Roast Beast Sandwich

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Leftovers make a lovely lunch.

I could make a hundred excuses of why I haven’t been posting to OMNIVOROUS lately and nearly half of those would be true, but the real truth is that I’ve been busy, busy, busy. What with two kids and a hectic work schedule (and an incurable addiction to Instagram) I’ve hardly had time to write a word. But recently I’ve been urged by a number of people to take up the quill again and resume my blogging. Apparently a few of you kind readers had missed my musings. Thank you for the encouragement; I’ll try to get back on the horse and ride it.*

Today’s brief post is about using leftovers to good effect. The night before I made this killer sandwich I’d cooked a large prime shell roast. If you’re not familiar with the term a shell roast is basically a huge New York strip steak roasted in the oven. This one was eight pounds, the equivalent of about ten big thick delicious New Yorks stuck together. I’d seasoned it simply and rubbed it with olive oil. I roasted it at 325ºF for about an hour. I pulled it out when I got a temp reading of 120ºF on my instant-read thermometer. This is considered rare but I knew it would continue cooking outside the oven for a little while. The shell roast was a huge success and mostly devoured; I’m glad a little was leftover because there are few things I love more than really great cold roast beef. Especially when it’s a superior hunk of roast.

So I shaved a little of the beef into thin slices and knocked out this delicious sandwich. I lightly toasted an onion roll and slathered homemade mayo on the bottom half. On the top half I smeared a bit of incendiary spicy mustard from Phillipe’s (the LA landmark restaurant which introduced the world to the French Dip sandwich). Two big slices of brandywine tomatoes went on the bottom bread and over that a mound of that shaved beef. I added a slice of Jarlsberg cheese and topped the cheese with a clutch of leftover salad (iceberg, arugula, radicchio, shaved fennel, and crumbled goat cheese). I put the top bread on the and closed up the sandwich, which I promptly ate without ceremony. And the sando was AMAZEBALLS, as they say.

Not pictured is the bottle of Asahi Black Lager that I drank with the sandwich.

* and maybe eat the horse afterwards. Hey, I’m OMNIVOROUS!

Pan con Tomate

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Pan con tomate is a national treasure of Spain.

This ubiquitous Spanish starter is the simplest thing in the world to make, but don’t be fooled by the basic nature of the dish. Probably the most famous dish from Catalonia, the beloved pan con tomate is a thing of genius, the sheer simplicity belying a profound complexity of flavor from five ingredients in symbiotic harmony. You start with good, flavorful, rustic bread. You toast it until it’s hot and crusty. Add garlic, tomato, olive oil, and salt. The end result is perfection.

To make pan con tomate at home you need very good bread with some flavor, a hearty crust, and a crumb dense enough to withstand a little manhandling. I like to make it with a sourdough batard, which is a French loaf that’s fatter and more irregular than its cousin the baguette. I cut it on the bias (at an angle) into slices about three-quarters of an inch thick.

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Fresh tomatoes and good bread.

You can use any kind of grill you like to toast the bread. This time I used a grill pan for the convenience; I didn’t feel like firing up the propane Weber for a few slices of bread, ya know. I’m sure you could broil the bread if you wanted or hold the bread in a pair of tongs and wave it over a roaring oak fire, which would probably be the most authentic method. However you do it, get the bread nice and hot and a little charred on both sides.

Okay, the garlic. Take a peeled clove of fresh garlic and trim off about the end, removing about 25% of the clove off. You’ll scrape the cut end over the hot bread’s surface. For tomatoes I like the medium-sized vine-ripe kind. Cut them into quarters. You need one tomato quarter per slice of bread. You’ll also need extra-virgin olive oil, ideally from Spain; something fruity with some good character. Finally good sea salt. I had on hand some fleur de sel de Camargue but use anything except iodized table salt.

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Rub the fresh tomatoes on to the cut surface of your crusty bread.

