Friday, October 23, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: The Simplicity of a Sandwich

So, after a long hiatus from the blog and a long not-so-hiatus from (you know, that thing that gets in the way) LIFE, I've finally somewhat rejoined the ranks of the Normal Folk. The people who kind of have some time to breathe, the people who have an address and a place to call their own, the people with a KITCHEN.

Yes, my friends, I've finally moved into my new house and have settled into the glory that is a gourmet kitchen. Custom white oak cabinets! Black GE Profile appliances! Charcoal gray and peach-kissed sparkly granite countertops! Pull-out pantry! Stainless sink with pull-out hose and high-pressure faucet! Huzzah, and such!

So with my brand-spankin' new All-Clad Emeril pots and pans, my contemporary Oneida flatware, and my sweet square white plates, you'd think I'd be cooking up a storm, right?

Um, yeah ... you've given me too much credit.

Actually, what with the crazy busyness (and business, really) of closing, purchasing, moving, and shopping, I haven't had a moment to cook! I'm working on restocking my pantry, but right now, necessities like Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, Saran wrap, and et cetera are still kind of MIA. And with roofers banging away above our heads and siding ordered, awesome foodstuffs for later preparation has almost literally been put on the back burner. (Though only ALMOST literally because I really like a pristine, streamlined countertop.)

So for mealtimes, we've been falling back on an old-fashioned favorite: the sandwich.

Now, you need to know me in order to read that right, because sandwiches, to me, are happy foods. Okay -- fancy sandwiches are happy foods. And we say that as "delicious sandwich" with a lot of emphasis or as "sandwiiiiiiiiiiiich" in an annoying singsong voice.

Many parts of my transition back to New York were very difficult as you can tell if you've read past entries, but one of the things that has made it more bearable and even a little enjoyable is the sandwiches here. I have an entire album devoted to Corner Heroes (formerly Campus Heroes, one of my favorite places in the world), but haven't had the spare time to talk about them. That time, however, is still now now, and I digress.

What makes sandwiches made in New York so special is the combination of fabulous cold cuts and fabulous bread. I'm leery of "house" cold cuts (Turkey rolls! Chopped ham! Bologna! *Shudders.*), and was overjoyed when Boar's Head brand finally made its way down to New Orleans. Here on Long Island, it's a staple at the delis the state is famous for. The meat is flavorful to its core, consistent every time, and distinctly un-slimy and un-rubbery. You may laugh, but to me, a texture reminiscent of my dog's licked squeaky ball is not appetizing, and that's what some other brands have for offer.

As for the carb portion of "delicious sandwich," New York bread is a horse of a different color than New Orleans crusty, crumbly, light and airy French bread. Our hero rolls are studded with sesame seeds, punctuating a messy crust that crumbles in flakes rather than crumbs. Kaiser rolls are moist (I couldn't get a decent Kaiser roll to save my life in New Orleans, to tell you the truth) and liberally sprinkled with poppy seeds that burst so satisfyingly on your molars. Soft, white interiors are sweet, simultaneously dense and airy due to air pockets that leave some parts hollow, while the rest stays cool and doughy. New York delis notoriously pack about half a pound of cold cuts into each sandwich, plus whatever toppings, so these sandwiches are Pretty Serious.

So my fridge may be lacking in my usual stuff, but my kitchen is ready to do duty when it's time to make a sandwich. Here's what I've done so far (no pictures -- sorry! We're really, really hungry by the time we find mealtime unavoidable ...):

  • Medium-rare roast beef with deli-sliced mozzarella cheese, toasted together so that the cheese melts on top. Onion roll or poppyseed Kaiser, liberally smeared with garlic mayonnaise. Frickin' fabulous.
  • Low-sodium ham and low-sodium turkey with deli-sliced American cheese and a slice of deli mozzarella, topped with sliced red onion, some oil-and-vinegar dressing, olive oil mayonnaise, and organic baby Romaine lettuce leaves. I make it slightly healthier by using a whole wheat Kaiser, which, by the way is also delicious. It doesn't come available with the poppy seeds, but has a little bit of a richer, earthier flavor without sacrificing the texture.
  • Two fried eggs with low-sodium ham, low-sodium deli American cheese, and olive oil mayonnaise. Don't scoff -- ham with mayo is good; eggs with mayo is good; eggs, ham, and cheese are good. All four together? Exponentially good. Sesame seed Kaiser for this one.
  • Low-sodium turkey, center-cut bacon, sliced grape tomatoes, spring greens, olive oil mayonnaise, whole wheat bread.

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