Monday, February 6, 2012

Sandwich Triad

The Annals of Lunch

Sandwich. The word alone inspires salivation. Indeed, the incredible potential for deliciousness is surpassed only by the immense variety of style and form in the world of this lunchtime staple. Recently I found myself falling it into a rut sandwich-wise. It was a tasty rut, to be sure, but a rut nonetheless. It was time to branch out. I picked three of my most successful experiments to publish in this post. Hopefully this will inspire you to break out of your own sandwich habits. However, seeing as no one actually reads this blog, I'll probably only end up inspiring myself at some point in the future. That sounds dirty...

Open Face Italian Turkey

Whenever I'm trying to decide what to cook the first type of food that comes to mind is always Italian food. Maybe it's because that's all I ate growing up, I don't know - I'm not a psychologist. Whatever the reason I always find myself thinking 'why would I cook any other kind of food?' The influence of this thinking is pretty obvious here, and you'll find it in all three sandwiches (and really, damn near everything else I cook).
  • 2 (vertical) slices of fresh ciabatta* about a half inch thick each.
  • 2 medium thin slices of provolone cheese
  • a little under a quarter pound of tacchino arrosto (roast turkey), I like mine affumicato con miele (honey smoked)
  • 4-5 thin tomato slices, slightly mangled
  • 1 tsp good extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • A pinch of dried basil
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
The goal with this sandwich is to create a slightly crunchy bottom to the bread on one side, and slightly browned cheese on the top. This must be done in two steps because, at least in my toaster, you can't get the cheese to start bubbling without completely blackening your bread. Alright, let's make this sandwich:

Layer the turkey on the bread. Don't be tempted into piling the meat too high. Normally, I'm all about more meat, but when this kind of cold-cut turkey heats up it tends to get really salty, so unless you want to chase this sandwich with a half-gallon of water, use moderation. Roll it up, tear it, crumple it, whatever makes it fit onto the bread. You want to minimize overhang, because any turkey that's not shielded by bread or cheese will burn and harden, and you'll have to trim it off. Not ideal. Next layer on your cheese, trying to cover all the turkey. Toast (in a toaster oven... do not try to jam this in a vertical toaster. please.) on the "medium" setting.

While that's toasting, you can prep your tomatoes. Cut them thin, about an eighth of an inch, then mangle them a bit so that they're more lines than circles, and drape them over the top of the sandwiches, when they're done toasting. Sprinkle some Parmigiano-Reggiano over the tomatoes, and crack some black pepper on top of that. Place the sandwiches on the toaster-oven's tray, and throw it on top-brown. When they come out, drizzle some olive oil on top.


*I always have this stuff on hand. I keep it "fresh" by cutting loaves into quarters the day I buy it, then wrapping the hell out of it and throwing it in the freezer. That way I can just bust out a chunk at a time. I usually use some of it for lunch, and have what's left with dinner. Simple.

Man-ini. You're Welcome.

The first half of this sandwich didn't survive long enough to be photographed. This is evidence of two features of this sandwich: first it's irresistible savory tastiness, second the relatively large amount of time it takes to make.
  • 5-6 inch long hunk of ciabatta (preparation explained below)
  • 1/2 cup bacon, chopped into small chunks
  • Enough asiago cheese (sliced thin) to cover the bread in a single layer
  • Enough white cheddar (sharp, sliced thin) to cover the bread in 3 layers
  • 5-6 oven-roasted tomato slices
  • A pinch of thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 drizzle extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp of chopped Italian parsley
Bread Prep
So I read about this sandwich technique in Simple Italian Sandwiches, the 'Ino (a sandwich shop in NY) cookbook, and I found it confusing as hell the way they described it. The idea is that since ciabatta is fairly thin, it makes a heartier sandwich if you cut it "horizontally" or equatorially. Basically if you've got your bread sitting flat on your countertop, you want the plane of your cut to be parallel to your table. HOWEVER, before you make this cut, you're gonna want to trim your bread some. Shave off the domed top part of the hunk of bread, so that you're left with about a 1 inch thick piece of bread to work with. Cut that bread in half in the aforementioned way and you're left with two 1/2 inch slices. One with just crust around the edges, and one with crust all over the bottom.

Innards Prep
The "oven roasted tomato" idea is from that same Sandwiches cookbook. They recommend roasting the tomato slices in a single layer at around 350 for a half hour, or something like that. I didn't feel like waiting, so I arranged my tomato slices in a single layer on my toaster-oven tray and turned it on broil. Once I got those going, I started the bacon in a cold pan (the way it's supposed to be). Watch both of these, you want the bacon crispy, not burnt, and the tomatoes tender, not shriveled.

Layer your asiago cheese on one side of the bread, and your cheddar on the other. Throw down your bacon bits on the asiago side, followed by the tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and parsley. Put the two sides together and throw it on your pre-heated panini press (you do have a panini press, don't you?).

If you don't happen to have a professional panini press, a George Foreman type electric grill will do the job, you'll just need to put a cookbook or something heavy (and heat resistant) on top of it, otherwise the sandwich won't flatten properly. If you don't have a foreman, a grill pan and a brick will also work, but you'll have to flip your sandwich half way through to cook it evenly.

Toast in your press until the sandwich is golden brown and cheese is bubbling out of the sides. Cut in half, and eat. Serve it with chips, or don't serve it at all.

The Number Two-Point-Five

This sandwich is an hommage to my favorite deli sandwich ever: the Gourmet Heaven #2, without honey mustard. Turkey, brie, and green apples on a footlong grinder roll. I must have gotten that sandwich 3 or 4 times a week in college. I've modified the form and replaced the brie with Fromager d'Affinois, its slightly funkier cousin, but the soul of the #2 lives on.
  • 2 thin (3/8") slices of ciabatta
  • ~1/4 lb turkey, sliced thin
  • 5-6 long slices of Affinois cheese
  • 4-5 thin apple slices (something green)
Place the bread on a panini press or substitute (see above) and grill until lightly toasted, and cover each with 2 layers of turkey, 1 layer of Affinois, and one layer of apple slices (they fit better if you cut them in half). 

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