-ish, something crunchy, something fresh and juicy, something delightful on the bread to anchor the whole business.

And quality ingredients sure don't hurt. In fact, get the best.

Take the sandwich I made for hubs that got such raves. Two words: Boar's Head. Totally worth the money, dudes. If you're a veg head, you need gorgeous cheese or hummus or avocado in order to achieve necessary balance. And do not, I beg of you, use lame bread.

Now I realize that there are two distinct camps regarding the bread: toasters and non-toasters. Personally, I'm a dilettante. For me, it depends on the sandwich. My mama's tuna sandwich? Anything but squishy white bread, un-toasted, would be sacrilege. A proper Reuben? That bread had better crackle, my friend.

For my standard "code sandwich" I take a different approach to bread. I pop the bread in the toaster oven on the "top brown" setting. Then I put the toasted sides on the inside of the sandwich...reason being, I like crunch but hate chapping my hard palate on crust. Plus, the toasted surface allows the juicy elements to shine rather than slide out. Try this method, really. It's a revelation.

And oh dear, spreads present a very pesky problem. There's a legion of mayo haters out there (dear hubs is one of them). And some people can't abide mustard (hubs again). And using butter as an adherent is just a cop-out. But believe me, having something on that bread is crucial.

Tomato haters can be a problem, too. But as long as they'll acquiesce to crisp lettuce or thin slices of cucumber or slices of roasted red pepper, I think sandwich greatness won't be compromised.

Here's a rough recipe for my husband's Awesome Sandwich.

Awesome Sandwich
serves 1

2 slices very good quality bread, toasted only on one side
1 tablespoon (scant for hubs) Boar's Head Spicy Remoulade Sauce
1 1/2 slices good melting cheese, such as fontina, provolone or jack
2-3 oz. Boar's Head buffalo-style chicken breast, thinly sliced
Ripe tomato slices
Romaine or any other crisp lettuce

Before you start, take the meat and cheese out of the refrigerator and fan the slices out on the counter or plate. They shouldn't be ice cold in the final product. Toast bread on one side. On one slice, spread Remoulade (toasted side). On the other slice, place cheese on the toasted side, pop back in toaster oven and heat until cheese is slightly melted.

Place meat on cheese side of bread. Place tomato on Remoulade side of bread. Place lettuce on top of tomato, then place slices together. Cut in half.

**I must say that I advocate for spicy honey mustard, hummus, mashed avocado, or olive tapenade as binders also. It's not all Remoulade in my world.

The Awesome Sandwich was a handy little staple over the past weekend. However, Monday morning dawned cold and dreary. And not just Autumn dreary--there was actually a threat of snow in the forecast.

The Awesome Sandwich is not so awesome when it's that grim outside. Which is why my Panini Maker is my most favorite thing. Seriously, I'd French-kiss that thing if I could.

Last Night's Awesome Panini**
serves 1

2 slices good sourdough bread
2 thick slices Fontina cheese
2-3 ounces Boar's Head honey roasted turkey breast, sliced
Sliced roasted red peppers
Thick smhmear of Olive Tapenade (I like the Jalapeno-Olive kind, personally.

Smear Tapenade on one slice of bread. Place 1 piece of cheese on each slice (on a panini, cheese is the glue, so put it on both slices of bread! Layer on remaining ingredients. Close sandwich and either butter the outer sides or drizzle with olive oil. Squish in a hot panini maker and cook until brown and crisp. Let stand about a minute, then slice (if you slice too soon, all of your cheese drizzles out. Which is a total buzzkill).

**The toasty bread provides the crunch component in this sandwich, but if you are a freak like me, you will slide in a couple of Kettle Chips or Doritos into the sandwich. This makes my husband gag, but hey, I just roll that way.

Feel free to post your sandwich preferences, oddities, recipes and yes, even rants. I love hearing y'all talk!


  1. TKW-you rock! I too have a thing for Boar's Head. It completely changes the sandwich. I actually go to a separate local grocery store to get our deli meats so that I can purchase that brand. And I too am in love with my panini maker. What a god send. By the way, made your recipe for sesame pork lettuce wraps last night. They were great! Definitely will do them again. Thanks and keep the great recipes coming!

