Posts Tagged ‘comfort food’

Make it easy, make a sandwich

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

Ingredients:

3 lb. boneless chuck roast cut into chunks

1 cup light brown sugar

1 medium onion, chopped and lightly sauteed

Directions:

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.                                                                                                                                                              

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

When do you make soup?

When the temperature drops, I make soup. When my budget shrinks, I make soup. When I want to treat friends to a casual meal, I make soup. When my fridge and pantry is full of odds and ends, I make soup. When my wallet is bulging with bucks, I make seafood chowder. It's been a while!

I make a lot of soup.

What is it that makes soup so comforting? Eating soup is like getting a hug from mom. It can be down-home or uptown and you can eat it with a spoon. It warms you up when you're cold and lifts your spirits when you're down.

According to food historians, our present day restaurant industry is believed to be based on soup. Restoratifs (where we get our word 'restaurant') were the first items served in the public restaurants in 18th century Paris. Many of the soothing soups we know today such as broth, bouillon and consomme were created during this time period.

I like to keep the pantry and fridge stocked with soup fixings, so I can just cook up a big pot whenever it strikes me. There's nothing worse than having the sniffles and thinking, "If I had some noodles, I could make chicken noodle soup, if I had some chicken."

Like a good Girl Scout, I prefer to Be Prepared. Some staples I like to keep on hand for a quick and easy soup meal:

  • Stock – beef, chicken or vegetable ( try to buy high quality stock; I find the cartons to be better quality than canned). If you have the time, make your own.
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Rice, pasta, barley
  • Canned beans and dried beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Frozen tortellini
  • Baby spinach
  • Onions, celery, carrots
  • Ham hocks in the freezer
  • Potatoes

My go-to dish for holiday gatherings? You guessed it. Soup. 

A big cast iron pot of hearty peasant-style soup simmering on the stove, and a batch of cornbread coming out of the oven, is a great way to say 'welcome.' When I want to dress things up a little, I pour the soup into a pottery tureen (my idea of dressy) and place it at the center of the buffet, surrounded by small bowls of add-ons, so guests can create their own 'signature' soup. If I'm serving the soup as a side, I ladle portions into espresso cups so people can sip. No matter what the occasion, I've never failed to please people when I serve soup.

So for the next few days, I'll be serving up some recipes for soup here at The Shared Table. Tomorrow: Tomato Celery.

Till then, enjoy Lewis Carroll's ode to soup:

BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green, 
Waiting in a hot tureen! 
Who for such dainties would not stoop? 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup! 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening, 
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish, 
Game, or any other dish? 
Who would not give all else for two 
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup? 
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening, 
Beautiful, beauti–FUL SOUP! 

The Last Course: "A bowl of soup with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate"

Proverbs 15:17 New Living Translation