Thursday, September 24, 2009

For the Love of Sandwiches!

I love sandwiches. I don’t just mean I like them sort of… I’m talkin’ the real deal… hearts with arrows through them, wedding ceremony with white doves, 2.5 kids, shared burial plots… (Ok… maybe Evan and I are watching a little too much Six Feet Under lately, but it’s sooo good! We’re almost finished with the series, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when we’re done).

Anyway, I digress--back to sandwiches. I think my love affair maybe started when I was a kid, and John would sandwich everything on his plate... wrapping his mashed potatoes and green beans up in a bread roll, folding his pizza in half so that the cheesy fillings were squished between two easy-to-grab layers of crust, smashing his rice between two pieces of chicken and folding that up in his garlic bread, and so on. Maybe I love sandwiches because they can be consumed quickly and easily, in one fell swoop- without the messy interruption of forks and knives. Or maybe I just love the combination of bread and filling, and the magic that happens when the two mix and mingle in perfect proportions. Regardless of why, I’m utterly and hopelessly in love with sandwiches.

If pulled pork and cuban pork had a baby, and that baby had a baby with a cheese steak, it would be this poorly photographed sandwich that Evan and I made a few months ago...

While I love a good restaurant or café sandwich (my latest obsession is Blue Dog), I also find great joy in being able to serve a restaurant style sandwich at home. While some things are always better homemade, sandwiches are one of those hit or miss items. I find that most homemade sandwiches are of the boring Oscar Mayer variety. You know: sliced bread, processed lunch meat, mustard, mayo, slice of cheese…it’s really quite sad to see the state of home sandwichery reduced to this.

In an effort to put an end to the typical lunchbox sandwich, I regularly make tasty, fun, gourmet quality sandwiches at home, for dinner- from pulled pork to caprese, panini to cheese steak (my daydream is to one day own a café with a menu full of delicious specialty sandwiches). Recently, I realized that there was one sandwich variety that Evan and I both love, but have never attempted to recreate in our own kitchen: the bánh mì.

Bánh mì, or Vietnamese sandwiches, are served up all over Seattle (my favorite is Monkey Bridge). Usually consisting of pork, chicken, or tofu, pâté, spicy aioli-like sauce, jalapenos, cilantro, cucumbers, and pickled carrots and daikon on a Vietnamese style baguette (also called bánh mì), bánh mì is bursting with unique flavors. To make it easy and fresh, I skipped the pâté and pickling, and still ended up with a damn good sandwich.

Fresh Chicken Bánh mì for Two
(This is of a general idea than a recipe- tweak as you like!)
Chicken: Marinate bite size pieces of chicken breast in soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, and honey- grill (or bake or sauté)

Aioli: mix together mayo, lime juice, sriracha

Veggies: cut carrot and daikon (radish or jicama will work as well) into matchsticks and toss with olive oil, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Slice jalapenos, cukes, and red and green onions.

Assembly: Cut baguette in half (to serve 2 people) and halve lengthwise. Broil with cut side up til golden. Spread both sides with aioli. Pile high with cilantro (lots of it), chicken, and veggies.

Enjoy, and don't let yourself fall into the sorry-sandwich routine!
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