  2. YUM YUM YUM and I JUST ate dinner which was delish. I love sandwiches as well.......Avocao is a must have. But what the heck is umami?

  3. **So glad I bought Boar's Head for girls weeekend. And I have now learned that when all else fails, even the 'Queen of the Awesome Sandwich' will accept chips on the darn thing for crunch/salt value.

  4. Wow, I can tell you have strong feelings about sandwiches! I love it! Sounds like you have the science of it down pat. I had a great veggie sandwich the other day-- a few rosted veggies w/ goat cheese. but they chopped all the veggies pretty small, which was goofy and made it hard to eat! I was like, "I could totally make a better version of this at home... and for less than $10 for sure!"

    Side note-- sounds all sorts of cold in Colorado. All my facebook friends who still live there have status updates about turning on the heat at home and wearing coats. Thank God it's not like that here in Chicago yet! But on the bright side, you know in a few days CO will be sunny and 70... then back to cold... then warm again... I miss CO weather!

  5. Toasting on only one side and then putting the toasted side on the inside? Brilliance, TKW, sheer BRILLIANCE. You have singlehandedly changed the face of sammie consumption in my house.

    That doesn't change the fact that I'd prefer to just eat at your house, but it does make coping a little easier.

  6. I agree with CK, because you guys are so right...toasted bread DOES chap the palate! I would never have thought to toast only one side. Duh.

    I love sandwiches, but for some reason, I enjoy them so much more when someone else makes them. I know, I'm lazy.

    Anyhow, this is going to sound weird, and might have to end up in your ML White Trash book, but I love a thick slab of a warm (as in, don't stick it in the fridge) homegrown salted tomato on toasted bread globbed with mayo. My dad always called it the Depression sandwich. It is heaven. But it HAS to be a homegrown tomato.

  7. The Awesome Panini recipe looks simple enough but makes my mouth water. LOL. gotta try it later one of these days. :D

  8. I agree with CK about wanting to eat at your house. But I feel totally enlightened and motivated about the toasted-side-inside method! Gads, that's a good idea!

  9. "My mama's tuna sandwich? Anything but squishy white bread, un-toasted, would be sacrilege. A proper Reuben? That bread had better crackle, my friend."
    Will you marry me?!
    We're big sammie people here, too, as well as vegetarian mayo haters, and if I don't use hummus or tapenade, I'll tell you, carmelized onions work really well as a binder. Chutney can work if the flavors are right. Sure, avocado or cream cheese. For peasants. But here's one for ya...sun dried tomato pesto. Now, I know it takes a lot to balance that sweet, but a really nutty cheese or a really mountainy sheep cheese can take it.
    The one-side toasted, as noted above, is the sexiest thing you've ever said.
    I'm not kidding about the marriage proposal. We can eat sandwiches and read TKAMB and *not* french kiss panini grills all day.

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  11. Boar's Head? Is that a US brand? Oh boar's head for me - is there something similiar?

    Me, I love a good sandwich but I really need to have it freshly made - none of this, make in the morning, eat later when it is soggy sort of lark. My mum used to make cheese and tomato sandwiches for me when I was a child. They were in a sad state of affairs by the time lunch time rolled round - dipping the bin they went! She used to say 'I'll know if you bin them....' so sometimes I'd endure it but oh it was horrid. Not that a cheese and tomato sandwich can't be wicked - just please don't make me eat soggy wet bread...

    I've also got a phobia of the shelved package sandwiches in shops - I can do them sometimes but often as I eat the first one, I'm thinking ' long has this been sitting on that shelf?' by the time I get to the second one in the pack I've mentally put myself off.

    Now, give me a fresh bagette - some lovely lettuce, humous, cherry toms, sliced honey roast ham....goats cheese....roast beef....hmmmmmm and toasted can be wonderful at times!

