Soup ’n Sandwich -September/October 2009

Innovations of this classic combo

by: Sara Leah Chase

photography by: Cary Hazlegrove

Having a career that combines passionate home cooking with food writing makes me thrilled to be plying my trade during a culinary age in which creative and talented professional chefs are constantly raising the bar on everyday fare.

Over the past decade, our all-American hamburger has undergone several irresistibly delicious and expensive transformations and unfortunately turned me into as much of a connoisseur of pricey $25-plus burgers in Manhattan as I am of our island’s slightly more reasonable but equally indulgent Languedoc and Lo La burgers.

More recently, hot dogs have been competing with hamburgers for their fair share of the limelight. Terms such as natural casings and Kobe beef are becoming commonplace frankfurter jargon, while inventive toppings like cider-braised leeks, caramelized onions and Roquefort cheese, or pickled carrots with jalapenos and cilantro, are making street-food and ballpark dogs simultaneously hot and haute.

Sandwiches have been looming rather quietly on the culinary makeover radar for a few years, but I have been noticing signs indicating that fabulously-constructed sandwiches will soon become the next red-hot chef craze. On the West Coast, Nancy Silverton has been hosting “Sandwich Night” every Thursday at her Campanile restaurant in Los Angeles, making the night one of the busiest of the week in the restaurant.

On the East Coast, “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio has been making a media-worthy splash with his ’wichcraft sandwich shops and recently published “ ’wichcraft” cookbook. Williams-Sonoma now features a jarred line of Colicchio’s ’wichcraft sandwich spreads nationwide. Locally, sandwich cook-offs and contests have been dotting the calendar. Bartlett’s Farm staged its first annual grilled-cheese competition in early spring of this year and the Cape Cod village of Sandwich marketed a summer fete to crown the best sandwich in Sandwich. Barbara Gookin took top honors at Bartlett’s with a grilled Brie, cranberry and almond combo, while another grilled-cheese creation – cheddar with lobster – garnered the highest number of winning votes in the Sandwich contest.

Suddenly, the calling to enter the sandwich-making frenzy is no longer subliminal, as I realize I could easily while away the last days of summer and first weeks of fall crafting sandwiches to celebrate New England’s harvest bounty from land and sea. The personal challenge I tend to impose on most of my culinary undertakings became unexpectedly heightened when Nantucket Today editor Marianne Stanton asked me to write an article for this issue on not just sandwiches, but soups and sandwiches that go together – as I have come to see it – like Frank Sinatra’s croon about love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage. Indeed, the suggested topic has had me enthusiastically embracing the notion of matching specific soups with specific sandwiches in the same thoughtful spirit and tradition of sommeliers pairing wines with food.

Before selecting the recipes for my matches, I decided I should bear in mind how many islanders (myself included) cite September and October as their favorite months to enjoy life on Nantucket. Such convinced me that it would be in everyone’s best interest not to feature overly-complicated and time-consuming recipes for either component of these pairings, since slaving over a hot stove for hours would likely diminish the simple and time-honored pleasure inherent in savoring a warm cup of soup with an accompanying sandwich for lunch or as an informal dinner. After all, I reasoned, who would have the energy or desire to simmer a pot of soup after executing all the stages of a ’wichcraft sandwich recipe like the one for Roasted Leg of Lamb with Lemon Confit, Mustard Greens and Black Olive Mayonnaise? Better to take my cues from Nancy Silverton, who embraces sandwiches that are “simply constructed with fresh ingredients and flavor combinations that are bold and unforgettable.”

I love making clam chowder almost any time of the year, tweaking certain ingredients to reflect the season at hand. As summer draws to a close and native ears of tender corn will soon be fading fondly into memory, I seize the moment to make a pot of Corn and Clam Chowder. This chowder might have been considered an abomination if ladled forth at the try-pots in Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” but every locovore I have ever met adores it. Sandwich-wise, I believe chowder should only be paired with more seafood, and hence a simple, Maine-style crab roll is just the ticket here. Some may scream for lobster, but the decadence of a lobster roll overshadows rather than complements the creamy richness of the chowder. My favorite crab roll consists only of fresh Maine crabmeat, mayonnaise, a hint of minced chives or dill, and a butter-toasted hot dog or hamburger bun.

