THE CHEESEBURGER

You see all kinds of “burgers” these days. As a teenager, I worked at McDonald’s in 1966. Their menu back then was pretty similar to what In N Out’s menu is today…burgers, fries, sodas, and shakes. That’s was it! The fish sandwich was introduced in 1965.

I love burgers. I could live off of them if need be. But I have always been very vehement as to what goes into my burger. I truly believe that mixing anything into your ground beef makes it either meat loaf or Salisbury steak…but not a burger. Burger accompaniments go on the outside. And with that said, have at it! Honestly, I’m not a fan of adding any fruit (other than tomatoes) or even other protein (other than bacon). Any cheese will do, but sliced American is really the best choice…it melts better and just belongs on a burger.

The last burger I made (the one in the photo) was destined to be a tower of impossibility. In other words, good luck stuffing it into your mouth. This one made for a ridiculous picture…then a knife and fork! But it contains the rudimentary, and some of us say, required condiments: American cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, dill pickle slices, iceberg lettuce, and a burger sauce…in this case, it was an In N Out dressing clone. Yum! It is also flat grilled with a nice dark brown crust and cooked to medium (there was some pink inside). And, seasoned with Kosher salt and black pepper. That’s an 8 ounce 85/15 patty. Juicy and flavorful, as long as you don’t overcook it. The bun? It’s a home made griddle-browned brioche bun.

That’s my take on the Cheeseburger. K.I.S.S. method all the way!

CALIFORNIA CHICKEN CLUB

I guess the avocado makes this a “California Chicken Club”. No matter why. Just take sliced roasted chicken breast, toasted sourdough bread, shredded iceberg, crispy bacon, ripe tomato, and a ripe Haas avocado…oh, and lots of mayonnaise…that’s it. Yo certainly can muddle it up with cheese and onions and other junk. But we don’t! The only question is should you have it open-faced or not? I prefer open-faced with a knife and fork as this is one messy thing to pick ip and stuff in your mouth?

Ingredients:

  • Roasted chicken breast, sliced (rotisserie chicken works well)
  • 4 slices thin sliced sourdough bread
  • Unsalted butter
  • Whole mayonnaise like Best Foods or Hellmann’s
  • 2 slices bacon cut in half, cooked crispy
  • 1 large vine ripe tomato, thin sliced
  • 1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled, sliced
  • Iceberg lettuce, thinly shredded
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  • Cut the bacon slices in half and cook until crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
  • Slice the chicken breast against the grain into 1/4 inch slices. Leave the skin on if you have it. Season with salt and pepper
  • Peel and cut the avocado in half. Slice 1/4 inch. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Lightly butter both sides of the bread and grill on a flat griddle until golden.
  • Slather mayonnaise on all 4 slices of bread.
  • Thinly shred the iceberg lettuce.
  • Slice the tomatoes into 6 thin slices. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Build the sandwich in this order from the bottom up:
  • Bread
  • Mayo
  • Chicken
  • Lettuce
  • Bacon
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Mayo
  • Bread

CALIFORNIA CHICKEN SANDWICH

Back in the 70’s, sometimes this was called a Monterey Chicken Sandwich (with Monterey Jack cheese). This has Swiss cheese and is just as good. We used a marinated and grilled boneless breast with some great grill pan marks. The marinade hack? A good bottled Italian dressing..works great! Besides a grilled chicken breast, bacon, and sliced Swiss or Jack cheese…the condiments are up to you. Today, we had some chopped Romaine, sliced avocado, and a garlic mayonnaise. If you can’t grill the chicken on a BBQ, use a hot grill pan on the stove like we did. Just get some good char marks on it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless chicken breast, butterflied in half
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Italian dressing
  • Canola oil
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked
  • 2 slices of Swiss or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Shredded iceberg
  • Slice tomatoes
  • Sliced avocado
  • 2 brioche buns

For the garlic mayo:

  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Kosher and black pepper

Directions:

