For a Southern twist on a classic, try a BLT with fried green tomatoes.
Janet Keeler, St. Petersburg Times
Books put spotlight on sandwiches
- Article by: JANET K. KEELER
- St. Petersburg Times
- May 11, 2011 - 2:33 PM
Suddenly, sandwiches are big. The meal between bread is the star of two new books: "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" catalogs our most beloved sandwiches and "The Big New York Sandwich Book" is filled with recipes from the big city's biggest chefs. Think prosciutto, grilled fennel and pear with Gorgonzola aioli.
The appeal of sandwiches is nothing new to Americans, who nosh about 45 billion of them annually. In tough economic times, they can be inexpensive to engineer, and when times are flush, or we just want to splurge, there are fancy cheeses, fresh herbs and lunch meats that cost as much per pound as filet mignon, maybe more.
We tote sandwiches to the office, pack them in school lunches, eat them on road trips and as midnight snacks. Messy ones are devoured over the sink, juice from the tomato dripping down our arms. Tidy numbers are served crustless with hot tea. Sandwiches have the power to kindle memories of home, but they are never quite right unless we eat them at the source. The Philly cheesesteak is a good example of that, as are the Hot Brown from Kentucky and the muffuletta of New Orleans.
Numbers are difficult to come by, but the lion's share of those billions of sandwiches have to be PB&Js, all variations of turkey and homemade tuna salad. We have strict notions about what makes them good, from the type of bread to the brand of mayo. We all have our favorites.
Take the peanut-butter sandwich, a lunchbox staple. There's chunky and creamy peanut butter to pick between, along with natural or freshly made, and, of course, the bread presents more choices. Jelly offers many alternatives (grape, strawberry, peach, raspberry, etc.), but then there are other amiable partners. Pair the creamy spread with marshmallow creme, crispy bacon or apple slices. Drizzle with chocolate for dessert-ish panini. If only Elvis had lived long enough to eat a Bananas Foster PB Sandwich, in which the bananas are sautéed in butter with sugar and cinnamon before being slapped on the sticky spread.
In "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" (Quirk, 2011), author Susan Russo catalogs 100 classic sandwiches, from the British Chip Butty (French fries on white with mayo) to the frosted '50s Sandwich Party Loaf, an invention that looks more dessert than entree. Russo's book is a fun romp through the food that fuels us.
"Not only do we love to eat sandwiches, but we also love to make them, talk about them and gaze upon them," Russo writes. The San Diego food blogger (foodblogga.com) celebrates sandwiches from around the country and provides recipes for all of them. The most basic creations get their due, too, including grilled cheese and fried bologna.
Sure, we love sandwiches in America, but protein (or veggies) between starch is a global cuisine.
Vietnam has the banh mì (a hoagielike sandwich with pork, crunchy vegetables and a salty-sweet vinaigrette) and India its potato-fritter vada pav, served from carts as street food. There's Lebanese manoushe (herbed vegetable on flatbread) and the Venezuelan specialty, patacon maracucho (avocado and chicken served between discs of fried plantain).
It's nice to taste outside your comfort zone a bit, but the familiar is often the more likely choice when it comes to homemade sandwiches.
My new favorite is the Fried Green Tomato BLT. Russo's recipe is simple, and when you can find green tomatoes, give it a try. I guess I am setting down some Southern roots, because a little bowl of creamy grits sure goes nice with the cornmeal crunch of the tangy tomatoes. And bacon never hurts anything it's paired with.
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