Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe: The "Marie" Sandwich

I figured I'd start adding some recipes and music to this blog, and to that end, I'd start with a rather simple sandwich, named for and inspired by a very close friend of ours who has left for the foggy British Isles. We call it the "Marie" Sandwich. It's a rather simple mix of avocado, tomatoes, and cheese, but it makes for an absolutely delicious sandwich, and can be greatly modified to suit the individual palate.

All of last year, Marie was a constant fixture at our house, and she was great for cleaning out the last of the leftovers we had in the fridge. We met Marie while she was directing the Dean's Men (a local theater group) production of Romeo and Juliet - Steph played the part of Tybalt and I mostly cooked for people and gave rides when they needed it. Steph and Marie became fast friends and started designing, and redesigning, all the costumes and props in the play. For a while, our apartment was overflowing with plaster and newspaper while we made face masks for the masquerade scene of the play. Through all of this, even though she was incredibly busy with classes and directly, Marie was always there for us and always willing to hang out.

So, during one of those marathon work sessions, Steph was working with Marie and her apartment, and Marie decided to make lunch - just simple sandwiches. Apparently, it was so good that Steph immediately called me to run to the store and pick up everything we'd need to make it ourselves.

By now, this has become a staple lunch-time or tide-me-over-till-dinner sandwich at our house. It's simple and quick to make, requires very few ingredients (unless you want to start modifying it...then you're only bound by the stability of the sandwich itself), and tastes great.

Recipe: "Marie Sandwich"


1 half of a large, ripe avocado
1 medium, ripe tomato
2 slices Muenster cheese
1 sub bun

Use a serrated bread knife to open the sub bun, splitting it into two pieces. Using a sharp knife, such as a chef's knife, carefully slice the avocado length-wise, cutting around the pit. Gently twist the halves apart and set aside the half without the pit. Cover your hand in a kitchen glove or with a towel and get a good grip on the avocado half with the pit. Using a sharp knife with a heavy blade, strike the blade down into the center of the pit, trying to use the part of the knife close to the handle. If the avocado is ripe enough, a gentle clockwise or counter-clockwise twist should free it.

Stretch your thumb and first finger around the spine of the blade and pinch/push the pit off of the edge. It should pop off easily. Then, you can carefully cut a small grid through the flesh of one half of the avocado and use a spoon to scoop it out and onto the bread. Try to evenly spread the avocado half onto each half of the loaf. If you can't mash the avocado easily, you may want to first put it into a bowl and mash it with a fork or potato masher. You can then cut the cheese slices in half and layer those on top of each half, and finally thinly slice the tomato and layer slices of tomato along one half.

Put the sandwich on a cookie sheet or other baking tray and put it under the broiler until the cheese has melted and the bread is lightly toasted. Remove from the oven, press the two halves together, and then let cool slightly before consuming.

Now, a quick note about sandwich making. There is much talk about "sandwich-physics," and it's important to figure out a few of the more important pointers there. Alton Brown, on the show Good Eats, goes into this in his season 8 episode "Sandwich Craft." In fact, I hear tell there are entire blogs and syndicated columns on the art of constructing the proper sandwich! I leave you to find those on your own, but I will reiterate Alton's rules from Sandwich Craft, because they are good reference, and they do have some bearing on this recipe:

1) Soft ingredients (such as egg salad) go best with soft breads.
2) When using wet ingredients (e.g., tomatoes), always use a moisture barrier, such as mayonnaise, oil, butter, or cream cheese to prevent soaking. (note, this is also why when making a PB&J sandwich, it's best to coat both pieces of bread with peanut butter, instead of leaving the jelly exposed to naked bread on one side)
3) Do not place layers of slippery ingredients next to one another - this will cause everything to call apart as you're eating it - you have to think about the proper amount of friction to hold the sandwich together. And finally,
4) Never use a bread you wouldn't eat on its own. If it's not good enough for consumption plain, it's not good enough for sandwich-making.

Now, that being said, we should look back at our recipe and realize we might have a few potential issues. Most of them aren't serious and can be overcome with a little careful thought, but let's review and suggest a few possible modifications.

First of all - the sub bun or Hoagie roll. This works fine for us most of the time, but you may want to consider exactly how you're going to want the finished sandwich.

Consider, for instance, if you want an untoasted/unheated sandwich, you may want to get a roll with a rather crusty exterior, like say, a baguette, cut it in half, and dig out a bit of a trench in the bread (use the leftovers for breadcrumbs, or fondue, or dipping in soup!). You can fill that trench with the avocado and layer the tomato and cheese on top. If you wanted, you could create a simple vinaigrette by putting:

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard into a mixing bowl and whisking with 1 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Slowly drizzle in 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil while whisking constantly to create an emulsion.

You could slowly drizzle this mixture over the sandwich, place the two halves together, and then compress it in plastic wrap for a little while to let the flavors mingle.

But let's say you wanted a hot sandwich, maybe a pressed sandwich. In that case, you could almost completely slice the bread in two, add some mustard or olive oil, layer down the avocado, then the cheese, and the tomatoes in the middle, fold and crimp the cheese into the interior, and press the sandwich. This doesn't necessarily mean that you need a sandwich press. You could probably do it between two heated baking sheets, maybe with a hot cast iron pan on top. Leave it pressed for about ten minutes, and you'll have a pretty delicious sandwich.

As for additional toppings - spinach is a possibility, different cheeses can work, a little olive oil and vinegar, or a touch of salt and pepper...all of these can be added to personal taste - just keep in mind that you don't want to overpower the sandwich with two many competing flavors, and if you go too crazy with ingredients, it may not hold together.

Next up on the recipe list...I'm thinking oat bread.

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