Blackened Chicken on Roast Squash Bread – Made at Home

Recently I found myself with some leftover squash that had been tossed in garam marsala and roasted. Like any sandwich enthusiast, my thoughts immediately turned to how I might incorporate those leftovers into a sandwich. Rather than the standard route of piling it between bread, though, I thought I might try something a bit different and incorporate it into the bread. So I did just that, combining a cup of diced/shredded roast squash into a whole wheat dough, kneading it smooth and baking it up. With the bread baked, I turned to the rest of the sandwich.

Thinking back to the stellar number I had at Sun de Vich, my first thought was a spread of Greek yogurt, mint, and finely diced red onion. A chicken breast got a healthy coating of salt and pepper, cayenne, chili powder, and garam masala before going down in the skillet, and a few poblano peppers got flattened out and stuck under the broiler. Bringing everything together, it looked like I had a somewhat sparse but perfectly serviceable sandwich. Alas, looks can be deceiving. I wouldn’t call this sandwich an out-and-out failure, but it’s not exactly a success. It’s successful if considered an experiment, but as a finished sandwich it came up terribly short. Firstly, the spice on the chicken proved to be a bit overwhelming. While piling on more yogurt helped that, at that point you end up with flavors fighting each other rather than working together. Secondly, the taste of the squash was completely lost. It was present when the bread was tasted on its own, but by the time the sandwich came together it was long gone. I hadn’t expected a really bold squash flavor (if I’d wanted that I could have just included the squash on standard bread) but there was really no squash flavor of which to speak. So the very thing I’d set out to feature disappeared. I think that there are some strong ideas here, and in the future they’ll work out to a better sandwich, but here and now all I had was a too-spicy sandwich and a missing squash.

Boston Brown Bread & Bacon – Made at Home

That sandwich is bacon and cantaloupe. If you’re making a sour face right now, bear with me. It was worth trying. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more natural the idea seemed to be. The other day I was soliciting ideas for what I might pair with a loaf of Boston brown bread, a rye/corn/whole wheat flour quickbread with a heavy dose of molasses. Something salty and savory seemed like the obvious choice, and within that category nothing leaps to mind faster than bacon. That’s a lazy choice, but I was already making the bread. 60 Minute IPA Pork Belly sandwiches would have to wait. Having settled on bacon, I solicited further ideas as to what else might go well. Associates suggested various items, all of them well within sandwich making tradition, until one associate offered a simple, one word suggestion: “cantaloupe.” At first I thought he was putting me on, but this was the person who had hipped me to the Nobadeer. The least I could do was take his suggestion seriously.

“Fast for a day,” I sometimes advise people, “then brainstorm sandwiches. In hunger, your brain will abandon fear and false limitations.” By the time I was seriously considering a bacon and cantaloupe sandwich, I hadn’t eaten in around 14 hours. I wasn’t about to faint, but it was long enough that my definition of “reasonable” had become more yielding. So I decided to try it. I wasn’t going to add anything else. The deep sweetness of the molasses, the salty, smoky bacon, and the bright sweetness of the fruit was precarious enough. No need to complicate things further.

It wasn’t bad. I wish I had a more dramatic result for you, in either direction. Many of you know how I feel about mediocrity, so I really do wish I could tell you it was shockingly good, or as terrible as your first instinct might have suspected. The bacon and the bread paired very well. The cantaloupe was a little incongruous, but not terribly so. Maybe I oversimplified, and with a few more ingredients a great sandwich would emerge. In any case, my curiosity had been satisfied. I moved on to other matters.

This was the first sandwich that had followed from the “bread, bacon, then what?” question. Sweet potato fries and green apple slaw together with the molasses resulted in three different levels of sweetness, each picking up where the other left off. This sandwich, like the other, wasn’t particularly fancy. It’s just a few things stacked between bread, but I figured it didn’t need anything else. Why gussy it up with an aioli, a bed of endive, or a jalapeño relish? Though the sandwich looked a bit plain, nothing else was needed so nothing else was added. The quality of this sandwich was miles above the other. The varying levels of sweetness worked very well together, and the various textures also worked in harmony. The bread was dense and chewy, the apples crisp, and the potatoes soft with a bit of crisp. Truth be told after, sampling half of the bacon/cantaloupe number I slid the melon off the second half and added the fries/slaw combination. Speaking of halves, the bread was a bit of a disappointment. Boston brown bread is traditionally a quickbread, and between the lack of yeast and my sub-par baking skills, it baked up into a squat, dense loaf. It was tasty enough, but it didn’t exactly provide the right base for the heaping sandwich I had imagined. That said, size and taste don’t have too much influence on each other, and this was a very tasty sandwich.

Pork Shoulder on Coco Bread – Made at Home

A homemade sandwich of pork shoulder, caramelized onions, avocado and cilantro on a coco bread roll

Between this sandwich and the earlier Pork Shoulder with Mojo Sauce, I’m beginning to consider slow-cooking pork shoulders for the sole purpose of making sandwiches out of the leftovers. When reheated in a skillet the pork becomes wonderfully crisp around the edges and in thinner pieces, presenting a wonderfully tasty backbone for a sandwich. I paired it with caramelized onions to contrast the spice of the pork, plenty of real, true avocado, and a bit of cilantro. I had baked up a batch of Coco bread, a sweet bread popular in Jamaican cuisine. What makes Coco bread so well suited for a sandwich like this is not just the sweetness, but also the softness and lack of crust. Assertive crust has its place, but on a sandwich like this you want the bread to give way straight to the pork, your star attraction. Coco bread did just that, completing a fine, fine sandwich.