Monday, April 18, 2016

"Roadfood Sandwiches" by Jane & Michael Stern - Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread for National Grilled Cheese Day!

Date I made this recipe:  April 12, 2016 – National Grilled Cheese Day!

Roadfood Sandwiches – Recipes and Lore from Our Favorite Shops Coast to Coast by Jane & Michael Stern, authors of the best-selling Roadfood
Published by:  Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN:  13: 978-0-618-72898-5; © 2007
Purchased at Powell's Books -  Chicago
Recipe:  Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread from Clementine, Los Angeles, California by chef/owner Annie Milar who hails from Minnesota!

Folks, April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day (who knew?) and I did my part by making this delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  I like to be all in on these things, you know?

And this cookbook – Roadfood Sandwiches by Jane and Michael Stern - who many of you may know from their stints on the radio show, The Splendid Table, were just the couple to tell us all about sandwiches and sandwich lore and the places that produced these wonderful delights.

I was beyond excited to look through this book because I've been to many of the places listed, I've eaten some of the sandwiches mentioned, and I came "this close" to shaking hands with the Sterns when they came to Minneapolis one in advance of our Minnesota State Fair and gave a talk at the downtown Minneapolis library.  The talk, hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (also host of The Splendid Table), took place over the lunch hour and alas, I had to leave before the program ended.  They are more hilarious in person than they are on the air (Jane is an absolute stitch) and we could have listened to them for our.

Although the Sterns are food reporters more than they are chefs, I think of them as culinary royalty.  Their first book, Roadfood, is considered a classic for showcasing great eats at great and sometimes out of the way places.  Now what I say next will shock you – it shocked me – but it turns out I do not have a copy of that book.  Say what?  The scary thing is that I thought I did.  I mean, I keep all the Sterns books together on my shelves but I looked at the shelves and then looked at my cookbook catalog

Well this will be rectified immediately, never mind that the book is now woefully out of date (1977) such that the places mentioned might be long-gone; collectors don't care about such matters.

Happily, I can report that I DO own the following*: 
  • Goodfood (1983) – (Not a cookbook)
  • Square Meals (1985) –see post from December 31, 2008 where I made their Cheese Ball – p. 257-258
  • Real American Food (1986) –see post from July 5, 2009, where I made their "Queen of Chilis" recipe on p. 244
  • A Taste of America (1988)
  • American Gourmet (1991)
  • Eat Your Way Across the USA (1997) (Not a cookbook)
  • Two for the Road:  Our Love Affair with American Food (2006)
  • Roadfood Sandwiches:  Recipes and Lore from Our Favorite Shops Coast to Coast (2007) (see today's featured recipe – Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread)
*Note:  not all the Sterns books contain recipes. 

Now usually when I peruse a book, fixin' to make something from it, I jot down page numbers of recipes that sound good.  Here though, I jotted down random notes about some of the sandwiches listed and places they and I have visited.  And I applaud that their table of contents made it so easy for me to do that as they listed all sandwiches in alphabetical order by sandwich name, then noted the place where they had the sandwich or the place best known for the sandwich and the city and state.  So this book is one-part travel guide and one-part cookbook.  Who can argue with that?

So notes on places I've eaten:

Katz's (delicatessen), New York, New York.  Katz's "Chopped Liver Sandwich" (p. 44) is the recipe of note in this book and I wrote down "Of course" when I saw that because it makes sense; many delis live and die by their chopped liver.  That said, I had the pastrami when I was there and it was delish!  And movie buffs will know right off the bat that Katz's was where an infamous scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally took place.  I won't ruin it for you if you are about the only person on the planet who has not seen that movie.  (And for the record, that is not my favorite scene.  It was funny, but there were others that made me laugh longer and louder.  To each his/her own.)

Ann Sather, Chicago, Illinois.  I did not partake of the featured sandwich, "Debbie's Hot Pork Roast" (p. 63) because the menu is Ann's is so good and so overwhelming that I hardly knew which way to turn.  Next time around, this is what I will have and my stomach will just have to deal with the fact that I did not feed it a turkey dinner.  Or a cinnamon roll.  Or a .....

Mother's, New Orleans Louisiana.  Although my mother was a good cook, she wasn't "Mother's" of New Orleans and so did not specialize in home-cooked Louisiana favorites such as Red Beans and Rice, Shrimp Creole, or Po' Boys.  I cannot recall what we ate at Mother's, I just recall it was good.  "Ferdi's Special" is a sandwich of sliced ham, beef, mayo, mustard, cabbage (or pickles) and beef debris in gravy (debris is the bits and pieces left in the beef roast pan).  Yum! (I'm thinking road trip!)

Hell's Kitchen, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  "Oh hell" is what I usually utter when I eat here because it's so hard to decide on something.  Although they are best known for their Lemon Ricotta pancakes, you can get other delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner items, including this delectable-sounding "Ham and Pear Crisp Sandwich" (p. 106).  Hell's Kitchen owner, Mitch Omer, passed away this December but he wrote a cookbook a few years ago that you might want to check out:  Damn Good Food. It's on my "on deck" list to cook from shortly. (If you visit Hell's Kitchen, be sure to stop by their Angel Food Bakery next door.  I love their play on names.)