  • Place your butterflied breast halves between some plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thick. Place in a sealable freezer bag and add 1/4 cup of Italian dressing. Massage it around to coat all the chicken. Seal, place on a plate and in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • For the garlic mayonnaise, place all the mayo ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Cover and with plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • When ready to cook, remove the breasts from the marinade (discard the marinade), remove most of the marinade from the chicken, place on a plate, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium high heat. Coat lightly with canola oil. When the pan is screaming hot, place the breasts on the pan, top with a press, and let cook about 2 minutes without moving. Turn over, and cook another 1 minutes. Lay a slice of cheese on the chicken and let cook another 1 minute or so, until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  • Lightly butter the bun halves and place on a flat griddle until golden brown.
  • Spread some garlic mayo on all the bun sides.
  • Lay some shredded lettuce on the bottom bun. Place a chicken breast on the lettuce. Lay a couple tomato slices on the cheese then the top bun. You can place the avocado slices on the sandwich or serve on the side.

THE CUBAN SANDWICH

When I set out to make a Cubano, the ubiquitous Cuban sandwich, I hesitated making my own Cuban bread. Well, I’m glad I decided to go ahead and plunge into bread-making.

I’m not a baker and haven’t had much luck baking in the past. As the saying goes, cooking is an art…baking is a science. And even though I alway tried to strictly adhere to the recipes…you know, precise measuring, temperatures, and baking times. I just didn’t have much luck.

Today, I went ahead with baking my own Cuban bread since I have never been able to find any in our area (Central California). I am happy to say that the bread turned out incredible! It was golden brown crusty on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside. And provided the perfect vehicle for my Cuban sandwich.

Yes, you could just as well use a store-bought, crusty sandwich roll…but it wouldn’t be the same. I will include the Cuban bread recipe I used at the end. By the way…I did not have to knead it as I used my Kitchenaide mixer for everything. Please be aware that making the starter the day before is essential. In other words, if you decided to bake Cuban bread today, forget it unless you have made the starter the day before.

Ingredients:

For the Cuban sandwich:

  • One loaf of Cuban bread or Cuban bread rolls
  • Unsalted butter
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow mustard
  • Sliced deli ham
  • Roasted or pulled pork
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Sliced Swiss cheese

For the Cuban bread starter:

  • 1/2 cup warm water (115 degrees)
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup flour

For the Cuban bread dough:

  • 1 package attive dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (115 degrees)
  • Starter from the day before
  • 3 tbsp lard or vegetable shortening, softened
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • About 3 cups of flour
  • Water to spray the loaves

Directions:

For the starter:

  • Mix all the starter ingredients in a small bowl and place overnight in the refrigerator.

For the Cuban sandwich:

  • Cut the ends off the bread loaf or bread rolls. If using a loaf, cut it in half. Slice it across the middle.
  • If you don’t have a panini press (I do not), use a large flat cast-iron griddle. Heat the griddle on medium.
  • Lightly butter the cut side of the bread and place on the griddle to let it brown. Remove from the griddle.
  • Place the ham slices on the griddle just heat and brown a little.
  • Mix together equal parts mayonnaise and yellow mustard in a small bowl (do not use Dijon). Slather both cut sides of the bread with the mayonnaise and mustard.
  • Lay Swiss cheese slices on the bottom. Then folded slices of ham on the cheese. Place the roasted or pulled pork on the ham slices (make sure the pork is hot).
  • Lay the sliced pickles on the pork then top with the sliced Swiss cheese. Place the top on the bread. Lightly butter the top of the bread.
  • Place the sandwich, top side down, on the griddle then lay a sandwich press or another heavy skillet on the sandwich and press down. Let it cook until the top is golden brown. Lightly butter the bottom before flipping it over, pressing, and browning the bottom side.
  • Remove from the griddle and slice diagonally. Serve immediately.

