Two Sandwiches

Well, Thanksgiving’s just around the corner and you know what that means…

Bánh mì and Cheesesteak sandwiches!

Yes, it’s an odd pairing and no, it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. 

Once again, “Necessity” grabbed hold of the wheel of invention and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.  Working on Saturdays disrupts my rhythm and I usually wind up feeling out of sorts as I head back home from work.  I didn’t have anything in particular planned for dinner, since this particular Saturday was more like a regular weekday for me.  That changed when I learned that we were expecting guests for dinner.  While I was still at work, I recalled what was in my refrigerator.  We had a small pork loin and a some thinly sliced beef.  Both cuts of meat had been in the refrigerator for several days and they would spoil within a day or two, if not cooked.

It seemed to me that sandwiches would be a good solution.  Quick and easy.  I asked my wife to pick up a couple loaves of French bread at the market and I got straight to work, after I came home from work. 

These sandwich recipes are inspired by two classic sandwiches.   I didn’t set out to make the quintessential version of  either sandwich.  I just wanted to whip up some decent sandwiches. 

I used items that we already had at home, so some improvisation was employed.  I normally wouldn’t use cocktail carrots because they give me the creeps.  They remind me of amputated limbs and they develop a weird white coating on them, as they lose moisture in the refrigerator.  Other than that, they are perfectly fine. 🙂

The key to really good Bánh mì and cheesesteaks relies on the quality of the bread that is used.  We are fortunate to have a grocery store nearby that stocks authentic New Orleans style French bread. 

Bánh mì sandwich

Ingredients:

10 stubby little carrots (cocktail carrots)

1 onion, very thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, smashed and sliced thin

¼ rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)

2 Tbs sugar

1 lb pork loin

2 Tbs ketchup

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

2 green onions

¼ cup cilantro leaves

1   24” New Orleans style French bread loaf  (Cartozzo’s Bakery)

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 tsp Sriracha sauce

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400°.

Slice the onions and garlic and grate the carrots.  These all need to be very thin. 

Add the onions and carrots of a bowl and add the rice vinegar and sugar.  Mix together and set aside for an hour.

Slice the green onions lengthwise, very thin. Separate the cilantro leaves from the stems. Set these aside.

In a small bowl, mix the ketchup, Hoisin sauce and soy sauce.  Smear the sauce onto all sides of the pork loin. 

Put the pork loin in a ceramic baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. 

Remove the pork loin after 30 minutes and loosely cover with a foil tent.  Rest the pork for 15 minutes before slicing.

Slice the pork as thinly as possible.  Return the sliced pork to the baking dish and mix thoroughly with the sauce and baked drippings.  Seal the dish with aluminum foil and keep in a warm place until ready to serve.

Slice the French bread lengthwise.  I chose to cut all of the way through but, I could have cut just deep enough to open the loaf like a book.  Either way is fine. Warm the bread in a 200° oven for 10 minutes.  Pull the bread out when the crust is warm and slightly crisp. 

Mix the mayonnaise and Sriracha in a small bowl.

Slather the mayo mixture on both sides of the warm French bread. 

Arrange the pork on the bottom slice of the bread.

Add sliced green onions.

Top with the pickled onion and carrot mixture.

Sprinkle cilantro on top of the onion and carrot.

With a  bread knife, cut the assembled sandwich into four equal pieces (four 6” sandwiches).

Cheesesteak sandwich

Ingredients:

16 oz Muenster cheese, sliced

1 onion, sliced in ¼” rings

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp olive oil

1 lb thinly sliced beef

1 8oz can sliced mushrooms

8 oz marinara sauce

1   24” New Orleans style French bread loaf 

Directions:

Note:  I used a wok to prepare the onions and sliced steak.  Cheesesteaks are best when cooked quickly at high heat and a hot wok is probably the next best thing to a hot flat top grill. 

Slice the Muenster cheese and set aside.

Slice the onion into ¼” rings.  Set aside.

I used a pre-sliced cut of beef.  The slices are very thin which makes it easy to cut the meat into thin ribbons. 

Slice the meat into ribbons and set aside.

Sauté the onions and garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil.  Remove the onions after they soften. Smash the cooked garlic cloves and mix with the onions.

Stir-fry the beef until no longer pink (about two minutes). Remove and keep warm.

Slice the French bread lengthwise.   Layer the sandwich with the sliced cheese. I added mushrooms to one half of the sandwich.

Bake in a hot oven until the cheese begins to melt.

Remove the bread and top with the cooked beef.  Add the sautéed onions.

Top with warm marinara.

Cut the sandwich into four equal pieces ( four 6” sandwiches).

Extra Pasta – Braised Beef in Marinara

I had lots of left over penne rigate from the other day and I decided to bring it back for another spin.  The pasta was originally sautéed with diced tomatoes, garlic and anchovy and then tossed in a satiny-buttery sauce.  The dish was simple and mild, which makes it a great starter for this bolder dish.

This is a quick meal, especially because the pasta was already cooked.  Thinly sliced beef cooks in a matter of a few minutes.  From start to finish, including the salad, this took about 30 minutes to make.  The cotija cheese is used like dried Parmesan in this recipe.  It adds a slightly sharp flavor and it helps to thicken the sauce. 

