It’s Sandwich Time

By Judi Gallagher.

Most of us foodies judge the time of year by the flavors of the seasons. Spring brings tender stalks of asparagus, summer boasts sweet Georgia peaches and New Jersey tomatoes. Autumn bring hot mulled apple cider.

August for foodies in my part of the country, southwest Florida, can be somewhat of a tease. It’s that in-between time when local produce is nearly non-existent and seasonal cooking means making reservations at a restaurant that boasts the coldest air conditioning.

August is also a time for twilight beach picnics, school shopping and thinking about packed lunches. I always associate August with sandwiches. I do like a good sandwich, but as you can imagine, I am very particular about every component. One of my favorites is a tuna sandwich, which is a nutritious meal you can hold in your hands.

My ideal tuna sandwich, for instance, is made with Bumble Bee tuna (solid white, packed in water) with a small amount of chopped red onion and celery, salt and pepper and Hellman’s mayonnaise.

The tuna must be prepared at least two hours in advance of eating and placed in the refrigerator for optimum flavor meld. The lettuce must be red leaf or butter lettuce. Then, you need two thick slices of beefsteak tomato. The bread – toasted Jewish Rye or sourdough – no exceptions. Now, that is a sandwich!

Sorry if I offend anyone, but I have a firm belief that adding sweet relish or chopped hard-boiled eggs to tuna should be a capital offense.

An Italian sandwich must drip just the right amount of oil down your forearm as you bite, and if there are not enough roasted red peppers and enough hard salami wedged in between spicy capocollo and provolone – well, forget about it!

This month’s recipe might look like a lot of work for a mouthful, but trust me, there is nothing like a Vietnamese sandwich. Wrap these in foil if you are preparing them ahead of time and keep the diakon salad in a separate container until you are ready to tear into.

Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Sandwich with daikon radish salad
For daikon and carrots

 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups matchstick-size pieces daikon (Japanese white radish)
3 cups matchstick-size pieces peeled carrots

For marinade
1/4 cup soy sauce, plus extra
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
2 whole star anise ground in spice mill

6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs
Vegetable oil
6 (6-inch) pieces baguette, split lengthwise, some of soft centers removed
1 English hothouse cucumber, cut into 6-inch-long 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 red onion, halved through stem, thinly sliced crosswise, rinsed, drained well
12 fresh cilantro sprigs
2 jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced crosswise

Whisk sugar, vinegar and salt in large bowl until dissolved. Add daikon and carrots; toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours. Mix marinade ingredients in 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Add chicken; turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature 1 hour, turning often.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Brush grill rack with oil. Remove chicken from marinade. Grill or broil chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to plate; tent with foil to keep warm.

Grill or broil cut sides of bread until lightly toasted. Spread mayonnaise on bottom half of baguette pieces. Top with cucumber slices. Top each with 1 chicken thigh, drained daikon and carrots, then onion slices and cilantro sprigs. Sprinkle with jalapeño slices, soy sauce, and ground black pepper. Place top baguette piece over, pressing to compact, and serve immediately.


-Flavors And More Magazine: August 2009

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