I never let a September go by without making at least one big batch of the Nantucket Tomato Soup recipe from the So Long, Summer chapter of my “Cold-Weather Cooking” cookbook. Because people have actually written letters to me bemoaning the amount of chopping this soup requires, however, I am opting to share another terrific tomato soup recipe entailing a bit less labor-intensive dicing. Pappa al Pomodoro is a beloved but humble Tuscan tomato soup prepared only when vine-ripened tomatoes are in season.

In Italian, the word pappa means soft and the soup is basically a yummy mush of tomatoes, onions, garlic, stock and white wine with stale bread added as a thickener. Because the soup already contains bread, a bit of poetic license needs to be taken with the sandwich pairing so that the meal does not become too bread-centric. Coming to the rescue is yet another alluring Italian recipe entitled Fette di Melanzane or Eggplant “Sandwiches.” These “sandwiches” are a perfect match with this type of soup because slices of eggplant take the place of bread and house a piquant filling of thinly-sliced salami, Provolone cheese and fresh basil leaves. A meal of Pappa al Pomodoro and Fette di Melanzane makes a memorable, though hard-to-pronounce, ode to summer’s last fertile days.

Cranberries are always a very beautiful harbinger of autumn’s arrival on Nantucket, and spying the first wooden crate at the farm wagon on Main Street offers ample incentive to scurry home and attempt to make Barbara Gookin’s aforementioned, award-winning Grilled Brie, Cranberry and Almond Sandwich for private consumption. This colorful, crunchy and gooey masterpiece begs to grace the fringes of a warming bowl of butternut squash soup. I like to make my butternut squash soup with freshly-pressed apple cider rather than chicken or vegetable stock, and then let this fortuitous confluence of fall ingredients work its uncomplicated soup and sandwich magic.

Sarah Leah Chase is a nationally-known food writer and cookbook author. Her column “Feasting on the Faraway Island” appears regularly in The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.


PAPPA al POMODORO

1⁄2 cup best-quality extra virgin olive oil, preferably imported from Tuscany
1 medium onion, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, adjusted to taste
3 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped or torn fresh basil leaves, plus a few additional leaves for garnishing
Pinch of sugar
3⁄4 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups vegetable stock
1⁄2 pound stale Italian-style bread, such as ciabatta, broken into coarse chunks
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
3 ounces coarsely-grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat 1⁄4 cup of the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, tomatoes, basil and a pinch of sugar. Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes break down and begin to form a sauce-like consistency, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and 4 cups of broth to the pot. Bring to a boil and begin adding chunks of bread, stirring constantly. The bread will break down and thicken the soup. Add enough bread to thicken the soup to a porridge-like consistency, adding a bit more stock if the soup becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Keep the soup warm over low heat or you can let it cool to room temperature if experiencing hot, Indian-summer weather. When ready to serve, ladle the soup, warm or at room temperature, into wide, shallow soup bowls. Drizzle each serving generously with the remaining olive oil. Garnish with the Parmesan and a scattering of shredded basil leaves.

Serves 6 to 8.

FETTE di MELANZANE RIPIENE or EGGPLANT “SANDWICHES” RIPIENE

2 large, firm eggplants (about 11⁄2 pounds each), the narrower the better
Salt 
4 ounces Genoa salami, thinly sliced
6 oz. aged Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 small bunch fresh basil
3 large eggs
3⁄4 cup dry, seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1⁄2 cup freshly and finely-grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh parsley
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

  1. Remove the stems from the eggplants and slice each crosswise into 1⁄2-inch-thick rounds. Lightly salt each slice and place in layers into a colander placed in a large bowl or sink to drain. Place a weight, such as a large can, on top of the slices to aid in the draining. Let stand 1 hour. Rinse the slices and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Match the eggplant slices into pairs of similar size. Sandwich a single layer of salami, provolone cheese and a whole basil leaf or two between each pair of eggplant slices. Trim away any meat or cheese that overhangs the edges of the sandwich.
  4. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan and parsley, and spread in another shallow dish. Dip each eggplant sandwich first into the beaten egg and then into the crumb mixture to coat evenly on both sides. Arrange the sandwiches on the baking sheets and drizzle a generous teaspoon of olive oil evenly over the top of each sandwich.
  5. Bake, turning once, until the crumbs are golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing into halves or quarters. Allow at least 2 sandwiches per person as an accompaniment to Pappa al Pomodoro. Serve warm or at room temperature. The sandwiches may also be made and baked ahead, refrigerated, and then reheated in a 350° F. oven for 7 to 10 minutes.

