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!

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”.

 

Crispy Vegan Veggie Burger!

Everything about this burger is vegan, except the brioche bun. Oops.

This is not exactly a recipe post as I don’t have a recipe for the veggie patty. It’s just a little something I whipped up yesterday for my friend Ian, whose diet is wholly vegan and usually mostly raw. The patty is made from sticky sprouted brown rice, black rice, mushrooms, and zucchini. I threw in a little garlic and herbs and a tiny bit of flour to bind it all together. I crisped it in olive oil in a very hot skillet and melted a slice of soy cheese (you can see it peeking out of the bun on the right side of the pick) over the top.

I placed the cooked burger on a toasted brioche bun with a slice of killer ripe beefsteak tomato, iceberg lettuce, bread-n-butter pickles, and thinly sliced red onion. A slather of Vegenaise and a drizzle of both yellow mustard and ketchup completed this super-tasty burger.

It wasn’t until Ian took a bite of the burger that I realized that the brioche bun probably had a tiny bit of egg in it. He probably didn’t realize it until he read this post. Oops.

One day I need to come up with a measured recipe for this patty. But that day is not today.

Very Veggie Portobello Sando

A perfect sandwich for meatless Mondays.

A lovely vegetarian sandwich is today’s offering. I grilled a big portobello mushroom (having drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper and a little onion powder) and layered it with romaine lettuce, baby arugula, avocado, and a slice of killer beefsteak tomato. For bread I used a couple of slices of organic 7-grain with flax seeds from Rudi’s bakery, which I toasted on the grill until warm and just slightly charred. I schmeared the bread with Vegenaise on one slice and some good dijon mustard on the other. It was a lovely creation.

And it was the perfect thing for Meatless Mondays. I’m omnivorous, as the blog title tells you, and I love meat, but a little respite from the carnivorous life is always welcome for your health, for your mind, and perhaps your soul.

 

A Tale of Two BLATs

Awesome BLAT!

One of my great joys during summer is the proliferance of wonderful tomatoes. Especially exciting are the marvelous heirloom varieties available at the many farmer’s markets that pepper our fair city of angels. But although I love gorgeous varieties like green zebra, nectarine, moneymaker, pineapple, and brandywine the tomato I turn to most is the beefsteak. Large, ruddy, sweet, acidic, and truly mouthwatering, beefsteaks are the best choice for a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

BLAT aerial view.

In the past week I’ve made a couple of excellent BLT’s featuring some beautiful thick slabs of beefsteak tomatoes. In truth I’m never quite satisfied with the classic BLT; I almost always will add an “A”, making a BLT into a BLAT. Being a resident of Southern California, it’s a no-brainer that I’d add avocado to the sandwich. For the second sando I was out of avocado so I threw in a bit of arugula, which lends a lovely peppery and herbaceous note.

When I make a BLT or a BLAT I have a few basic rules. I always lightly toast the bread. I always add mayo, which I usually make from scratch. I always put the warm bacon between the lettuce and the tomato. I always use iceberg lettuce; it’s not only the classic choice, but its insipid flavor and watery crunch are the perfect foil for both the tomato slabs and the salty, smoky, and meaty bacon. Finally, I always use a excellent bacon. Two of my favorites are Applegate Sunday Bacon and Pederson’s Uncured Hickory-Smoked Bacon. Both are readily available and far superior to Oscar Meyer or Farmer John bacons. Sure, you can use whatever small-batch bacon you want (and I do on occasion), but whatever bacon you choose shouldn’t be so chewy that you can’t bite through it with ease.

Pederson’s Uncured Hickory-smoked Bacon.

When I cook bacon I always cook it in the oven. Much better than the pan-method, roasting bacon results in evenly-cooked strips and is far less messy. No grease-spatter and far less work; if you don’t cook your bacon in the oven you’re behind the times, dude.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place your bacon strips on a sheet-pan lined with parchment paper, or better yet, lined with a rack. Roast the bacon until crisp, probably twenty minutes, although time varies depending on brand. In the meantime you can clean your lettuce, slice your tomatoes, and toast your bread. Assemble your sandwich while the bacon is hot.

BLAT #1 was composed of toasted buttermilk country white bread with a generous amount of mayo, beefsteak tomato, iceberg lettuce, and Applegate Sunday Bacon.

BLAT #2 was composed of toasted seven-grain bread with mayo and Irish butter, beefsteak tomato, iceberg lettuce, arugula, and Pederson’s bacon.

