The Perfect Sandwich

NathansHotDog.jpg My dad was a two job guy.  We lived in a representative, working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, which was to me, the paradise of the world.  Representative I learned years later meant not just Jewish people, like us, but an equal mix of almost everything else.  The working class is obvious.

My dad worked at a brokerage house on Wall Street as a runner from 9 to 3.  That was his first job.  His second job was at the Morgan Annex branch of the US Post Office, in mid-town Manhattan.  He had started at the PO as a teen-ager, and was in it for the longest possible haul, a modest pension being the carrot at the end of his rainbow.  His hours on that job were 4 pm to mid-night.  He rode the subway to work.  He never owned a car.  Once in a long while he got driven home. 

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walkers_silo.jpg “I’m hungry. Can someone please help me?  Please. This is serious.  I haven’t eaten since early this morning. Please.” The plea came from a diminutive man I had just rushed passed on 8th Avenue in New York City.  He was wearing a grey cap pulled down over his forehead and held a tattered white plastic shopping bag.  It was 12:30 a.m. A hard March wind was blowing through Chelsea and everyone who passed this pleading man, was hurrying to someplace warm, including me. 

I had just eaten at one of my favorite joints Casa Mono. I started with the  pulpo with fennel and grapefruit and followed with the dorada with artichokes and langostinos (the langoustine tail meat was a bit mushy but still flavorful.) My belly was full and I still had the glow of a quarto of solid Spanish red. 

For a reason I still do not know, after getting a few steps past this man, who was all but invisible to passers-by, I stopped and waited for him to catch up. When I offered  a dollar bill to him, he said, “No man, didn’t you hear,  I’m hungry. This is no joke.  I don’t want money. I’m just very  hungry.” “Really, no bullshit?”  I said.

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41-french-laundry.jpg frenchlaundryinside.jpgI went to the French Laundry restaurant located in the Napa region (specifically, Yountville, California) in 1996 and haven’t been able to get a reservation since – at least until a week ago.  Of course, that’s what happens when a chef later becomes tops in the U.S. and his restaurant is voted tops in the world.  But with one day’s notice, I was told my group of four were in. Pack your dinner jacket we were told.  They should’ve added cash out your 401k and clean out your savings account with a scrub brush.  The price to party was now $240 per person for a nine course tasting menu (two options: Chef’s and Vegetarian) not including wine – a decent bottle (not a case) of which will cost you $200 more.  

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fishsandwich.jpgI love a good fish sandwich and it has been a while since I've had one.  I came across this recipe using tilapia, a firm, forgiving and inexpensive fish.  I loved the idea of piling coleslaw over the fish and using pulverized almonds as part of the crust, making it somewhat reminiscent of sole almondine.

The sandwich was crispy, sophisticated, fun and not to mention budget-friendly.  It's a great addition to regular dinners around here.  When we get home from working in the vineyard we are starving and this will hit the spot quite nicely without feeling like a heavy meal.

The fish remained juicy within its crust and the splash of lemon was the perfect finish.  You can use any type of bread, toasting it or throwing it on the grill pan gives the sandwich a good textural contrast.

Try it out when you have some time.

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lunch-draw-1.jpgSince I photograph at least 50% of what I cook and bake, just in case I might someday wish to write about it and preserve an ephemeral cupcake or casserole for posterity, my camera is always where I can easily find it. Today, however, my camera was at a Minor League baseball game with Sam, after a prolonged series of “pleaspleasepleasei’llbe caaaaaaaaareful!” attacks wore me out. It didn’t occur to me until after we had eaten what I considered to be an interesting lunch that I could have photographed it using my phone – I just scrapped the whole project when I remembered that my camera was on walkabout among a herd of sugar-addled sixth graders.

I had made really good sandwiches based on things lying around the house: leftover whole grain buns, two different kinds of cheese with hot peppers, pulled pork with barbecue sauce, an abandoned avocado…stuff like that. Mr. Annie got two giant sandwiches piled high with pork, Cabot Habanero Cheddar and avocado, and I made myself a more modest vegetarian model with no pork and a healthy pile of spicy alfalfa sprouts. Alas, these gems of thrifty husbandry were doomed to slip away (literally and figuratively), unmarked.

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