Makes 14 to 16 whole sandwiches.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH and CIDER SOUP

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 large butternut squash (31⁄2 to 4 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
6 cups freshly-pressed apple cider
2 cups water
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onion and caraway seeds and sauté until the onion is quite soft, about 10 minutes. Add the diced squash, cider and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until the squash is very tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. Purée the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, ladled into bowls, accompanied alongside by halves of Barbara Gookin’s Grilled Brie, Cranberry and Almond Sandwich.

Serves 6 to 8.

CORN and CLAM CHOWDER

4 ounces best-quality slab or thickly-sliced bacon, cut into 1⁄3-inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups clam broth or fish stock
1 pound red-skinned new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1⁄2-inch dice
4 ears fresh and tender corn, husked and kernels cut from the cobs
1 pint chopped, freshly-shucked minced clams, undrained
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
Minced fresh chives to garnish

  1. Place the bacon in a 4-quart heavy pot set over medium heat. Cook until the bacon is nicely browned and crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove bacon from pot and set aside to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 11⁄2 tablespoons of the bacon fat remaining in the pot.
  2. Add the butter to the pot. When it has melted, stir in the onion, pepper and thyme. Sauté over medium heat until the vegetables are tender but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and continue cooking and stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more to rid the flour of its raw taste.
  3. Slowly add the broth to the pot, stirring constantly so it thickens slightly with the flour and doesn’t form clumps. Add the potatoes, bring all to a simmer, and continue cooking until the potatoes are almost tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add corn kernels and the clams, with all their liquid, to the pot and let all simmer together for 10 minutes more.
  4. Stir in the milk and heavy cream, blending thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the chowder is just heated through. Take care not to let the mixture boil or it may curdle.
  5. Ladle the hot chowder into bowls and garnish each serving with some of the reserved crispy bacon and a scattering of minced fresh chives.

Serves 4 to 6.

MAINE-STYLE CRAB ROLL

1 pound freshly-picked Maine crabmeat, or other local crabmeat
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives or dill
1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s or homemade
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 top-split hot dog rolls or 4 hamburger rolls
Sprinkling of sweet paprika to garnish (optional)

  1. Place the crabmeat in a small mixing bowl. Using a fork, mix the chives or dill into the crabmeat by flaking gently with the tines of the fork. Add just enough mayonnaise to moisten and lightly bind the mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Spread the butter over the sides of the hot dog rolls or the interiors of the hamburger rolls. Sauté the buns, butter-side down on a griddle or in a frying pan until golden on both sides. Divide the crabmeat evenly among the 4 buns. Sprinkle a bit of paprika over the top, if desired, and serve at once alongside bowls of Corn and Clam Chowder.

Serves 4.

BARBARA GOOKIN’S GRILLED BRIE, CRANBERRY AND ALMOND SANDWICH

Barbara says she created this award-winning grilled-cheese sandwich in an effort to deconstruct a Brie en Croute. The sandwich has a wonderful combination of crunch from sliced almonds and toasting both sides of the bread slowly in butter in a frying pan mixed with an abundance of gooey ooze from the creamy melted Brie. Dried cranberries add a bright ruby and tart note, in turn balanced by the sweetness of dark brown sugar. Since the sandwich is incredibly rich, a half-sandwich pairs perfectly with a warm cup of Butternut Squash and Cider Soup.

3 to 4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 large slices country-style oat bread
5 ounces double- or triple-cream Brie
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons lightly-toasted sliced almonds

  1. Generously spread the 4 slices of bread on one side with about 2 tablespoons of the butter. Place, butter-side down, on a griddle or in a large frying pan and cook slowly over medium-low heat until toasted light golden brown. Remove the bread from the pan and place, toasted-side up, on a clean work surface.
  2. Score the rind of the Brie in a crosshatch pattern and then break it into chunks. Scatter the chunks evenly over the toasted surface of two of the pieces of bread. Scatter the cranberries, brown sugar and almonds evenly on top of the Brie. Place the remaining 2 slices of bread, toasted side facing inward, on top of the filling. Butter the exteriors of the sandwiches on both sides with as much of the remaining butter as your conscience and cholesterol count will allow.
  3. Return the sandwiches to the griddle or frying pan and continue sautéing slowly over medium-low heat, turning once, until both sides are toasted a golden brown and the cheese is melted, 10 to 12 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half on the diagonal and serve hot.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment to soup.






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