Sandwich Upgrades: Part I

Most cuisines have a food that acts, as my husband would say, as a “delivery system” for other foods. Think pasta, rice, salad greens, tortillas. Sandwich bread falls into this category. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to throw mayo, cheese, and deli meat between two slices of whole wheat that we don’t often take advantage of the opportunity that the sandwich really affords: namely, here is a great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet. In that spirit, here are a few unusual ideas you may want to try.

Turkey with Cabbage and Apples

I almost posted this recipe under the Stolen Salads heading because I first encountered it at a butcher shop in Montréal. I guessed at the contents and made my own version, although I haven’t been able to replace the shop’s homemade mayo.

You Will Need:
  • Two slices of crusty bread, good for toasting
  • Turkey, sliced however thickly you prefer
  • Meltable cheese such as mozzarella or provolone
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt
  • Handful of purple cabbage, shaved fine with a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or knife
  • 1/2 apple, sliced as thinly as possible (any variety of apple is okay but I prefer something sweet or tart, not sour)
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

To assemble, top one slice of bread with turkey and cheese and then stick both slices into the oven or toaster oven. Remove when the cheese has melted and the edges of the bread have browned. Spread the empty slice of bread with mayonnaise, then sprinkle the mayonnaise with salt. Pile cabbage and apples on top of the turkey, grind pepper over the top, and enjoy.

Mushroom-Sprout Wrap with Optional Egg

You Will Need:
  • Butter or olive oil
  • Egg or mustard seed (I don’t think the egg works with the flavor of the mustard seeds so I recommend including one or the other, though both are shown in my pictures)
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Salt
  • Naan or pita bread, warmed up so it won’t tear
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sprouts (any type, but I prefer alfalfa–see this link for information about potential salmonella contamination from sprouts so that you can judge your risk level accordingly; note that I received this information only recently so I haven’t included instructions for cooking the sprouts in the recipe below, but you could cook them alongside the mushrooms if concerned)

Heat the butter or oil in a small nonstick skillet (I would use butter if including an egg and olive oil if not). If using an egg, add the mushrooms directly to the butter with a sprinkling of salt and stir them around until they have darkened and shriveled. Scramble or fry an egg (your choice) in a new round of butter once the mushrooms are cooked and out of the pan. If you aren’t using an egg, add mustard seeds to the olive oil while it is still cold (no more than 1/2 teaspoon; they can get overwhelming). Once the mustard seeds start to spit and pop, add the mushrooms and a sprinkling of salt to the pan (but be careful; the seeds can jump out of the pan and sting your wrists!). Once the mushrooms have darkened and shriveled, remove from the pan. To assemble, slather mayonnaise on the naan bread, pile the mushrooms and the sprouts in the middle of the bread, add the optional egg as soon as it finishes cooking, and eat hot.

Bacon, Arugula, and Pear

Pile this sandwich high with arugula and go easy on the bacon. You don’t need a lot of it, just enough to provide a salty counterpart to offset the sweetness of the pear. You could also experiment with ham or pastrami if bacon feels too indulgent.

You Will Need:
  • A limited amount of bacon (one slice regular, or two slices of jowl bacon as shown here)
  • Two slices of crusty bread, good for toasting
  • Meltable cheese such as Brie or Camembert
  • Mustard, whichever type you prefer
  • 1/2 pear
  • A heaping handful of arugula
  • Salt (optional depending on the saltiness of your bacon)

Render the bacon in a small nonstick or cast-iron skillet. To properly render, you need to maintain medium heat and let the bacon cook gradually. Add it to the pan while it’s still cold and then turn the bacon periodically so neither side gets too dark. Be patient, keep flipping the bacon, maintain a constant heat, and you’ll end up with nicely crisped bacon. To assemble, top one slice of bread with a few slices of cheese, then stick both slices of bread into the oven or toaster oven until the cheese has melted and the edges of the bread are browned. Remove, spread mustard on the empty slice of bread, and then layer the bacon, pear, and arugula on top of the mustard. Sprinkle the cheese with some salt if you like and serve while still hot.

It’s easy to forget that the sandwiches we love so much at delis are made special by the inclusion of unorthodox ingredients. Try your hand at these recipes or invent your own, and see if you’re still craving Which Wich.

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