Health and Wellness
Recipe Rescue: July 2015
The sandwich has long been revered as a quick, comforting and portable meal, found everywhere from children’s lunch boxes to the menus of fine-dining restaurants.
By Patrick Mathieu
Everyone loves a good sandwich and that’s because there are no rules to building one: open the fridge door and create any combination of whatever you can find to put in between two slices of bread, and you have made a sandwich.
But there are secrets to a successful sandwich build. A lot has changed since the 18th century when the fourth Earl of Sandwich ordered meat in between bread.
Although we may believe some sandwiches, such as the grilled cheese, came from heaven, sandwich lovers have travelled the world and picked up exciting condiments, vegetables and meats along the way.
There are now endless layering and combination strategies. Wikipedia lists a couple of dozens examples, ranging from the simple BLT to the famous Philly cheesesteak and everyone’s favourite peanut butter and jam.
Every culture may have a claim to the best sandwich – from the Vietnamese Banh Mi, to the Philly Cheesesteak, or the Classic Cuban to the Croque Monsieure – but the only undeniable winner is the lover of sandwich!
Here are some tips that I have learned from countless mouth-watering attempts to build a better sandwich at home, as well as recipes for my favourites from around the world.
- Contrast is the key. Great sandwiches balance everything inside. Got something salty? Add something sweet. If you have something chewy, contrast it with something crispy. And if you’re using a fat (and you should be using a fat) add something fresh or acidic. Play with all kinds of different ingredients and layering combinations and enjoy every minute of your trials!
- Don’t cut corners. When you are building a really amazing sandwich, don’t get caught up in the idea that sandwiches are made for casual convenience. Just think – thinly sliced, grilled flank steak will do more for your sandwich than a package of roast beef cold cuts. Same thing goes for cutting up your own delicious roast chicken as opposed to something in a package called chicken loaf. Devote a little time to the details and you will reap the rewards.
- Brush your bread with something. Sandwich perfection begins when a warm piece of bread meets a slathering of something tasty. Tops and bottoms of the sandwich should have smears of something to build layers of flavour. Mayonnaise is the king of condiments and will make any sandwich taste better. For grilled breads, add a brush of olive oil or garlic butter to grilled breads. Expand your condiment options with different aiolis (garlicky mayo), hummus, pureed roasted vegetables or vinegary hot sauces.
- Slice everything thinly. Nothing is worse than losing the inside fillings of your sandwich with every bite, or having everything slip out onto your plate. From the meat and cheese to the vegetables, make sure everything inside is either thinly cut or cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Choose bread wisely. Not every sandwich should be built on a chic baguette. Consider your type of sandwich: are you grilling it, toasting or warming your bread, or just enjoying a super fresh, soft loaf? You might not even choose bread at all – there are plenty of other options (see my chicken and waffle slider in the online version of this columm.) Consider the science of the perfect sandwich; it all depends on the layering, toppings and how long before the sandwich is served to decide which bread will work. One thing is for sure, the fresher the bread, the better your sandwich will be.
- Don’t forget the crunch. There is something undeniably great about biting into a sandwich and experiencing a little flavour-bomb crunch. Use pickles or different types of pickled veggies. Try using sauerkraut, kimchee, crunchy shallots or even a sprinkling of potato chips. Having different textures keeps the mouth guessing and wanting more.
It is possible to take all the parts of any ordinary sandwich – bread, meat, cheese, vegetables and condiments – and turn them into something very extraordinary, transcending all of its individual parts.
Experiment with ingredients, but also with balance, layering, cutting and serving.
You will soon find that options and combinations are endless, and the fun is in building.
Blue cheese encrusted steak sandwich with whiskey glazed onions
Banh Mi sandwiches
Ingredients– PICKLED VEGETABLES
Ingredients– BANH MI
Ingredients– OLIVE SALAD
Grilled chocolate sandwiches
Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario. He was recently featured on Food Network’s Chopped Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org @StationHouseCCo