Archive for ‘sandwich’

November 1st, 2011

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Burgers and fries, cookies and milk, bacon and eggs…some foods are just meant to be in relationships.  While there are many classic food duos in American culture that I love, there is one that I just don’t understand: grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Now, as a Japanese person, I have nothing against soup; I grew up eating Miso and still love it.  But what makes tomato the soup of choice when the sandwich option is grilled cheese?  Wouldn’t chicken noodle or cream of broccoli work just as well?
I was excited when we had lunch at Bar Bouchon in Beverly Hills, and I saw the grilled cheese/tomato soup combo on the menu.  While the BLT with the sunny side up egg on top sounded great and would surely lead to lunch satisfaction, I had to do the research on the grilled cheese/tomato soup duo for you, my reader.  Not a problem though; how could I go wrong either way, eating at Thomas Keller‘s place in Beverly Hills?  So while I sacrificed the guaranteed pleasure of bacon and egg for the sake of research, it was with mixed feelings when the server asked my husband what HE wanted, and his reply was, “The BLT.”  At least I would still get to try it!
The problem I have with Grilled cheese and tomato soup is the soup part.  I’ve just never cared for tomato soup.  I think it’s too tangy having a taste that to me, is somewhere between watered down ketchup and tomato juice.   Would the great Thomas Keller be able to change my opinion?  Drum roll please….  Unfortunately, no, even with the Thomas Keller stamp, tomato soup was still tomato soup…not for me. In Keller’s defense, it was better than watered down ketchup, but still, no server will ever hear me utter the phrase, “Tomato soup please,” in the future.  My American food guide, my husband, tells me that the proper technique is to dip the sandwich into the soup, which is why the sandwich is typically dry.  I don’t know if I agree with his logic, but he was right about the sandwich being dry.  I did remember the menu stating that the cheese was aged two years, but after my first bite, I was wondering if they aged it inside the very brioche I was holding.Taking my husband’s advice, I dipped the sandwich into the soup.  It was better than eating by itself, but still, didn’t make me appreciate the combo. My husband went on to explain that grilled cheese and tomato soup is a nice, warm comfort food for kids on a rainy day.  I can see that, but still there’s the issue of the taste.  Of course, he has a theory on that too.  According to my husband, kids love pizza.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup is just another form of that flavor profile.  Think about it; melted cheese on flat bread with the taste of tomato sauce all in the same bite.  Did that help?  Well, no, considering I am not a huge fan of pizza.

So the grilled cheese/tomato soup combo is lost on me.  Somehow, I’m sure I’ll find something else to eat and write about.

Aren’t you lucky?

August 18th, 2011

Do people eat sandwiches for dinner?

Just like my husband thought he knew all there was to know about Japan from listening to the lyrics to “Mr. Roboto,” much of my knowledge of everyday America too, came from pop-culture.  To be more specific, sitcoms.  If Everybody Loves Raymond is a true representation of America (and if it isn’t, my world is shattered), Americans like to eat sandwiches for dinner.  In Japan, this is unheard of, and as such, I was shocked when Debra offered to make Ray a turkey sandwich.  I thought, a sandwich is something you’d drop into your kid’s school lunchbox, not something you’d feed to your husband as a reward for a long day at work.  To make matters worse, if you’ve watched the show, you’d know that Debra isn’t exactly skilled when it comes to food preparation.  Are average Americans happy when their evening meal consists of two pieces of white bread wrapped around a few slices of supermarket turkey?
To find out, I asked the first average American I could find…my husband.  His answer was an ambivalent, “Yes and No,” as he went on to explain that yes, Americans might eat a sandwich for dinner, but the sandwich should be a little better than the lousy turkey sandwich described above; maybe something from Subway, perhaps. Subway?  Can’t we do better than that?

Japanese people (or maybe just me) show love, care and appreciation through cooking. By that logic, if someone made me a boring turkey sandwich, I’d eat it, but deep down, I’d feel unappreciated.  Even if you’re not blessed with a culinary instinct, it’s important to make some effort when cooking for someone you love.  Even my husband, whose specialties include eggs over easy and frozen burritos, once made me quesadillas for dinner.  While his dish would most likely have led to his elimination on Top Chef, I still enjoyed every bite. More than just melted cheese in between tortillas, it was made with love, care and enthusiasm.  Sorry Debra!

