January is a great month for sandwiches. They’re a fun departure from the elaborate cookery of the holiday months and a great way to use leftovers or get your veggies in. If you’re not the kind of person who stacks vegetables between two slices, just about any sandwich pairs well with a side salad or greens.
Thankfully, you can make just about anything into a sandwich: broccoli rabe with crispy pepper bits, a frittata with lightly salted greens, pernil, and so on. Yet that doesn’t mean any sandwich will do. I am particular about sandwiches, and I’m guessing you are too: It’s why I often prefer to make them at home.
A homemade sandwich allows you to focus on everything — quality of the fillings and bread, seasoning and condiments, short or tall stack, and more. I find that too many sandwiches I’ve ordered out suggest the person making it may be thinking more about assembling the sandwich as opposed to what it’s like to eat that sandwich: Focus on the latter and it’s a labor of love.
As much as we address what’s in our sandwiches, the bread is perhaps more important. In a variation on what Julia Child said about bread, how can a sandwich be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?
Other underrated aspects of making a sandwich: Season ingredients individually, before they hit the bread, particularly vegetables. And more is not always more: Often a simple little sandwich will do. Last, as the case may be with a slice of pizza, it’s not a crime to use a fork and knife, as you probably would for the sandwich in the photo above. Over the weekend, I made a Sunday spin on the bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich. I didn’t have any bacon, so I made Mark’s Monte Cristo with bread served French-toast-style layered with ham and Gruyere then jazzed up with an egg on top. It was pretty great, and definitely a fork-and-knifer.
That sandwich kicks off this week’s recipe round-up which includes variations on grilled sandwiches — all of which can go under budget recipes — followed by pan bagnat, tofu and cucumber, BBQ jackfruit, among others.
Have something to say about sandwiches? Leave us a note in the comments.
Monte Cristo and Other Grilled Variations
The concept of griddling a sandwich isn’t exclusive to one cuisine. And you don’t need a fancy press to make a beautifully crisp and browned sandwich. Improve simple grilled cheese by adding your favorite dressing or using other fillings — such as the 7 variations that follow. Here we go:
1 tablespoon butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil
2 slices of any bread
Several slices of good melting cheese like Emmental, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or cheddar
Put a small skillet over medium heat and add butter or oil. Make a sandwich with bread and cheese.
Grilled Cheese and Onion: Use any bread, though multigrain is best. Fill with several slices of smoked cheddar or other smoked cheese and up to 1/4 cup of caramelized onion.
Tuna Melt: Try sourdough bread served with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of tuna salad topped with several slices of good melting cheese.
Reuben: Grill rye bread slathered with Russian dressing (an equal mix of ketchup and mayonnaise) or mustard, and fill with 2 to 3 ounces of sliced pastrami or corned beef, 1/4 cup drained sauerkraut, and several slices of Swiss cheese.
Cuban Sandwich: Use a 6- to 10-inch section of a long Italian loaf or baguette, slather with mustard. Fill with 3 ounces sliced roasted pork, ham, and or mortadella if you like, as well as several slices Swiss cheese and a thinly sliced dill pickle.
Chicken Pesto Panino: Try this on ciabatta or similar crusty Italian-style bread, dress with pesto, and fill with 2 to 3 ounces sliced cooked chicken breast, several slices of mozzarella cheese, and 2 or 3 thin slices of ripe tomato.
Monte Cristo: Choose sandwich bread, challah, or brioche, dress with mustard, then fill the sandwich with several slices of Gruyere and 2 ounces of country ham. Then soak the bread in an egg beaten with a little milk as in French toast before cooking. To gild the lily, add a fried egg on top.
Grilled Nut Butter and Kimchee Sandwich: Try rustic French bread or sandwich bread slathered with almond or really any nut butter and filled with 1/4 cup of kimchee, drained well.