The humble sandwich, so full of promise and often rejected as simple, is one of my favorite dishes. All it takes is a little effort and imagination to produce a wonderful meal, which works perfectly at any time of the day. Moving past the usual ham and cheese sandwich, there are thousands of combinations ready for you at your fingertips. Considering how easy making a sandwich usually is, there's no better dish in terms of variety and convenience.
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One of my favorite books is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. In a part I enjoyed very much, the main character becomes the Sandwich Maker of his village. The fragment that reflects my love for sandwich making reads:
"There is an art to the business of making sandwiches which it is given to few ever to find the time to explore in depth. It is a simple task, but the opportunities for satisfaction are many and profound..."Mostly Harmless, Hitchhiker's series by Douglas Adams
Deep down, I've always wanted to be a sandwich maker. I'm very methodical when it comes to making sandwiches, though I try to be adventurous with the ingredients. After making many many sandwiches in my life, I've come up with my three basic rules for sandwich making.
- Rule Nº 1: Respect the order
making a sandwich is not about piling ingredients between two loaves of bread. For me it's about creating a frame that maximizes flavor and preserves the structural stability of the sandwich. For example, juicy or moist ingredients shouldn't be in contact with the bread, to prevent sogginess. When making hot sandwiches, cheese should be placed as close as possible to the heat source to improve melting. Dressings can bind ingredients together, but may turn the bread soggy, so placement is tricky.
- Rule Nº 2: Balance the flavors
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when preparing a sandwich, a main ingredient must be chosen, which will become a focal point. A second, blander ingredient may complement the first one without overpowering it. Other ingredients should either enhance the main flavor or blend the first two. Having too many strong flavors will overwhelm your taste buds and keep you from enjoying a great sandwich.
- Rule Nº 3: Consider proportions
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this may sound slightly OCD, but there is an optimal bread to filling ratio for sandwiches. Too much filling will bore you and too little is sure to disappoint. It's a matter of personal preference, but a great ratio for most sandwiches is when the thickness of the filling is equal to the thickness of one loaf of bread. If the flavors are too strong, then the amount of filling should be reduced.
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I'll give you some examples of what I like to call "sandwich crimes". I've eaten all of them and no, I'm not making them up:
- Something that tasted like a sandwich lettuce with tuna dressing (poor flavor balance).
- Ham and cheese sandwich, with ketchup on the bread. It was extremely soggy and stuck to my palate (wrong ingredient order).
- Two thick loaves of white bread and a single thin slice of white cheese (Bad ratio).
I'll finish this story with an example of a great sandwich I once had at a restaurant. Soft white bread, a layer of cream cheese and another layer of smoked salmon. Also, a dash of chopped onions and capers. Perfect score on ratio, flavor and order.
|Image by Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife|
Now it's your turn to share. How do you like your sandwich?