This blog is many things (or few things, depending on whom you ask), but a food blog is not one of them. I hate food blogs, for the most part. Mostly because they’re all nearly identical: A picture of a quality I am simply not capable of producing, 600 words of nonsense and/or verbal autofellatio, and then a recipe. No thanks. But, as someone who occasionally eats food with a handful of readers/followers who probably eat food sometimes as well, every once in a while I’ll dabble in the topic.
Other than a laboriously created entree plate or maybe a nice salad, sandwiches are about the only food worth eating on a regular basis. Hot sandwiches, that is. A cold, mushy, lifeless sandwich is no one’s first choice. No one looks forward to the pitiful union of meat and bread shrouded in a brown paper bag that’s spent the last 4 hours getting even colder and mealy in the office fridge. Yuck. Given the choice, everyone wants a hot sandwich. The satisfying crunch of the bread, the gooey cheese and meaty juiciness dripping down your arm like the blood of a slain rival, and the warmth permeating your body like a glowing orgasm. A good, hot sandwich speaks to us in ways a Poet Laureate can only dream of.
The problem with making the perfect grilled sandwich is that the key players (bread, the stuff that goes between the bread) are at odds with regard to treatment. Getting the kind of crust that threatens to perform reconstructive surgery on your alveolar ridge requires high heat, like the sun with scarlet fever. On the other hand, melting and heating the filling calls for lower heat, the kind usually found in a loveless marriage or a flashlight that’s been on too long. Grill a sandwich too hot, and you wind up with two pieces of toast with cold stuff between them, which is technically a sandwich the same way RuPaul is technically a man. Grill it low and slow, and while the inside stuff will get warm and melty, the bread will brown without really crusting, because all the shit you stuffed in there makes it steam more than anything. Life is hard.
The solution, I’ve found, is simple and just as fast as grilling a sandwich the old fashioned (crappy) way: Just cook the ingredients separately! No, seriously. Below is the procedure for making the best goddamned grilled sandwich, period.
– A griddle, or two (nonstick) pans
– Bread (two slices, something hearty and nothing frou-frous)
– Meat (as much or as little as you like, but don’t go crazy)
– Cheese (something that melts, nothing hard and nothing expensive)
– Your preferred sandwich spread (optional)
– Vegetation (also optional, and again don’t go crazy)
– Liquid fat (preferably melted margarine, but oil if you must. Not butter)
Pre-heat your griddle/pans. Go for medium, close to medium high heat. Don’t be a pussy about it. Modern non-stick pans are fine up to medium high. If you’re smart and own an electric griddle, peg it at about 375 degrees.
If using, apply a small amount of sandwich spread to both pieces of bread. I have a home made version of Shake Shack’s “shack sauce” that I like, or if I’m using salty redeye ham (the world’s greatest sandwich meat) some honey mustard is nice. If you’re boring, use mayo. Squirt or spoon a little on each half, and then make them love each other. Pretend you’re making your Barbie and Ken dolls makeout like you used to in 7th grade, and rub the two halves together so you get a thin, even coating of spread on each side. Leave your mayonnaise sandwich intact, for now.
Arrange your meat pile. I don’t care how you do it, as long as it comes out to be roughly the same size as the bread. If using deli meat, I like to fold them in half and create a beautiful cascading meat waterfall. If you’re some kind of sicko, you can just stack them together to form a dense, disgusting meat puck. As long as you can move the entire assembly in one piece with a spatula, go wild.
Grease your bread. Take your mayonnaise sandwich and brush (yes, use a brush) a thin layer of melted margarine on each side. Avoid melted butter or olive oil because they tend to burn a little too fast, and we are not making Cajun style sandwiches. We’re also not making health food, so two teaspoons or so of margarine won’t kill you.
Put your meat pile in one hot pan, and then immediately separate your greasy mayonnaise sandwich and put it in the other. Wait about 30 seconds.
Flip your meat pile and cheese it. While the cheese melts, now is the time to add any vegetation, if using. This is a grilled sandwich, not some towering monument to sandwich superfluity. Be minimal. Maybe some pickles, tomato, or onion (OR, not AND) on what will be the bottom half of the bread, and some green leafy stuff on the top. The spread should keep everything stuck while providing just enough of a barrier to keep the green stuff from wilting.
Assemble. Transfer your meat pile to the bottom piece of bread. Put the top piece on top. Use your spatula to take a peek at the bottom. Whichever piece of bread is not yet perfectly browned, flip the assembled sandwich to that side and finish it off.
That’s it. Cooking the bread with nothing more than a thin layer of sauce allows steam to escape, creating a perfect crust. Cooking the middle parts on their own not only cooks out the nasty meat water that comes with packaged cold cuts, but also gets them piping hot without burdening the bread with heat transfer duties. The result is an ideal sandwich. Even though it’s seven steps long, the entire process doesn’t take more than 2-3 minutes.