So, to assemble your tasty pan con tomate first grill the bread until crusty. Gently scrape the garlic clove all over one side of the bread. Now rub the tomato into the bread on that same side. A little pulp will rub off, maybe a couple of seeds, definitely some good tomato essence. Now drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the slice, maybe a teaspoon per slice, and sprinkle some salt over the slice. You can crack some black pepper over it if you’d like, although it’s optional.

Serve with a little manchego cheese or salami or jamon Serrano. Oh, and don’t forget a glass of cheap but tasty red wine!

 

Not-So-Big Macs!

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Homemade “Not-So-Big” Macs are a helluva lot better for you than the real deal! And way cuter!

Many people are surprised that I’ll admit to eating fast food every once in a while. Considering my choice of career and the unlimited budget that I have for purchasing the finest food that money can buy and people can eat, sometimes my friends are frankly astonished that I have the occasional craving for Taco Bell or similar trash foods. I suppose every once in a while I need a casual antidote to all the fancy stuff like caviar, foie gras, matsutake mushrooms, pork belly, and lobster tails. At least that’s my excuse, but really I just kinda like the stuff despite the realization that it’ll probably shave some time off my life and contribute to our degrading environment. But in truth I rarely indulge; I eat Taco Bell once a year and McDonald’s with a similar frequency.

But sometimes I really crave a tasty burger, and usually I don’t mean some kind of fancy-schmancy hand-ground meat patty artfully layered with chef-designed, umami-laden, manufactured-in-house condiments. No parmesan crisp or ketchup leather or shiitake bullshit or aged Vermont cheddar or sun-dried tomato or a goddamn brioche bun. I want a thin patty of good beef on a soft, yielding (read cheap) bun with honest-to-goodness Kraft American cheese. Sometimes all I want is a crappy fast-food burger, something gooey, chewy, beefy, sloppy.

However, I want it with killer beef, ideally grass-fed, so that I won’t be burdened with as much (however fleeting) guilt when I bite down into that burger and the hot beef grease courses over my tastebuds. And I want organic tomatoes and lettuce, quality onions, and a good pickle.

Anyway, a few days ago I was in one of my “trashy burger moods”. It hit me as I strolled the aisles at Trader Joe’s; inspiration struck as I spotted a bag of slider buns dotted with sesame seeds, something I’d never seen before. Barely two inches in diameter the little rolls screamed BIG MAC and that ubiquitous commercial ditty ran through my mind like the sexy come-on of a low-rent hooker trolling the unfashionable, less-hospitable end of Sunset Blvd: “two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun”. A shiver ran down my spine and I knew exactly what I was going to eat for dinner that night.

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Inspiration came in a plastic bag.

Of course a few issues hampered the immediate execution of my “Not-So-Big Mac” or “Mini-Mac”. The Big Mac is constructed of a “triple-bun” with an additional round slab of bread starching up the middle of the burger. I had to create the extra bun slice by carefully trimming the the crust from the tops (or bottoms) of some of the slider buns. This was wasteful, to be sure, but authenticity demands a strenuous attention to detail and, quite possibly, some waste along the way.

Next is the so-called “special sauce” which is simply Russian dressing (1,000 Island being virtually identical). I used my own super-basic recipe of a half-cup of mayo, a quarter-cup of ketchup, two tablespoons of sweet pickle relish, and kosher salt and cracked peppercorn (to taste) all mixed up together. Also on the burger are sour pickle slices (look for dill hamburger chips), shredded iceberg lettuce, one slice of yellow American cheese, and some small pieces of sliced white onions. The sliced onions I soaked in cold water for about five minutes to get rid of the some of the acidity. I drained them well before putting them on the burger.

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My Mini-Macs were magnificent!

The burger patties themselves I made very thin, less than a half-inch in thickness, and about three-and-a-half inches in diameter. Whenever you make burgers remember that they shrink significantly; how much shrinkage occurs is determined by fat content — more fat means more shrinkage, generally. So for a burger that fits a two-inch bun you need a burger that’s a little larger than three inches. I seasoned the burger patties with just a little salt and pepper right before cooking in a skillet (or on a flat-top griddle).