Growing up in Japan, we didn’t eat turkey, and when I arrived in America, I have to say, I wasn’t initially fond of this new taste I had discovered. With time, I learned to appreciate not only its interesting flavor, but its cultural significance as well.  I’ve even managed to create a few turkey sandwich recipes of my own that helped change my mind about this American favorite.  Click the pictures below for the recipes for two of my favorites.  Stay tuned as well for my seasonal Thanksgiving turkey sandwich recipe that always gets rave reviews (if I understand what my husband is saying when he talks with his mouth full).

Turkey, apple and blue cheese sandwich (for recipe, click here).To really make this sandwich perfect, make sure to use a good, fresh baguette.  If one isn’t available,  the recipe can transform itself into a great salad or wrap, by adding more tomatoes, walnuts and a drizzle of vinaigrette.

Turkey and brie pressed panini (for recipe, click here).Even if you don’t have a panini maker, do not fear!  I don’t have one either.  Just use your stove top griddle or frying pan and press the sandwich using another, heavier pan.  The results are delicious!

So to answer my own question, I guess we do eat sandwiches for dinner.  If only Debra could master these recipes, she could prove to her husband that everybody really does love Raymond.

July 27th, 2011

Egg salad

The egg salad sandwich was my favorite lunch to take on a field trip when I was an elementary school student in Japan.  My mother had a special technique for creating this amazing meal.  She’d cut the crust off and freeze it the night before.  Why?  Because a kid walking around with mayo based food all morning would most likely result in a bad tummy all afternoon.  But a frozen egg salad sandwich in the morning, thaws out quite nicely by lunchtime.Egg salad sounds like a typical all-American food, but is it really? I’ve seen oeufs mayonaise, a simple appetizer of boiled egg with mayonnaise at many restaurants in Paris.  Also, considering that mayo was introduced to America by the French, it’s probably really a French dish…  By definition, my husband should love egg salad.  He loves eggs, sandwiches, and even Paris, (France, not Hilton) yet for some reason, the combination doesn’t work for him. His explanation?  “I like my eggs with runny yolks so I can scoop them up with bread.”  When I counter with, “But you like omelettes,” he brings cholesterol into the argument, stating, “If I’m already eating eggs, why should I make them even worse by adding mayonnaise?”  This leads us to the mayo discussion. If you ask him to elaborate on it, he’ll tell you it just tastes fatty and disgusting and that the only mayonnaise he’s ever enjoyed, came on the Burger King breaded chicken sandwich.  For all these reasons, he doesn’t want tuna salad, pasta salad or potato salad.  To me, it just sounds like a bunch of excuses, but having lived around his peculiar eating habits for a few years now, I guess it’s starting to make sense.  Besides, I enjoyed that Burger King chicken sandwich too.

My husband’s philosophy on mayonnaise suddenly changed when I introduced him to the Japanese mayonnaise, Kewpie.  Kewpie is to the Japanese household what Heinz ketchup is to the American household. It has a slightly sweeter and lighter taste than it’s American counterpart, and it comes in a plastic tube with a tiny opening so you won’t overuse it.  With a cute kewpie doll logo on the label, it’s aesthetically pleasing too.  Is it hard to find in the U.S.?  Much like anything else, these days, you can buy it through Amazon with a marked up price, or, if you’re more adventurous, you can go explore your local Asian grocer.  If there’s none in your area, I suggest venturing into that foreign food aisle at your local supermarket you usually skip, where they hide the the Asian food and kosher stuff.  Take it from me, once you try Kewpie on a BLT, you’ll wonder what the ‘miracle’ was in that ‘whip’ you used to eat.

Did the addition of Kewpie convert my husband into an egg salad eater?  Unfortunately, no.  If it’s offered, he’ll still say, what’s the point? To him, his love of the runny yolk is the whole reason to eat anything with eggs.  To illustrate the point, he’ll throw a perfectly good egg away if he breaks the yolk when preparing it over-easy.  To him, it’s like decaffeinated coffee or non-alcoholic beer.  Why ingest something that lacks the key ingredient that you enjoy?  Luckily, that same argument doesn’t hold true for tuna salad, which he now likes.  As for me, sometimes I miss those old days of field trips and delicious sandwiches, so every so often, I’ll make my own egg salad with chopped cucumbers, parsley, a bit of Kewpie and tiny bit of sea salt.  It’s great as a sandwich or with green salad.  But if you are feeling a bit adventurous, try it on warm rice with tiny bit of soy sauce and sriracha–It’s the poor man’s spicy tuna over rice…

PS: That delicious creamy taste you can’t quite identify at your favorite sushi joint–Kewpie!  Don’t tell them I told you.

PPS: I wonder if that Burger King chicken sandwich is as good as we remember?