To bake the bread:

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the yeast, sugar, and warm water and whisk a few times. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  • Add the lard or shortening, salt, and 1 cup of flour and mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the starter then about 1 1/2 cups of the flour, reserving half a cup just in case. Connect the dough hook and knead the bread until it begins to come together. Add more flour to make the dough the right consistency, it should be moist and cling to the hook.
  • Flour your work surface then turn the dough out onto the surface. Fold the dough over a few times then form it into a ball. Lightly grease a large bowl then place the dough ball in the bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for 2 hours. It should double in size.
  • Remove from the bowl and push the dough down with your fingers. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. One at a time, mold the dough into a rectangle, flatten with a roller, then roll it up into a long, skinny loaf. Place the loaf on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Repeat with the other loaf. Dust the loaves with flour, cover with a towel, and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make 1/4 inch deep cuts lengthwise down the top of the bread. Spritz with water then place in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, turning the sheet pan halfway through. It should be golden brown. Mine took 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the loaves to a wire cooking rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing. You store them at room temperature as is if they haven’t been sliced. After slicing, wrap tightly in plastic or foil and store at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. You can freeze them as well, just make sure they are tightly sealed in plastic wrap.

THE BEST SANDWICH WE EVER ATE

On a recent stay in Pismo Beach, we found “The Best Sandwich We Ever Ate!” So, wait…what about the B.L.T.? I have said that a B.L.T. is the Best Sandwich in the World…and it is. O.K…so this is the second best sandwich we ever ate, behind the B.L.T.

I don’t even have a name for this incredible sandwich. Loretta and I bought it on a trip to Pismo Beach recently at a great market that has a really nice deli. They will make a sandwich for you in person, but this one is just one of their pre-made offerings in the cooler. The label read, “TURKEY AND SALAMI”…that’s it. However, that is only the beginning. Here is what is actually inside this wonderfully flavorful and satisfying deli-style sandwich: thin sliced roasted turkey breast, thin sliced Genoa salami, provolone cheese, green leaf lettuce, sliced tomatoes, mandolin-shaved red onions, mandolin-shaved cucumber, sliced pepperoncinis, mustard, and, of course, mayonnaise. All piled moderately and lovingly on slices of shepherd style whole wheat bread. It’s great! It’s messy to eat, but that’s O.K. Full disclosure: I eat this with a nice and fork! Those are the ingredients, but it should be built, or constructed, in the proper order as well. Here’s the build from the TOP TO BOTTOM, including specific amounts:

  • Slice of whole wheat shepherds style or sourdough bread
  • Thin layer of regular, yellow mustard
  • Thick layer of good mayonnaise
  • Lettuce, romaine, green leaf, or iceberg
  • Thin sliced Genoa salami
  • Sliced Provolone
  • Thin sliced roasted turkey
  • Mandolin-shaved cucumber
  • Sliced pepperoncinis
  • Mandolin-shaved red onions
  • Thin sliced tomatoes, seasoned with salt and black pepper
  • Thick layer of good mayonnaise
  • Thin layer of regular, yellow mustard
  • Sliced of whole wheat shepherds style or sourdough bread

CRISPY SPICY FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH

Sure, Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwiches have been around forever. But the past few years has seen a strange obsession with this fast food icon. The deal is, the Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich went from a drive-thru sensation to an upscale dining item. They’re everywhere now! And there are hundreds of variations. This one is pretty basic: a boneless chicken thigh marinated in a spicy buttermilk, then dredged in a spicy seasoned flour and deep fried. One of the things I did not do is drench the cooked thigh in hot sauce before putting it on the bun. I think that’s a bit counterintuitive, ie, making your nice crispy chicken thigh soggy, not to mention the soggy bun result. That’s just me, I guess. No matter how you like your crispy spicy fried chicken sandwich, they’re here to stay I think!

Ingredients:

Buttermilk marinade:

  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot sauce
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed

Garlic Tarragon Aioli:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of black pepper

Seasoned flour:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprtika
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 2 brioche burger buns
  • mayonnaise
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg
  • 2 slices tomatoes
  • Dill pickle slices

Directions:

  • Mix together the buttermilk with Frank’s hot sauce in a bowl. Add the chicken thighs to the buttermilk and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Heat oil to 350 degrees in a medium saucepan or skillet, at least 2 inches deep.
  • Set up a 2 bowl breading station. One for the buttermilk, one for the seasoned flour. Take a chicken thigh out of the buttermilk and dredge in the seasoned flour. Carefully place the breaded thigh in the oil and fry about 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn and repeat on the other side until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Place on a plate in the oven to keep warm while you cook the other thigh or thighs if making more.
  • To build the sandwich, lightly butter the buns then griddle to a golden brown on a flat griddle.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then place 3-4 pickle slices. Add a cooked thigh. Top the thigh with shredded lettuce then a tomato slice. Spread the garlic tarragon aioli on the top bun and top the sandwich. Serve immediately.