I heated my skillet over high heat until it was just smoking and swirled in a little vegetable oil. Very quickly I lightly browned the cut sides of all three parts of the bun — the top, the bottom, and the middle piece (which needs to browned on both sides). I kept the toasted buns warm on a small sheet pan in a low oven (about 200ºF) while I cooked the burgers.

I added more vegetable oil to the pan — just enough to coat the bottom evenly. I added the  burger patties; remember two patties per Mini-Mac! I cooked the burgers on one side about two minutes until very browned and a little crisp. I flipped the burgers and added a small slice of American cheese on top of half the burgers*; remember only one slice of cheese for each Mini-Mac! After one more minute of cooking I removed the burgers from the pan and took the warm buns out of the oven.

I assembled the Mini-Macs in the following order, assembling from top to bottom:

  • the bottom of the bun
  • a half-teaspoon of special sauce
  • one pickle chip
  • a few pieces of sliced onion
  • a tiny clutch of lettuce
  • a burger patty with cheese*
  • the “middle bun”
  • a few pieces of sliced onion
  • another tiny clutch of lettuce
  • a “cheeseless” burger patty
  • another half-teaspoon of special sauce
  • another pickle slice
  • the top of the bun

After assembly my fam and I ate them immediately. Both wife and son were appropriately grateful and deemed the Mini-Macs excellent!

* Big Mac scientists for some reason place a slice of unmelted cheese on the burger “underneath” the bottom burger patty, probably to keep the hot cheese from wilting the lettuce too much. However, I prefer melting the cheese on the burger while it cooks (better cheese-gooiness). I’m on the fence about whether the cheese should face up or down when you assemble, although I’m leaning toward cheese-up. You decide.

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich (Vegan Styleee)

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Yummy vegan sando!

I made another vegan sandwich at work today. This time I started by marinating a big portobello mushroom in olive oil, white wine, garlic, herbs (dill, chives, tarragon), and a bit of worcestershire sauce. I grilled it, sliced it, and layered it on toasted Ezekial bread with yellow mustard, chipotle-flavored Vegenaise, baby spinach, sliced tomato, sliced red onion, and a slice of “cheddar” veggie cheese.

I’ve got to say, it was pretty tasty although I’m not a vegan. I just had a small bite; I loved everything but the soy cheese. Honestly fake cheese gives me the shivers. I made it for my vegan coworker Ian and he deemed it “a damn good sandwich”.

 

Baby Vivian Eats A Godmother!

My baby’s got a healthy appetite!

Okay, okay, so my seven-month old child isn’t actually devouring one of the best sandwiches in Los Angeles, but she sure wanted to! Hell, she couldn’t even take a bite due to a conspicuous lack of teeth. But like her mom and me and pretty much everyone who’s ever eaten a Godmother, I’m sure baby Vivian would agree that it’s the best Italian-style sub (or hero or grinder or whatever) in the city. The bread is the key — crisp, chewy, and flavorful. If you haven’t eaten one yet, you should. And get it with the spicy peppers!

This pic was taken by my good friend Jen Kramer

 

Read more about it in my original Godmother post from 2011, which can be found here:

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/the-best-sandwich-in-la/

Grilled Veggie Melt

Healthy and tasty lunch!

I cranked out this delightful sandwich last week for a Meatless Monday lunch. I grilled some zucchini, eggplant, and yellow bell pepper (marinated briefly with salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, minced fresh oregano). I slapped those grilled veggies with some tomato, avocado, and some grated “mozzarella-style” vegan rice cheese. The bread was a cheap French roll that I toasted and slathered with a chipotle mayo made from vegenaise and some of the spicy adobo sauce you’ll find in a can of chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeños). That added a nice little kick in the pants.

Take a day or two off of meat. It won’t kill you and it might add a few years to your life. Plus veggies are awesome!