The Perfect Sandwich

ImageDo you regularly cook foods for people in your family that you yourself don't eat? I do. Turkey burgers.

I just don't get it. Jeff was raised on good old fashioned beef patties. Yet, given the choice today, he invariably chooses turkey over beef. I, in contrast, am a 100% grass-fed beef kind of gal. I prefer beef's tender texture and rich flavor. With the right beef, a burger is delicious even without condiments. (Not that I'm suggesting you do that.)

So when we have burgers, I usually make Jeff a turkey burger and me a hamburger. The last turkey burger I made for him, I topped with sauteed apples, Gruyere cheese, and sage mayo.

After the first bite, he said, "Oh, God, this is good."

I nodded, smiled, and took a big bite out of my hamburger. He took another bite. "Sue, seriously, you've gotta taste this turkey burger. It's awesome."

"But, I don't like turk--"

"Just one bite. Come on."

 

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zings1.jpg I have a vivid memory of my parents entertaining friends on Christmas Eve in 1982.  My mother threw all of her Protestant tradition out the kitchen window and ordered Zingerman’s pastrami on rye sandwiches with giant garlic pickles.  I was enthralled by this rebellion at age six, although I had no understanding of what pastrami was. I just knew it was special.

The ingenious ingredients and thoughtful, bountiful preparation is half of the magic pf the pastrami sandwich.  The other half is the Zingerman's magic, the palpable feeling of community provided by the owners, Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, who instill in all of their endeavors a familial rhapsody. (I have dined at the Roadhouse and had Ari come to the table to fill up my water glass more than a few times…enough said).  In a town high on intellect,  Zingerman’s employment is looked upon as social cache (or junior college).

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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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hamandcheeseLunches for me have been a mixed bag of sorts, I'm never sure what to eat, and I'm not always satisfied with what I get. But the sandwich shop near my workplace always seems to have the right sandwich for me. It's my standby.

'Wichcraft, pretty much a chain restaurant in New York City, in my opinion, has the best pressed sandwiches, among them the grilled Gruyère and caramelized onions. It is just mouthwateringly good with its oozy cheese and sweet caramelized onions. Whenever I need a comfort food fix, I always seem to gravitate toward this sandwich. It's simple and it always hits the spot. I've decided to come up with my own personalized version.

My version of this popular sandwich includes ham, for extra flavor. I use a panini press to make the sandwich, but you can also use a regular skillet, and just simply weight the sandwich with a foil-wrapped brick between flips. The caramelized onions can be prepared a day in advance, making this lunch come together even faster. Use either Gruyère or Emmental cheese for the best results in both flavor and texture.

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montecristoA Monte Cristo consists of ham, turkey or chicken, and Swiss cheese sandwiched between two slices of white or challah bread that is dipped in an egg batter, then grilled or fried in butter until golden brown. It is often dusted with confectioners’ sugar and served with a side of red currant jelly.

The Monte Cristo is an American version of the Croque-Monsieur, the famed French grilled cheese and ham sandwich that is fried in clarified butter.

The sandwich first appeared on the menu at Gordon’s, a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, but it didn't get its big break until Disneyworld got involved. When the Blue Bayou Restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean put the Monte Cristo on its menu, its popularity soared.

I hadn't eaten a Monte Cristo since I was a kid, and I didn't remember particularly loving it. My, how things have changed. This sandwich has it all: it's sweet, salty, and chewy. It's addictive.

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