There are people out there who reject the idea of sandwiches. They think sandwiches are lame and boring and not very good, and dry, and for lunch you should eat something cooked, dammit. Now, I’m a big proponent of eating leftovers for lunch, but if all of your lunches are fancy, then how does dinner stay exciting?
Furthermore, a sandwich can be an exquisite piece of art, a perfect piece of food. Behold, the magnificence of the sandwich. Here is the secret: there are many bad and disappointing sandwiches out there. You just have to make sure that this is not the kind of sandwich that you make. A really good sandwich…. hmmm. I rhapsodize a little bit. It is a noble lunch. If you are one of these sandwich doubters, listen up: you, too, can learn to love a sandwich.
The first step is to stop eating cold sandwiches. I mean, there are situations where these are necessary and sometimes even good, but really, you need to fry that sucker. Crispy bread coated in melted butter, melty cheese inside – there are very few ways to go wrong with a grilled sandwich. Even just a simple grilled cheese with no other ingredients is out-of-this-world comforting. So go, get out your frying pan.
Secondly, this certainly doesn’t have to be in every sandwich, but consider as your first step, this:
Yup, before you fry your sandwich itself, fry an egg.
When I was in Portugal earlier this spring for summer school, I fairly blew my friend Arash’s mind when I pointed out that instead of having a fried egg on the side, you could just stick it in the middle of your sandwich. So fry up that egg. Leave it just a little runny in the middle, so that the yolk is pleasantly soft but doesn’t make too much of a mess when, later, you cut your sandwich in half. Really. Do this. It is life-changing.
I’d like to claim credit for the egg idea, but it’s a technique as old as time for spicing up meals when you’re cooking on the cheap. People far more brilliant than myself have written about this, from Mark Bittman in the New York Times, where I first learned spaghetti with a fried egg, to more recently one of my favorite sites, Food52, who for their last tip on “best of the Broke Kitchen” sagely noted, “when in doubt, put a fried egg on it.” Another favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, recently posted not one but FIVE egg sandwiches (all of which look mouth-wateringly good). Deb knows what she’s doing. So. If you aren’t convinced already, fry up that egg!
The next step is the bread. Find some good bread at a local bakery.
Before putting your actual pile of sandwich innards on top, you’ll want some sort of condiment. There are many options. I hate mayonnaise so I’m going to recommend a good mustard. I’ve been enjoying this honey mustard made right here on Gotland. Carl Linnaeus himself came to Gotland and observed that on the clay soils here, mustard grows particularly well. So mustard is a unique and proud product of this little island. The stuff is delicious.
So. condiment up your bread. Slap your egg on there.
The next step is to have amazing friends.
Timothée came to visit me from Zurich last week and before arriving he asked, “is there something, edible or drinkable, typical of Switzerland you specifically miss?” I said no… but that chocolate is never turned down. Timothée showed up with not only chocolate (and oh god, I had forgotten exactly how good Swiss chocolate is….) but two bottles of wine, three kinds of cheese, and some Spiess cured meat.
This definitely improve the quality of my recent sandwiches. I actually don’t even usually put meat on my sandwiches, but this stuff? It’s great! yumyumyum. Thank you Timothée. If you don’t have amazing friends who are willing to import your sandwich ingredients for you direct from Switzerland, normal cheese and meat should do quite nicely. I like to add something green, for instance spinach.
Re-butter your frying pan and put it on medium heat. Believe it or not, there is an art to grilling a sandwich. You can’t have the heat too high, or else the bread burns before the cheese inside melts. It can’t be too low, or else it will take forever. I use a pot lid to compress the sandwich a bit and contain some of the heat coming off the frying pan. Fry ’em up until the bread is nice and golden crispy, and the cheese is beginning to drip out and sizzle on the grill.
And! ta-dah! you have a sandwich you can be proud of and I promise, very happy to dig into. Enjoy. And never insult sandwiches again. That’s a command. To complain about sandwiches means that you’re too lazy to make a good one – and no other food is particularly good if you’re lazy, either, so it’s really not the sandwich’s fault.