20 Minute Sandwich with a Tiny Coat Hanger

One evening, about a month and a half ago, when this whole Covid-19 pandemic thing was just beginning to bear down on us, I spoke with my son on the phone for about 20 minutes while he made a sandwich for his girlfriend, who was coming home from work.

He switched to speaker phone, after his girlfriend came home, so that he could finish making the sandwich.  We all joked and talked about how strange things had become and we finally got down to serious business.

You see, my son’s girlfriend manages a pizzeria and of course, I had to ask her what she likes on her pizza.  At first, she said that she didn’t really like pizza but I couldn’t accept the fact that someone in the pizza biz wouldn’t like pizza.  I finally got her to nail down some of the toppings she likes. 

Beef, but not too much Italian spice, cheese…lots of different kinds, including feta, thinly sliced onion and bell pepper.

I got feisty and mentioned anchovy and I could feel the anxiety coming through the phone line, yes I was speaking on a land line! 

Why is it that so many people say they don’t like anchovies yet they have never tried them? 

I told her that I would make a big pizza for her, just the way she likes it and I would put anchovies on half of it, just to give her an opportunity to try them.  I even told her that I would drop it off at her door, so that we wouldn’t run the risk spreading the virus. 

Did I do that?  No.  But, that doesn’t mean I won’t. 

So, with that, I present a photo of the sandwich that my son made. 

Here’s my guess at the ingredients:

Large, soft bread loaf, 6”cut

Deli turkey, sliced

Roma tomato, sliced

Iceberg lettuce, rough chopped

Onion, sliced

While we were going on about pizza and pizza toppings my son kept talking about a tiny coat hanger that he found on the ground earlier that day.  OK.  Good for you, I thought.  You found a tiny coat hanger. 

I should have realized that this was just one of the many infinitesimally small things that my son sees every day that the rest of us are oblivious to. 

I asked him to send me a picture…and he did.

All I could think after seeing this was, now some poor mouse can’t hang up his jacket!

The Reuben Sandwich

My first Reuben sandwich came from an airport deli.  To be precise, I was at D/FW Regional Airport, Terminal 2E (American Airlines), on a sunny spring day, in 1977.  I wasn’t traveling and I wasn’t meeting anyone.  I was there just for fun.

When I was a 12 and 13 years old, I used to ride my bike to the airport just for fun.  That’s the sort of thing I did while other kids were playing sports or hanging out at the mall.   Yes, I was a little odd. 

In some ways, going to the airport, by myself, made me feel connected with other people.  It was an interesting way to observe people, without being obtrusive.  I imagined stories about the people I saw and dreamed about the places that they would go to and places they had been.  I was living life vicariously by watching others but it poured gasoline on the fire of my imagination. 

I rarely had much money…usually nothing more than a dollar or two.   But, on that day I had five dollars in my pocket.  I gazed at the menu, reading the descriptions of the sandwiches that the deli had to offer.  One sandwich in particular drew my attention.  The Reuben.  I had never had corned beef and sauerkraut was something I never imagined on a sandwich and rye bread was something I imagined only existed in New York.  I had to have it.

I savored every bite of that Reuben sandwich and I still recall its warmth, aroma and the piles of sliced corned beef to this day.  Every time I have a Reuben sandwich I recall the fun times I had during my trips to the airport, when I was globetrotting teenager, at least in my mind.

The Reuben that I am making today will have sour dough bread, instead of rye.  Other than that, I have remained true to the classic sandwich recipe.  I bought a beef roast that came with corned beef seasoning and followed the directions on the package.  I boiled the roast for a few hours and then let it rest until cooled.

Ingredients:

2 lbs prepared corned beef roast

16 oz Swiss cheese, sliced

1 ½ cups sauerkraut

1 ½ cups Russian dressing (ingredients and directions below)

Sour dough bread, sliced

1 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs butter

Directions:

Slice the corned beef, ¼” slices or thinner if you can.  Slice the Swiss cheese.  Set these aside.

Preparing the Russian dressing:

   2 Tbs onion, minced and pulverize with the broadside of a knife

   1 cup mayonnaise

   3 Tbs chili sauce (spicy ketchup)

   2 Tbs horseradish, from a jar

   1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

   1/4 tsp paprika

Combine all and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

Assembling the sandwich:

Lay slices of bread on a clean work surface.  Slather Russian dressing on both slices.

Lay slices of Swiss cheese on one of the slices.

Pile slices of corned beef on one top of the cheese. 

Squeeze some sauerkraut in your hands to remove as much of the liquid as possible.  Lay the sauerkraut on top of the corned beef.

Top the sandwich with the other slice of bread. Repeat the process to make a second sandwich.

Heat a skillet to medium/low heat.  Add olive oil and butter.

When the butter melts, turn heat to low and carefully lay the sandwiches onto the skillet.

Brown both sides of the sandwiches, turning occasionally.  Continue to turn until both sides have browned and the cheese has melted.

Remove the sandwiches and slice them in half. 

Secure the sandwiches halves with toothpicks and dill pickle slices.

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).