Ingredients:

1 Tbs olive oil

4 green onions (separate the white and green portions)

16 oz tomato sauce

1 Tsp Italian seasoning

8 oz can of sliced mushrooms

Thinly sliced beef

½ cup cotija cheese

16 oz cooked pasta (penne rigate)

Directions:

Dice green onions.  Separate the white parts from the green.  Set the green parts aside.

In a large skillet, set to medium heat, add olive oil and sauté the white parts of the green onions for one minute. 

Add tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and mushrooms.  Simmer for 5 minutes. 

Add cotija cheese and whisk to incorporate.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove sauce to a bowl and keep warm.

Add 1 Tbs olive oil to the pan.  Set heat to high.  Add the strips of beef and stir constantly  until cooked to  rare (about 2 minutes).

Return the sauce to the pan, turn the heat to low and stir with the meat for a few minutes.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Turn the mixture out to a serving bowl and top with green onions and a dusting of cotija cheese. 

Serve with a fresh salad.

Smoked Cornish Game Hens

I love the smell of smoke drifting through the neighborhood.  I especially like it when it emanates from my own backyard!  There is something about the change from summer to fall that makes me want to cook fowl outdoors.  Chicken, turkey, whatever.  This recipe combines bright citrus tones, savory spices and a gentle, smoky flavor. 

Ingredients:

2 Cornish game hens

Marinade for the hens (see below)

Marinade Ingredients:

3 cups olive oil

3 full heads of garlic, peeled and smashed

3 oranges

3 lemons

3 limes

1 cup orange juice

¼ cup rosemary, chopped

¼ cup kosher salt

¼ cup coarse black pepper

2 star anise pods

1 Thai cinnamon stick

Directions:

Zest the citrus fruit

Add the juice and zest from the fruit to a bowl.  Add the orange juice and oil to the bowl.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the rosemary, salt, black pepper, anise and cinnamon. 

Add the ground seasonings to the bowl, along with the juice and zest.

finished marinade

Keep the rinds and pulp from the fruit to use as an aromatic.  In a large pot of water, add rinds and pulp.  Set heat to very low and add other aromatics, such as cinnamon sticks, star anise, sage, all spice berries…really, anything that strikes your fancy.

Put on stove, low heat…fill the house with the aroma!

Cut the hens in half, (remove back bones and split the bird in half with a large kitchen knife).

whole hen
Pretty side up!

Marinate the chicken for 12 hours, or overnight.  Turn the chicken occasionally, to allow the marinade to soak in.

Refrigerate overnight

I used oak for the smoking process.  Oak lends a nice smoky flavor without imparting a heavy flavor.  I didn’t bother measuring or monitoring the temperature of the coals or the smoker, or the birds.  I knew that I had used plenty of coals and that the birds would cook evenly, since they were split.  Smoking meat this way is not advised but,  I happened to be in a very confident mood that day and I turned everything over to fate. 

Directions for smoking the birds:

Start a batch of charcoal for a smoker.  Hot charcoals maintain even and steady heat for the smoker and they ignite the wood, used for the smoke.  Once the coals are hot (gray), add some pieces of oak.  Let the oak char for about 20 minutes.  Add some more oak and char for another 15 minutes.  Once the wood has turned into nice coals and the smoke has thinned a little, prepare the grill for smoking.

On a clean grill, add the hens, cut side down, with leg portions pointed toward the center of the grill.  Smoke the birds for 1 ½ hours.  I finished cooking in a 300° oven for 15 minutes, just to make sure that they were cooked all the way through.

Let the hens rest for a few minutes before separating into breasts, legs and wings.

Serve with pasta with fresh tomato sauce, garden salad and warm Jalapeño Cheddar Cheese Bread with pads of butter.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce:

Summer is gone but I still enjoy the taste of fresh tomatoes from the garden.  That’s because I filled a 2 gallon storage bag with ripe tomatoes.  I didn’t wash the tomatoes before freezing them.  Whenever I want a tomato, I open the bag, pull one out, let it thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then I rinse it under tap water.  The skin peels off right away and I’m left with a wonderful, fresh tomato.  For this recipe, I used two tomatoes.

Ingredients:

2 *fresh* tomatoes

1 lb penne rigate

1 anchovy (packed in oil)

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tsp olive oil

2 Tbs butter

½ tsp dried oregano leaves

½ tsp dried basil leaves

½ cup feta cheese

Directions:

Boil water in a large pot.  Add the penne rigate and cook to al dente.  Drain the water but do not rinse.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta cooks…

Chop tomatoes into ½” pieces.  Set aside.

Crush anchovy and garlic together in a mortar and pestle.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, set to medium/low heat, add olive oil.  Add half of the tomatoes, garlic and anchovy. Cook down to a sauce (about 10 minutes). 

Add a cup of pasta water and cook down for another 5 minutes. 

Add the spices and butter.  Simmer for a few minutes and simmer for a few more minutes. 

Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat the pasta.

Turn out to a serving bowl and top with feta cheese.

Jalapeño and Cheddar Cheese Bread

My wife makes this bread and it doesn’t sit on the table very long!  Next time she makes it, I’ll pay better attention and share the recipe along with directions.  It’s always the highlight to any meal it accompanies!