"Loosemeats" (p. 137) is a sandwich known and loved across Northwest Iowa and although the Sterns did not include a specific place to stop, you should check out a Maid-Rite establishment in northern Iowa.  A loosemeat sandwich is like a Sloppy Joe and it is delicious.  This sandwich was also featured recently in a storyline for the TV show, The Good Wife and it was pretty hilarious (Season 7, episode 11 – "Iowa")

Michigan's Upper Peninsula's (my home territory) famous taste treat – Pasty – is noted on p. 165 and although I would never call it a sandwich, the Sterns did so that's good enough for me.  "Pasties," like "Loosemeats," are available everywhere and anywhere in the U.P. so the Sterns didn't include a specific restaurant.  Although this shop was not in my hometown when I was growing up, my parents liked to stop at Muldoon's Pasties and Gifts on Highway M-28.  I've had a couple from there and they are indeed delicious.

Also in Michigan although it's the part the people in the U.P. refer to as "downstate" is Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Zingerman's is half fancy food store, half deli, and they have built a brand that is now recognized cross-country.  The Sterns featured "Rodger's Big Picnic (Asparagus and Mushroom) Sandwich" (p. 192).  I opted for the more traditional brisket sandwich and have to confess that I wasn't enamored with it or the price (the place can be expensive) but the experience was great so it was a trade-off.

So those are places I've been and you should check them out, too.  But I also made notes on some of the sandwiches listed, some of which also triggered fond memories:

"Baked Beans on Brown Bread" (p. 15) from Massachusetts.  Turns out this was one of Julia Child's favorite "go-to" sandwiches when she was tired of eating gourmet.  I recall seeing it in a few of my Boston cookbooks although I never made it.  There's time though folks, there's time.

"Beef on Weck" (p. 18) – One of my husband's favorite restaurants used to be BW3 which stood for "Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck," the precursor to modern-day chain, Buffalo Wild Wings.  One of the sandwiches they served was a beef on "weck," short for kummelweck (roll).  The sandwich, and the bread, originated in western New York state and my brother and sister-in-law live in Rochester so they've eaten them a lot (although not necessarily at Buffalo Wild Wings).  So one day, the four of us were having dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings (I think we were in Ohio attending a family wedding) when Andy started talking about the beef sandwich at the former BW3 and when he said it stood for Buffalo Wild Wings, my brother said "and weck?," referring to the original name.  It took me a minute, but yes, Tom - "and weck."   (Sadly, the chain does not serve beef on weck anymore.  Shame, that.)

"Chicken Vesuvio" (sandwich) from Harry Caray's restaurant in Chicago, Illinois.  I've passed this restaurant a million times while in Chicago and have never stopped (mostly because it is so crowded) but one of these days I will and when I do, this is the sandwich I'm going to have.  For those of you who don't know, Harry Caray, may he rest in peace, was an announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball team and an enthusiastic one at that.  Among his many memorable sayings, the one that stands out the most is "Holy Cow!" If you have a hankering to hear that phrase used in a broadcast, go to YouTube.

"Chow Mein" (p. 48) – Talk about your retro sandwiches!  I remember seeing recipes for it and hearing about it but I've never eaten it.  Perhaps it's time?  This is basically a chow mein casserole on a bun and believe it or not, it sounds pretty good.  But then again, I grew up eating this casserole so....

Although I could probably comment on each and every sandwich, let's wrap up the road food reminiscing to get to an upscale version of an old standard and today's featured sandwich:  grilled cheese.

Back in the day (my day), a grilled cheese sandwich with Campbell's Tomato Soup was the winning ticket, especially on a rainy Saturday.  At the time, "fancy" cheese was no where on the radar so the cheese was either American slices (say what you will, but they melt well) or Velveeta.  But now folks, now that grocery stores everywhere carry a billion and two kinds of cheese, now we can make ours with Gruyere.  How exciting!  And topped with braised leeks – even better!  And made by a Minnesota transplant to LA, Annie Milar, who owns and operates the Clementine restaurant that produced this wonderfully yummy sandwich. Just the ticket!

So I say if you plan to observe next year's National Grilled Cheese Day, put this recipe in your tickler file so that you have it at the ready. Meanwhile, who cares if the big day has come and gone because what, you need a reason to eat a grilled cheese?

Grilled Gruyere with Braised Leeks on Multigrain Bread – makes 4 sandwiches
Ann's Note:  Reserve about an hour to braise the leeks
2 medium leeks
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup water
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Scant ½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Butter for spreading
8 slices dense multigrain bread
10 ounces Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
Dijon mustard

To braise the leeks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Trim off the root end of the leeks.  Slice them lengthwise and remove any tough, dark green portions by cutting away from the rot end on an angle and peeling them off.  Clean the leeks thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt.  Pat dry.

Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, carefully place the leeks in the pan, cut side down.  Cook for a few minutes, just until they are golden brown on one side.  Remove the leeks and arrange them cut side up in a casserole dish.  Add the water, lemon juice, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Sprinkle the lemon zest, thyme, salt, and pepper over the top.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes.  The liquid will reduce and the leeks will caramelize.  Let them cool.  (The leeks can be braised up to 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.)

To assemble the sandwiches, thoroughly butter 1 side of each slice of bread and arrange the slices butter side down.  Divide the cheese evenly among the bread slices.  Cut the braised leeks diagonally into 2-inch lengths and arrange them on 4 of the cheese-topped slices of bread.  On each of the other 4 slices, spread about 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard over the cheese (use more or less according to your taste and the strength of your mustard).  Place the 2 slices together to make ach sandwich. (The sandwiches can be assembled up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic.)

Place a batch of sandwiches in a large skillet over low heat.  When they are brown and crispy on one side, flip them over and cook until brown and crispy on the other side, about 10 minutes per side.  Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining sandwiches.  Cut in half and serve.

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