“A” is for arugula.

BLAT’s all Follks!

Vegan Tomato & Avocado Sandwich on Raw Almond Bread

An important part of a balanced omnivorous diet is awesome sandwiches.

As you know I’m an omnivorous eater, meaning that I’ll eat pretty much anything (at least once). I eat meat, I eat gluten, I eat all kinds of veggies cooked and raw, I don’t really have any food allergies or sensitivities and that meshes nicely with my work as a chef and blogger. My tastes are broad and I’m driven by an intense curiosity — I like eating new things, learning new dishes, trying new flavors. I try not to limit myself, but simultaneously I don’t want to be gluttonous to the point where my health is compromised by my chosen profession or my habits. So I try to strike a balance in life. If I eat a giant bloody ribeye one day I might eat only a salad the next. If I eat a pile of cheese nachos another day I’ll tilt the scale back with something simple and amazingly healthy like this completely raw and vegan sandwich the following day.

The “bread” is both gluten-free and raw. By raw I mean it’s unbaked; the dough is made  of almond meal pressed together with some other super-healthy stuff, which is then put into a food dehydrator and dried at a low temperature until it stiffens to the point that it retains its shape and can be used like sandwich bread. The end result is dense, a bit crumbly, and very tasty! And it’s incredibly healthy for you, as it contains no refined flours or sugars.

Now I’m not really a supporter of the “raw” food movement, which posits that food should never be heated over a temperature that you might experience in natural sunlight — approximately 105 -110° F. In theory it means that no nutrients are lost due to invasive heat applications (i.e. cooking). In practice, it means you never eat a hot bowl of soup again. I believe that the human animal is highly adaptable and that we’ve evolved and developed ways of maximizing our nutritional intake congruent to the development of cooking. And I think it’s kind of silly to just dry things out and pretend it’s not a form of cooking. Now, I’m sure I just pissed off some vegans and raw-foodists, but I’ll bet they’re already avoiding my blog, as it’s called OMNIVOROUS!

I say all this because even if I don’t buy into the idea of raw food as a diet for healthy living, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some aspects of it. I made this bread for work and it came out very nice, very wholesome, very toothsome, and quite filling. I’ll make it again, even if it’ll never replace a fantastic baguette as a perfect sandwich vehicle. My friend Megan is a certified raw food chef, who provides me occasionally with healthy vegan and diet-friendly recipes for my work. This almond bread is adapted from a recipe of hers.

Tasty, healthy, and filling.

You will need:

Equipment:

  • A food dehydrator
  • parchment paper
  • a food processor
  • a wooden rolling pin

Ingredients:

  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 6 cups almond meal
  • 2 cups flax meal
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (or kosher salt)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups raw sunflower seeds (sprouted seeds, if you’re feeling ambitious
  • water
  • olive oil pan spray

Now do this:

Cut the carrots into 1-inch pieces and put into a food processor. Chop the carrots down as finely as you can, into a paste. You’ll need to go in stages and occasionally scrape down the sides of the processor bowl to get it uniform.

Put the carrot paste in a large mixing  bowl and add almond meal, flax seed meal, olive oil, salt, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds. Using your hands, mix well to combine. Add water to make the mixture sticky enough so that it forms into a loose dough.

Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and spray with a light coating of olive oil pan spray. Put about a third of the dough on the paper and spread it out until it’s about a half-inch thick. Spray the top of the dough with more pan spray and cover with a second sheet of parchment. Using a rolling pin gently flatten the dough until it’s about 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch in thickness. Remove top sheet of parchment and with a sharp knife cut pressed dough into squares about 4-inches on a side. Be sure to cut all the way through the paper.

You’ll want to dehydrate the bread squares on the bottom sheet of parchment, as the parchment will help the bread maintain its shape while drying. Lay these paper-lined squares onto the racks of your dehydrator and set the thermostat to 105º F. Dehydrate for four hours and refrigerate bread squares until ready for use.

Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Make the sandwich!

To assemble this sandwich take two pieces of the bread and gently cut each into two symmetrical rectangles. Peel off the parchment paper backing.

I spread the bread with Vegenaise on all interior surfaces and added very thinly shaved cucumber, a little butter lettuce, some slices of very ripe tomato, some wonderful avocado, and tiny clutch of micro cilantro (regular cilantro is fine).

The sandwich was delicious! And it felt like a great antidote the fried chicken I ate for dinner the night before.