BONELESS McRIB STYLE SANDWICH

McDonald’s McRib is a ground pork sandwich pressed and formed to look like pork ribs. Hey, I love ’em! But, I wanted to try making this home version from real Pork Spareribs. Basically, cook the s***t out of the ribs, either in a smoker, BBQ, or in the oven. Then carefully pull out the bones…and voila! Boneless McRib Style Sandwich.

Here’s my oven recipe for them. Note: You can use Baby Back Ribs, but they are not as meaty and juicy as the St. Louis ribs. Plus, cook the BB Rib a little less as they are much smaller.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium rack of St. Louis cut pork ribs or Baby Back Ribs
  • BBQ rub (your favorite)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup BBQ sauce (your favorite, I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1 tbsp chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Soft hoagie or sourdough rolls
  • Diced onions
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mayonnaise

Directions:

  • Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs. Place the ribs on a sheet pan and season both sides with BBQ rub, salt, and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add some apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the sheet pan. Place the ribs meaty side up on the sheet pan then cover tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Note: If using small Baby Back Ribs, reduce the cooking time slightly as they cook quicker than St. Louis ribs.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce, chipotle, bourbon, and honey. Set aside.
  • Carefully remove the foil and let cool enough to handle the ribs. Gently remove the bones by pulling them out the side, they should come out easily if the ribs were cook enough. If you cook them too much, they fall apart.
  • Cut the ribs in half, then carefully cut them down the middle the size of a sandwich roll. Spread some BBQ sauce on the top and bottom of the ribs then place back in the oven on an oven-proof plate for about 5 minutes to glaze the sauce.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then add the ribs. Top with more BBQ sauce if desired. Add chopped onions.

JAPANESE EGG SALAD SANDWICH

I haven’t been to Japan for quite a while, so I have no recent first hand knowledge…but, supposedly, the most popular Egg Salad Sandwich in Japan can be found at 7-11! But, they sell them everywhere.

Typically, it is made with a Japanese milk bread called “shokupan”. It wasn’t available in my area, so I used a soft, thick-sliced artisan wheat bread. I did, however, use Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise that, in my opinion, is the best mayo you can find. A bit pricey, but it’s worth it.

Of course, an egg salad sandwich starts with hardboiled eggs, and therein lies the first critical challenge: cooking the eggs properly. I’ve included my method for cooking good hardboiled eggs below. Whichever method you choose, they must not be overcooked “Easter eggs”.

Ingredients”

  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 4 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 4 slices Japanese milk bread or small artisan white bread
  • Dijon mustard

Directions:

  • Place the eggs in a saucepan of cold water and bring to a rolling boil. After 4 1/2 minutes after the water boils, remove one of the eggs and place in a bowl of ice water. After 1 minute longer remove the remainder of the eggs and place in the ice water. The first egg should be a little creamier inside, it will be the one you slice for the middle of the sandwich. Peel the eggs. Chop 3 of the eggs about 1/4 inch and place in a mixing bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • For the dressing, mix together the chives, mayonnaise, mustard, apple cider vinegar, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, reserve 1 tbsp of the dressing to spread on the bread.
  • Place 3 tbsp of the dressing in the bowl with eggs and fold together, mix gently, don’t mush it together.
  • To build the sandwich, spread a little Dijon on the top slice of bread. Spread 1/2 tbsp of the dressing on the bottom slice. Spoon on half the egg salad.
  • Slice the first egg in half lengthwise and place half on the bottom slice on the egg salad. Place the top slice. With a bread knife, slice off the end crusts then slice the sandwich in half through the egg as in the photo. Repeat with the remaining bread slices.

THE B. L. FRIED GREEN TOMATO SANDWICH

Yup, a Bacon Lettuce Fried Green Tomato Sandwich!

