There is hardly an American culinary passion as popular as the sandwich. We all love ham and cheese, smoked turkey, chicken salad, and maybe the ever-popular bologna, especially with the kids. But did you know that Wikipedia lists more than 30 deli meats? There is a lot to work with out there, like capicola, soppressata, and cotechino. There has got to be at least a dozen kinds of ham and an equal number of salamis, and who can hardly count the kinds of sausage that can be found?
But, wait a minute! Do we always have to be so over the top in finding odd and different kinds of ingredients? Why not stick with the basics but just present them in a little different way?
Let’s start with the bread. You can count me out when it comes to plain white bread, period. Just not interested. But I love wheat bread and the dark hearty breads like rye and pumpernickel. If you want to back off on the carbs, make it an open-face sandwich. A good crusty baguette is also a good choice, but what about a plain breakfast biscuit? That works just fine in my book. Another favorite is a whole-wheat tortilla.
So, besides the ham and bologna, what else can you put on a sandwich? My goodness, that is an almost endless list. So here it goes: a fried egg, pimento cheese, chips of almost any sort, fried pickles, a good slathering of cream cheese, a handful of chopped herbs like cilantro, refried beans, salsa, diced jalapeno, not to mention all the more traditional condiments.
A special note on mayo: It is easy to mix store-bought mayo with other ingredients to get a special sauce (yes, mayonnaise is a sauce), but homemade is always best. Once you’ve got the mayo you want, mix it with anchovy paste, caviar, vinegar, pureed shrimp, lobster, chicken, duck, turkey, or watercress. These are all suggestions from Larousse Gastronomique, the classic French encyclopedia of cooking.
OK, enough clowning around, here are a few recipes I thought you might like.
Biscuit and Cheese Sandwich
This is about as easy as it gets, but it makes for a delicious difference. Recommended for breakfast or lunch.
1 package favorite refrigerated biscuits
2 slices white cheddar per biscuit
2 slices smoked deli ham per biscuit
Bake the biscuits according to package directions. When ready, work quickly as you want to serve them hot, slice open the biscuits, add the optional butter if you like, then fill with cheese and ham and serve at once.
Grilled ham and pimento and cheese
I’d recommend that you serve this sandwich on wheat bread, but that’s just me. By the way, did you know the original pimento peppers came to us from Spain? I just knew you were wondering.
Thin sliced deli ham
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1 cup grated yellow cheddar
1 small jar pimentos
Combine the two cheeses and the pimentos, then mix in the cream cheese until you have the consistency you want. Slather on two slices of bread, add the ham, butter the outside, and grill until golden brown. Serve with your favorite crunchy chip for a contrast in textures.
This is not a new idea. In fact, the Reuben may be the most classic American sandwich, the king of them all. To get it right, as always, use the best ingredients possible.
Thin sliced corned beef
Make sure the corned beef is sliced paper-thin. Slice the cheese as well, but not paper-thin. Please make sure to pick a good sauerkraut as some are definitely better than others. It may take a little experimenting. Add cheese to the first slice of bread, run it under the broiler to get it nice and melted, then add lots of corned beef, sauerkraut, and then the dressing. Add the second slice of bread, put it in a press if you have one, or just back in the hot oven for a bit. Make sure to serve piping hot.