January's post-holiday letdown, cold weather and short hours of sunlight gives rise to a craving for comfort foods. For many, that means soup. It does for me, too, but what's soup without a sandwich? Everybody loves a sandwich and it is the one food that's as welcome in a lunch box as it is at a party.
My mother threw the best parties. In the music department of the college where my father taught, there were always post-concert gatherings, most of them stuffy little affairs, but not at our house! Great platters of sandwiches or cold cuts were laid out on the ping-pong table, along with a few sides and lots of beer. The laid-back atmosphere put everyone at ease and the fun lasted well into the night.
The sandwich is said to have been invented by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, also known as "Jemmy Twitcher," a nickname given by alleged association with pirates. A noted gambler, he often went from pub to pub in London on gambling marathons. He would order slices of meat between two pieces of bread in order to satisfy his hunger, while continuing to gamble.
The sandwich was introduced to America in 1827 by cookbook author Elizabeth Leslie. A recipe for a ham sandwich was suggested as a main dish; reassuring because wince we're having grilled ham and Swiss for dinner tonight!
Sandwiches became very popular in the American diet when soft white bread was introduced in the early 1900's. I have memories of visiting my grandparents in coastal North Carolina in the 50's and 60's. Saturday night was sandwich night – usually banana sandwiches made with soft white bread, mayo and sliced bananas, washed down with a Pepsi Cola. My grandpa was always grumpy on those nights, but the rest of us were ecstatic. As my mom used to say, "I love me a banana sandwich."
There are endless sandwich recipes: tea sandwiches, po' boys, muffelettas, clubs, wraps, pitas, subs, Cubans, Panini and croque monsieur are just a few of the types that have become famous through the years. For most southerners these days, pimento cheese is a favorite.
But you don't need a recipe to come up with a memorable sandwich; sometimes the best ones are created from a spontaneous concoction of leftovers you find during a late night rummage through the fridge. Extra grilled chicken breasts can be chopped up and turned in to chicken salad, roasted veggies and cheese could be slipped into a pita and broiled; just keep a loaf or two of good bread in your freezer to help you be prepared for a hunger attack or last minutes guests.
Why not take a cue from the salad bar and have a sandwich bar party? Platters of meats and spreads, sliced fresh or slow roasted tomatoes or other favorite veggies form the foundation of the menu. Offer the standard cheese selections but jazz it up with slices of brie for the decadent and make or purchase red pepper sauce, flavored mustard and mayo.
For an easy Super Bowl get-together, try this simple recipe for Barbecue Beef Sandwiches.
Anne Tomforde's Crockpot BBQ Beef
3 lb. boneless chuck roast cut into chunks
1 cup light brown sugar
1 medium onion, chopped and lightly sauteed
Combine and cook in crockpot for 4 hours on High setting. Remove all. Return 1/2 cup liquid; add 1 bottle chili sauce and 1/4 cup ketchup, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 hour on high.
This is an easy recipe for beginning cooks and may be changed up to give it your own signature touch. Feel free to add your favorite seasonings or hot sauce. Makes enough for 10 big sandwiches. Cole slaw is the perfect topping.
THE LAST BITE:
The best hostess is a relaxed hostess, so why not make it easy on yourself the next time you have guests? Ok, so maybe not banana sandwiches, but some great ingredients tucked into wholesome bread and I guarantee your guests will be relaxed, too.