Arguably, the B.L.T. is the world’s greatest sandwich, at least I think so. And, Fried Green Tomatoes…well, need I say more? The only self indulgence here is the fresh-made Garlic Basil Aioli. You can skip the mayonnaise emulsification routine and just add garlic and basil to mayonnaise…but what fun is that?

Chef’s note: One of the keys to making flavorful Fried Green Tomatoes is properly seasoning the cornmeal, in this recipe, with plenty of paprika, granulated garlic, onion powder, and salt. The egg dip gets Frank’s hot sauce. And, I only griddled the inside of the sourdough bread.

Ingredients:

  • Garlic Basil Aioli (recipe below)
  • 2-3 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
  • 1 egg
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Sliced sourdough bread

For the aioli:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon
  • 1/4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup avocado, olive, or canola oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil

Directions:

  • Place the egg, lemon juice, Dijon, vinegar, black pepper, and salt in a small food processor or immersion blender cup. Process on Low for 30 seconds then start drizzling in the oil. Run for about 40 seconds until it reaches mayonnaise consistency. Add the garlic and basil and run another 20 seconds. Taste and reseason if necessary. Remove to a small covered container and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Place a wire rack over a sheet pan.
  • For the tomatoes, set up 3 flat bowls for the breading. First, the flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then the beaten egg, buttermilk, and Frank’s hot sauce, then the seasoned cornmeal.
  • Heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees. Lower the heat and fry the breaded tomatoes until golden brown on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Season lightly with salt. Place fried tomatoes on a paper towel lined plate.
  • Butter one side of each slice of sourdough. On a flat griddle, grill the bread until golden brown on one side, place bread on a cutting board browned side up.
  • Slather on some aioli on all slices. On the bottom slice, pile some shredded lettuce, then the cooked bacon, then the fried green tomatoes, then the top slice. Slice and serve immediately.

CRISPY SPICY PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICH

We’ve seen the Crispy Spicy Chicken Sandwich all over the internet. Every casual chain and fast food restaurant has one…some good, some bad, some just plain bad! Without getting into the myriad reasons why these crispy sandwiches just don’t make it sometimes, let’s get into the pork version.

Simply put, this Crispy Pork Tenderloin Sandwich is much more flavorful and way more juicy than a deep fried, breaded chicken breast. Yes, some of the chicken ones use boneless thighs, saving it from total banality. So, remember “the other white meat”? What happened to that saying from 20 years ago? Well, the “other white meat” is alive and well here in this beautiful little crispy pork sandwich.

You can make it as spicy as you want. I added some Frank’s hot sauce and cayenne to the buttermilk marinade for a little zip. However, if you want it spicier, simply add what seems like an unusual amount of cayenne pepper…that is how the Spicy Chicken version rolls. In my recipe here, I also included a Garlic Dijon Aioli that is also another canvas for adding heat. By the way, it really should be marinated in the buttermilk overnight, so plan ahead.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound section of pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat and silver skin
  • 2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • Canola oil for frying

For the Garlic Dijon Aioli

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the sandwich build:

  • 2 brioche hamburger buns
  • 1 cup finely shredded iceberg
  • Mayonnaise
  • Garlic Dijon aioli
  • Sliced tomatoes

Directions:

  • Slice the tenderloin into 2 medallions. Turn them on end and pound to about 1/4 inch. Mix the buttermilk, Frank’s hot sauce, and cayenne in a bowl large enough to hold the pound tenderloin patties. Place the pork in the bowl and coat with the buttermilk. Cover the bowl with plastic and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Set up a breading station with flour, the egg mixture, and the panko crumbs in 3 slat bowls. Flour the pork lightly shaking off the excess. Then dip in the egg mixture then into the panko crumbs, pressing the breading in a coating thoroughly.
  • In a medium to large skillet, add enough canola oil to give you about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. When the oil is hot, fry the breaded tenderloin to golden brown on both sides until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Drain on paper towels.
  • Lightly butter and griddle the buns to golden brown.
  • Spread mayonnaise on the bottom bun. Then place on the pork patty and top it with shredded lettuce then a slice of tomato. Spread the garlic dijon aioli on the top bun and place it on top.