    But now I come to the thing that has been nagging me for the whole of this blog entry - your kids - WHY?! Surely peer pressure at school help with that one alone? All the other kids eating their sandwiches etc etc.... And please do tell, what do you give them instead? I am most intrigued!!! xxx

  12. Sandwiches rule. And when I remember to pull out the panini press, I feel like Master of the Sandwich Universe. I'm currently infatuated with a pork pesto panini that I threw together as part of our Eat Down the Fridge project.

  13. CC: Boar's Head is a brand...I guess my point is, spend the bucks to get good meat/cheese. I am with you on the pre-made sandwiches in shops--eek! And your mum needs to know that tomato and/or cucumber needs to be packed SEPARATE from the sandwich! Those suckers KILL bread and can only be added at the last minute. I am sorry for your childhood soggy sandwiches, friend.

    Wendi...Eat Down the Fridge project is something I need to do. But I'm scared.

  14. Youreally have elevated this to an art form! I never thought of toasting only one side of the bread... I want a panini press for Christmas now :)

  15. I am a complete and total freak, just like you ;) I love chips in my sandwiches and I think that GOOD sandwich making is definitely an art...and that people should definitely take this lesson from you! Gorgeous, my dear.

  16. why oh why did i start a low carb diet?? i want a sandwich NOW.

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  18. Yummy! That dishwasher is protesting, "stop cooking and washing so much Bitch"!!!!!!!!!!
    xoxoxoxoxox saw the "Low Country Boil/Frog" dish. :)K

  19. Your sandwich looks great! My daughter doesn't eat sandwiches either--I solved the problem with hors d'oeuvres I buy at TJs and Costco. Under the kids section on my site, check out Emma's School Lunches. I swear it's easier than sandwiches, and you always have lunch in the freezer.

  20. Thanks Catherine, I will do that! Miss D. is subsisting on hummus and crackers and it's a little depressing.

  21. I'm so glad I saw this before I went to the store! I LOVE a good sandwich!

  22. Jen: umami is a term coined by the Japanese. It is our "fifth" taste. We taste sweet, salty, sour and bitter,,,and umami. It's basically a rich, meaty taste.

  23. OMG! You are Erma Bombeck mixed in with an extra dash of boldness. My kind of writer!
    As for sandwiches-- I hold them in high esteem as well. White sponge way! Homemade...even better. Tonight, I'm making a fontina and homemade fig jam sammich, pannini style. Seriously. My favorite sammich-- cream cheese, avocado, fresh tomato, bacon and my favorite condiment-- pepperoncini (sp?)! I would go nuts without a dishwasher, too. Hope it gets fixed soon.

  24. My daughter wouldn't eat sandwiches either, it was maddening! Lucky she eats them now but she is selective usually the chicken breast and I get BH.
    I love good bread and good ingredients. (They were out of the BH Bufalo Chicken Breast when I got the lunch meat this week!) I love avocados and wasabi mustard! Or mayo with some curry paste it's good with pulled chicken.

    Your sandwich is beautiful, definitely crown worthy!!

  25. Great sandwich, my husband is all about the Boars Head meats. He just loves it.

  26. A great sandwich is something to behold! Love this idea!

    My daughter would only eat hard salami sandwiches growing up. By about third grade, and 3 years of hard salami sandwiches, I hooked her up with the Whole Foods deli department for a tasting!

    "Hannah, this is smoked turkey, do you like it?"
    "Yes Momma!"
    "This is honey ham, do you like this one?"
    "Yes Momma!"
    "This one is corned beef, do you like this one?"
    "Yes Momma!"
    So which one do you want me to get for you?
    "Hard salami!"

  27. Darlin', you are So. Not. A. Tool.

    You didn't have to delete on my account! Was just teasing you.

  28. Dana! Whenever you made me a sandwich, it was always so good! I miss being spoiled over at the T house. Don't shun me but my all-time favorite sandwich is called a PBLT and it consists of wheat bread, toasted- mayo on one slice, peanut butter on the other, lettuce, tomato(straight from the garden) and salt/pepper! Sometimes I will add a few potato chips in there too...haha. Don't knock it till you try it!

  29. Biz, I love it. The sweetie knows what she wants.

    Ink, love you.

    Kayla: we miss pampering you, too. I'd try that sandwich!