Friday, August 17, 2012

Introduction to Sandwiches, with Roast Beef and Cheese

Sandwiches might seem like a topic unworthy of devoting a post to, but you better believe I will be posting sandwich after sandwich on here because making sandwiches is a passion of mine.  Sandwich making really is a passion of mine, and there is much more to it than simply putting meat and cheese between two slices of bread.  Once you understand some of the basic sandwich making techniques it's just a question of trying different ingredient combinations or borrowing ideas from the menus of sandwich shops.  I did a presentation and sandwich tasting at work once, and I'm recycling some of that material in what follows here.  

Dagwood Bumstead
Rabbi Hillel the Elder was said to have invented the first sandwich around 2,000 years ago, when he pressed lamb and bitter herbs together between matzo bread.  The centuries that followed saw little advancement in sandwich technology.  The open-faced sandwich was common long before the name "sandwich" existed, and the bread served as more of a placemat or a sponge than a part of the entree.  When the meal was over the bread would usually be fed to the animals or beggars.  So how did the modern sandwich come into existence?  It is said that during a game of cribbage, the 4th Earl of Sandwich ordered meat between two pieces of bread to keep his fingers from getting greasy from the meat.  When others saw this they ordered "the same as Sandwich," and the name stuck.  The modern sandwich has come to mean something completely different in the United States.  The comic strip "Blondie" takes some of the credit, with Dagwood Bumstead's gigantic sandwich creations.  Nowadays the sandwich is a staple of lunches across the United States, for schoolchildren and adults alike.  The sandwich I'm making today is one to be eaten in the comfort of one's home, because there are different techniques that come into play when making a sandwich for later consumption.  

Some ingredients for a roast beef and cheese sandwich
Today I am making roast beef with American cheese and Boar's Head horseradish sauce.  This is one of the most frequently eaten sandwiches in my house because we both love horseradish.  Boar's Head makes a good horseradish sauce, not too spicy but enough to let you know it's there.  Of course everyone experiences spice differently, and if you don't like horseradish or wasabi I would use it sparingly.  Russian dressing is great on a roast beef sandwich if you don't like spicy, or mix half Russian dressing and half mayonnaise.  I'm using bulkie rolls, and this time I picked up potato rolls by mistake.  Their flavor isn't very far from that of white bread, and they have more protein and nutrients.  Land O'Lakes white American cheese is my favorite for most sandwiches, so I usually have a supply on hand, but provolone goes well with this sandwich too.  I have iceberg lettuce, which adds little nutrition to the sandwich but gives it a nice crunch when you eat it.  I used to frequent a sandwich shop that had roast beef, provolone, baby spinach, and Russian dressing on the menu.  Another had roasted red peppers and mayo, also delicious.  

Trim the corners of the cheese so it won't drip

Lucas getting ready to make his move

I begin by melting the cheese and toasting the bun in the toaster oven.  My toaster oven has two positions for the rack; I start with it in the higher position.  I put the top and bottom of the bun in with a slice of cheese on the top half of the bun.  I trim the corners of the slice of cheese so none drips onto the bottom of the toaster oven, which can shorten the life of the toaster oven quickly.  If the cheese drips onto the bottom coil of the oven it may catch fire or get smoky and set off the fire alarm.  It's important to keep the toaster oven clean, and the best way to do that is to prevent a mess from beginning.  In the higher position the cheese is right up close to the heating coil so it melts a little.

A good example of folded meat
While the cheese is melting I prepare the meat and lettuce for the sandwich and put the cold ingredients back into the refrigerator.  I wash and spin enough lettuce to give the sandwich at least two layers of lettuce.  My cats don't always agree about which human food they like, but they both agree that sandwich meat and cheese are delicious.  I use about 2 1/2 slices of meat for the average sandwich, and today is no exception.  When I was younger I worked in a sandwich shop, and it was there that I learned the importance of folding the meat.  For a sandwich with lots of meat like this it adds texture and makes the sandwich look even bigger than it is.  The process is hard to describe, but you want to keep the meat evenly distributed through the sandwich while giving it that ribboned, layered effect.  I leave the top of the bun with cheese in the still-warm toaster oven until I need it later.

One slice

Two and a half slices of roast beef
Two Slices

Some would put the bottom of the sandwich in the toaster at this point to take the chill off of the roast beef, but this can dry out the meat and ruin the sandwich.  At this point I remove the top of the bun from the toaster and add the lettuce and condiment.  The order that the ingredients go into the sandwich is very important, but I don't have any fun acronyms because it's not that complicated.  Think about what ingredients should be heated in the toaster oven and which should not and plan accordingly.  Many delicious sandwich condiments taste funny when warmed and putting lettuce in a toaster borders on negligence.  It's simple; begin with the ingredients to be warmed or toasted and add increasingly temperature-sensitive items as you get closer to finished.  Lettuce and sauce are almost always last.

With horseradish sauce
I made this sandwich for my wife, and she didn't want the lettuce.  Or to wait long enough for me to take a picture of the finished sandwich before she ate it.  But sometimes we get caught up in the glitz and glamour of making sandwiches and forget that it's supposed to be about eating lunch.

This particular sandwich was roast beef with cheese and horseradish sauce.  I covered some techniques like melting the cheese and toasting the buns in a toaster oven, layering the meat, and the order of ingredients.  You can tell from the list of ingredients that substitutions can and should be made based on what's in the fridge; that's how new sandwiches are discovered.  Who knows, someday they may name a sandwich after you!  Dare I to dream?  

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