Sunday, September 11, 2011

Not Your Average Sandwich! - 2nd Edition

Hi again!

Before I get started, I have to plug my sweetie's new blog: Love and Food in Ottawa. Basically it's Kari's take on the wide wonderful world of cookery and ingenious uses for vodka.

That being said, it's time for another edition of "Not Your Average Sandwich!", because, well, sandwiches rock! Seriously, if "The Next Food Network Star" is a sandwich guy, what does that tell you?

So, it's no surprise that at the Nick & Kari homestead, we eat a lot of sandwiches. Why? Well, they're easy, they usually encompass all basic food groups, and you can control your portions fairly easily. But who really needs to explain why sandwiches are awesome, I think we all know they are and have our own reasons for that opinion. So let's get to the food, dude!

1 - Reuben Sandwiches w. Oven Fries and Russian Dressing

Reuben Sandwiches with Homemade Russian Dressing and Oven Fries
This one was Kari's idea, my execution. Often, on the days I work early, our dinner planning consists of her emailing me a dinner idea and me going with it. So, when she proposed Reuben sandwiches (and bought all the necessary fixins'), I was glad to execute. But, we had nothing to put on the side (except gorgeously fat dill pickles). I figured some homemade oven fries would fit the bill!

So, first off, what's a Reuben? Well, its origins are somewhere in a US deli, but as with most recipes, the details are sketchy. Basically, it's a corned beef sandwich on rye (light or dark? Most recipes I've read don't specify) with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, then done up grilled cheese style.

Reuben Sandwich (for 1 sandwich, repeat as needed)


- 2 slices rye bread (I prefer dark rye for a Reuben, but light is fine also)
- 3-4 slices corned beef, pastrami or smoked meat (for folks from Eastern Ontario and Quebec, corned beef and pastrami are considered somewhat inferior cousins of smoked meat)
- 2 tbsp sauerkraut
- 1/2 tsp caraway seeds (optional, for the sauerkraut)
- 1/4 cup beer (optional, for the sauerkraut)
- 1 tbsp Russian dressing (recipe to follow or use store bought)
- 1-2 slices Swiss cheese (Emmenthal also counts)

- First, you may want to fry up the sauerkraut, for two reasons. One, I find that the brine most sauerkraut is kept in is bit too sour. Two, it's very wet coming out of the jar so this helps dry it out a bit. Basically, toss the sauerkraut, caraway seeds and beer (because beer is always good) into a hot pan and stir fry until the sauerkraut starts to brown a little. Remove from heat and put aside in a small bowl.
- Spread a little Russian dressing on the inside of each slice of bread.

- Layer meat on a slice of bread, then sauerkraut, then cheese and top with last slice of bread.

- In a frying pan, melt butter on medium heat and coat pan.

- Carefully place the sandwich onto the hot pan. 

- Fry up sandwich until the first side is crispy and golden and cheese has melted slightly (about 5 mins).

- Using a spatula, and the Force, flip sandwich over, ensuring it stays together.

- Cook for another 5 minutes and serve with fries and a pickle!
Mmmmm... pickle...
Oh wait, you say, what about those fries? Well, they're pretty darned easy. Here's how!

Oven Fries


- 3-4 medium-sized potatoes, washed, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch thick fries or wedges
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- seasoning (get creative! Salt and pepper are just fine, but I usually like to throw in something interesting from the spice rack)


- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Once you've cut your potatoes, give them a thorough rinse in cold water. Do this 2-3 times. This gets of excess starch and helps make the potatoes more crispy out of the oven. At least that's what I think causes it... Dry potatoes as best as possible using a towel or paper towel. 

- In a large bowl, toss potatoes in oil and seasoning until well-coated.

- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminium foil and spread out potatoes evenly.

- Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

- Remove fries from the oven and serve with sandwiches and extra Russian dressing for dipping.

Speaking of Russian Dressing:

- Stir together 4 tbsp mayo, 2 tbsp ketchup, 1 tsp minced onion, 1 tsp red wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

And that's that! Serve it all with ice cold beer and enjoy!

Open-faced Arctic Char Gravlax w. Smoky Sour Cream

More Gravlax? Really? DAMN RIGHT!
 OK, OK, I admit it, I have a bit of an obsession with the art of curing and smoking meat and fish. Why? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that both are a form of "hands-off" cooking. There really isn't much work involved past the initial process of setting up a fire or coating a piece of meat in a salt-based cure. But the results when done right? Oooooh Baby! That's good eatin'!

So, as I've posted before, Gravlax is a Scandinavian dish where one salt-cures salmon. Well, when I got to the grocery store, I noticed that the Arctic Char was actually cheaper than the Pacific Sockeye (probably because the Char is farmed), so I decided to give it a try. Of course, that meant having to season it differently as well! Oh no, a chance to tweak a recipe, shucks darn!

Now, the original recipe calls for brown sugar, dill, black pepper and whiskey. Well, small problem, I couldn't find a crumb of dill in the whole kitchen. So, I decided to skip it. But that left a need to add something else to flavour the salmon. Well, since the colour and flavour of Arctic Char is a little lighter than salmon, I figured a lighter flavour would work as well, something yellow and bright. In this case, I squeezed about 1/4 of a lemon's worth of juice, grated about 1 tbsp of grapefruit zest and added about a tbsp of maple syrup. The grapefruit zest was the kicker, it added such flavour and zing. Wonderful stuff! I also, for fun, added a half-teaspoon of a smoky spice rub mixture I picked up at a local farmer's market. So, I mixed that all up with the kosher salt, created the appropriate salt crust to cure the meat, and left it in the fridge for 2 days.

Well, needless to say, the first bite was delightful, with bright flavours. Unfortunately, Gravlax is only for the true fish lover, it will have a 'fishy' flavour to it unless you're using it fresh out of the water. Me, I don't mind so much, but when Kari took a bite, her first reaction was "MMMMMMMM!", her reaction ten seconds later was "Eeeeeeew, low tide!" (be reminded that Kari has been only been eating fish and seafood since we've been dating and she's a hard sell).

Now, no matter how much you love fish and Gravlax, it can't be eaten on its own, it just doesn't work. You need some kind of bread to put it on and something creamy to balance the texture. So, it just so happened that we had this dense organic rye in the fridge (the kind you can find in the supermarket or speciality delis and it's so dense that 5 slices weigh about a kilo). So, I threw that in the toaster (it takes forever to even develop a toasty crust) and about ten minutes later took it out (I kid you not!).

Next, I needed that creaminess and there's nothing better with Gravlax than sour cream! Now, that being said, I find sour cream kind of boring. It needed some kick. So, smoked paprika to the rescue! A pinch of that stirred into a tbsp of sour cream and ka-BLAM!! That sour cream was kickin' like a mule! So I spread that onto the bread, topped it with the Gravlax, and then I needed some garnish. Still without dill, I instead used a little rosemary and more grapefruit zest.

What you had in the end was a flavour roller-coaster. I have become a convert to the Church of Grapefruit Zest with Fish. I think they have a PO Box somewhere in Florida...

So, voila! more sandwichian excellence. Hope you enjoy it!


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