Filling the gap

The sandwich is something that many of us take for granted. When we're in a hurry, a sandwich fills the gap, whether it's store bought or homemade. I've recently attempted to return to my childhood by making balogna sandwiches with American cheese slices sauced with French's mustard and a little bit of mayo. I can't bring myself to go the Oscar Meyer route, so deli sliced meat and cheese make me feel slightly better about eating suspect cold cuts.

My favorite sandwich of all time is the meatloaf sandwich. I grew up eating a lot of meat loaf, so inevitably, this made it's way into my school lunch bag more than I care to remember. I find myself making meatloaf now just for the sandwiches. 

I have several rules about making them.  Sometimes, they are best with iceburg lettuce, tomato and mayo, just like my local pub, The Four Moons Tavern, serves it.  At home, I wouldn't say I've made them fancy, but I do like the granary bread approach and some nice salad leaves.  I also like to leave out the tomato and add a kosher dill pickle slice. One rule remains- mayo is the only thing that this sandwich should have on it, and lots of it.

I've adapted my Mom's meatloaf recipe and you can make it in a loaf tin or form it into individual little loaves and cook them on a sheet pan.  She used to put all ingredients in raw, but I like to cook the onion so it comes out with less bite.

Pam's Meatloaf
Serves 4 

2lbs ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 free range eggs, beaten
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 1/2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp English mustard
1/3 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper

Ketchup and/or bbq sauce for topping.

Preheat oven to 350F.  

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, thyme, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent.  Take off the heat and add the chicken stock, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Let it cool.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, bread crumbs and onion mixture and mix lightly.  Divid into palm size loaves and place on a sheet pan, or put into a loaf pan to cook.  

My Mother used to leave the top plain, but I like squirting some Heinz Ketchup or a mixture of ketchup and good barbecue sauce on the top of the loaves before baking.

Bake 40- 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked thoroughly.

Serve hot reserving some for sandwiches the following day!

In England, the pre-packed sandwich is everywhere. It seems as if every shop offers those in a hurry the chance to grab a pre-made specimen, conveniently cut in half and shoved in a plastic container. Boots, Marks & Spencer, all major grocery stores and all petrol (gas) stations have aisles commited to huge varieties of sandwiches ready for immediate consumption. Tuna & Sweetcorn, Cheese & Onion, All Day Breakfast (which includes some nasty sausages and ketchup), Egg & Cress, Cheese & Pickle, Chicken & Bacon, and Prawn Mayonnaise are all popular combinations.

Retailers answered the British obsession with the pre-packed sammie with higher-end chains like Pret A Manger and Eat. These guys make their sandwiches fresh daily and offer posh ingredients such as crayfish, avocado, Stilton and salmon. I've tried them all, but usually opted for one without meat to avoid poisoning when stopping for petrol on a long road trip.

Two of my fondest food memories that I have from England revolve around the sandwich. First, and this could easily take up several paragraphs to describe, was the roast dinner sandwich from Fuzzy's Grub. I was introduced to this place late in the game when I worked in the City. It is a thing of wonder and usually induces an immediate nap. Therefore, it was only allowed to be consumed on a Friday in my office (as we all know nothing gets done on Friday afternoons in London.)

Try to imagine the following: a very large white bap (bread roll) about the size of your face. You choose your roast meat- mine was always the rare roast beef. Then you add the toppings of a typical roast dinner- potatoes (roasted or mashed), veggies ( I loved having the peas nestle into the mash with little carrots submerged in there too), yorkshire pudding cut into chunks, gravy and then any of the traditional sauces (HP, Heinz ketchup, Coleman's mustard) or homemade relishes or chutneys. I always topped mine with horseradish sauce. Squished together between the bread, this was no sandwich for sissies. You could not look at it and consider giving half away. If possible, I liked to eat this without an audience because getting it into one's mouth was a challenge.

The second is a strange little sandwich that I eat all the time. It is the antithesis of the the Fuzzy's sandwich. It is healthy on all fronts.  I first had it in a deli in Bracknell, a terrible town outside of London where I worked when I first moved there.  My friend Amelia and I would take a well deserved break from the monotony of the office and head into the rather depressing center of the town.  For anyone who hasn't been to Bracknell, the UK version of "The Office" is set in Slough- a town with round-abouts and industrial estates.  Bracknell is close by and very similar. I'd like to apologize to anyone who lives in Bracknell, but the two good things I took out of that place was this cottage cheese sandwich and the love of jacket potatoes.  A jacket potato is a baked potato with toppings- this one came from a man with his own street stall and a portable potato oven.  He'd slice open the piping hot potatoes and reveal the soft and fluffy center.  He'd add a pat of butter, salt & pepper and then baked beans, chilli or my favorite- cheese and coleslaw.

