Building a Better Sandwich
Making a sandwich is easy, right? Two pieces of bread, a little mayo or mustard some meat and cheese and DONE! Before you answer, let me ask you, “When was the last time you had THE sandwich?” The one that knocked your socks off and you couldn’t stop eating it? Once you were done, you couldn’t stop thinking about it.SEE THE RECIPE
Making a sandwich is easy, right? Two pieces of bread, a little mayo or mustard some meat and cheese, and DONE! Before you answer, let me ask you, “When was the last time you had THE sandwich?” The one that knocked your socks off and you couldn’t stop eating it. Once you were done, you couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I was recently on a trip to Santa Monica where I tasted several such amazing sandwiches. I was pondering what they all have in common. I came to the conclusion that they really had nothing in common at all. Each one simply had something unique and distinct that it irresistible. A little bit of strategy goes into making a really great sandwich. The ingredients need to work together like an orchestra. This is not a solo act.
To get my sandwich ingredients to work as a team, I think of contrasting textures. Lettuce and tomato are longstanding favorites for a good reason, but other combinations work equally well…avocado with shaved radishes or spinach with roasted red peppers. Adding a crisp, fresh ingredient adds an element of crunch that makes the sandwich “pop".
Equally important is having contrasting flavors. When an ingredient is spicy, sour or salty, I add a little sweetness to balance it out. There is a reason salty bacon pairs so nicely with sweet tomatoes. When I add something sweet like chutney or thinly sliced pears, I contrast it with something salty like good olives or capers. I love the sour and sweet flavor combination to take my sandwiches up a notch. Pickled onions are my new go-to favorite because they add a tangy-sweet crunch in one simple ingredient that is so easy to keep on-hand.
Adding an element of moistness is important. I grew up with butter as a mandatory ingredient on every sandwich, so it’s no surprise that I ended up working for a company that makes butter. But a spread can be so much more than butter, mayo or mustard. If the sandwich is on the bland side, I add a spread that has some pizazz. Tapenade, pesto or vinaigrette packs a lot of punch. Making a homemade aioli or adding some horseradish and mustard to my mayo will work, too. Don’t forget the cheese! Cheese has a magical way of bringing all the flavors and textures of the sandwich together. When making a sandwich for lunch or to carry on a picnic, I put the cheese closest to the bread to prevent the bread from getting soggy.
Holding it all together takes some thoughtful consideration as well. The primary role of the bread is to make the individual ingredients portable. But, the flavor and texture of bread can make or break the entire experience. Sometimes I choose the bread to complement the filling; other times I choose the filling to complement the bread. It all depends on what I have available. For a thick, dense French bread I will choose a moist spread or filling like vinaigrette with fresh mozzarella and shaved deli meats. In my opinion, sandwiches can include so much more than just bread options. Crackers, tortillas, pita, focaccia or even a taco shell can serve as a means of combining the ingredients.
As my mother always tells me, “You get out of it what you put into it.” This is absolutely true when it comes to sandwich ingredients. To elevate the sandwich experience, I only use great quality ingredients. One last critical point…keep it simple. I typically don’t use more than six or seven ingredients, or everything gets overwhelmed.
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