The cottage cheese sandwich goes like this: Start with granary bread- the more seeds the better.  You can make it a closed sandwich, but I also like it open-faced, toasted or not toasted. Add cottage cheese and plenty of pepper.  At this point, I sometimes like to add some sweetcorn, but if I don't have it, I leave it out.  Slice some lovely red tomatoes, add on top of the cottage cheese and season again with salt and pepper.  Halve an avocado and add the slices to the sandwich. I've started adding hot sauce to this and it's delicious.  It came from another of my favorites, but it's more of a breakfast option for me.  I like to toast a multi-grain slice of bread and top it with havarti, some mashed avocado and hot sauce.

When I think back to what I used to get in my brown paper bag for my school lunch, I remember lots of sandwiches, but some of my favorites were left over roasted chicken legs served with white bread and butter.  If I was lucky, my Mom would include a hard boiled egg with salt and pepper tied in a little sandwich bag for dipping.  I defnitely consumed my fair share of peanut butter and jelly and it still cracks me up that my husband doesn't think that peanut butter and jam go together. He says they are not "partners."

I am a sucker for stuffing leftovers into a sandwich. The pork roast I made for Easter got transported back to Chicago after our weekend in Michigan. After a long car ride, I made cold pork sandwiches with warmed gravy and garnished it with cold steamed yellow beans and some salad leaves.

Speaking of roast pork, I'm currently addicted to the Lechon sandwich at 90 Miles Cuban Cafe.  The succulent meat is paired with romaine lettuce, grilled onions, sweet plantain and garlic sauce.  Their house hot sauce is also spectacular.

If we're going to talk about the best sandwiches on earth, it's only fair to mention France and Spain.  I don't know anywhere else on earth where a freshly baked baguette, buttered with ham and Emmental cheese, could taste better than in Paris or sitting with your face in the sun skiing in the French Alps.  Another favorite is chunky pate with cornichons.  It's a true testament to the bread that you don't need to add any mustard or mayo to make it taste good.   Just butter- that's it.  Don't forget a lovely Croque-monsieur or if you're feeling extra indulgent, a Croque Madame, both of which Martin and I lived on during our visits to Paris on a budget.  Sipping coffee at a cafe and watching the beautiful people walk past makes me sad that I'm no longer a Eurostar ride away.

In Spain, my favorite city, hands down, is Sevilla.   I've spent time there on two occasions.  The first was when I was studying in England and visiting my friends Lisa and Natasha from the US.  The second was when my sister, Stacia, studied there.  My whole family met her there and I had one of the best weeks of my life.  We did nothing but tour the beautiful city, eat and drink.  The slow moving river sets the pace of life there.  I fondly remember my Mother not knowing a single word of Spanish and shouting "hola" even when she burnt a waiter with her cigarette.  

During this trip, which is understandably why I loved it, we went from one bar to another, tasting signature tapas at each place and drinking local wine.  We stayed in the Jewish quarter with its narrow cobbled streets and the best thing I ate there was a little marinated pork sandwich at a bar right next to our hotel, Hosteria del Laurel.  I swear this sandwich has haunted me for years and I would fly to Sevilla just for a taste of it.  For some reason, I shared a room with Martin and my sister, who I had not seen in a long time.  Inevitably, he shouted at us in the wee hours of the morning for our constant drunken whispering.  This recipe is one that Stacia brought back with her.  Don't be put off by the blood sausage.  Once you taste this, you'll forget it's even there.

Montadito de Pringa

3 oz. fresh pork loin- finely chopped
1/2 oz. Morcila (blood sausage) finely chopped (Columbian style)
1 chorizo sausage (2 oz.) skinned and finely chopped
1 oz bacon, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil (preferably Spanish :)
1-2 baguettes sliced 1/4 inch pieces
softened butter

For the marinade:
1 large garlic clove 
1/4 tsp crushed coriander seed
1/4 tsp freshly crushed cumin seed
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 dried red chili, or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix marinade and meat and refrigerate overnight.  Heat oil in skillet and saute marinated meat mixture over medium heat about 5 minutes.  

Spread about 1 tbsp of mixture on half of the bread slices and cover with remaining slices (making a sandwich) .  Butter both sides and grill- pressing flat as you cook.  Serve warm.

1 comment:

  1. We MUST make the pringa montaditos soon! I will most likely dream of them tonight.