As Hearty As It Gets

I watch way too much television. It's the unfortunate truth: I often find myself sitting in front of the stupid box when I have time off. Most of the time, I'm not even watching the screen: I am often knitting something and concentrating intently on the task at hand; or when I am on a tight schedule, I might even be typing away at my laptop, trying to get a post in before my (imaginary) deadline is up. But the old box isn't all bad: I have learnt a thing or two, found inspiration while it was on. Like this sandwich (the first one.) It really looks and sounds absolutely scrumptious.

I am a fan of sandwiches. They are the quintessential convenience foods: requiring no utensils whatsoever to be eaten, they are portable (unless they look like this), and are infinitely changeable. Your sandwich's gloriousness is only limited by your imagination. Which is why this sandwich is so awe-inspiring: I'm sure it would even satisfy a hard-core carnivore. 

The clincher has to be the roasted garlic mayo... The recipe on the website calls for jarred mayo, but they used homemade on the tv show. I don't seem to have ever posted a recipe for mayonnaise, so I am including one below; you can also watch the episode for a visual how-to on mayonnaise. Roasting whole garlic in the oven is a cinch, but it seems like an extravagant use of energy just for a few cloves of garlic (unless you're roasting a tray-full of garlic.) The simplest -and least wasteful- method would be to pan roast a few unpeeled cloves with some oil, until the skins are a dark golden brown and your kitchen smells divine! Let the garlic cool off, before peeling and smooshing the cloves.

My one problem with the sandwich is the selection of vegetables: tomatoes, eggplants, and red peppers aren't exactly in season right now. While these ingredients will make for a killer sandwich at the height of summer, they could very well ruin a meal in the dead of winter. So here is a list of winter-friendly alternatives, although I am sure that you can find other imaginative uses for sliced bread and garlic mayo... (I wish I thought of posting about this in August, but how was I to know that this sandwich would come into being in February? Think of this post as an advance notice for the coming summer!)

Substitutes for sliced tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes: buy them dry and in bulk, they will be more economical (and much tastier) than oil-packed tomatoes. I prefer the darker red dried tomatoes: the dark colour indicates that there was no sulfur used (a colour preservative), and it is often a sign of real sun-dried tomatoes -as opposed to mechanically dehydrated ones. Just soak them for 10 minutes in warm water to plump them up and to remove any excess salt. If your tomatoes are extra-salty, soak them for another 10 minutes in fresh water.
Roasted cherry tomatoes: cherry tomatoes are just about the only tomatoes that are passably tasty year-round. However, with a little foresight, you can pack your own roasted cherry tomatoes in olive oil in August, and have jars of them at the ready for those mid-winter blues. Some delis also sell them at the counter. If you keep the tomatoes covered in oil (regular vegetable oil will be easiest to handle), they will keep for a few months in the fridge. No need to drag out the canning equipment.

Instead of eggplants
This one is a toughy... I am a great fan of pickled eggplants -which I make several times over the summer- but I haven't yet found a way to make my jars last until the winter. Although pickled eggplants can sometimes be found at the supermarket, you'll have to try several brands to find one to your liking. 
Store-bought baba ghanouj is most likely made with imported eggplants, so it isn't a real solution. However, baba ganouj freezes very well. Therefore, if you have the freezer space, make lots in the summer and store in little containers.

Proxy red peppers
As for eggplants, alternatives for fresh red peppers can be purchased for a premium. And, as is often the case, store-bought isn't always better nor cheaper than making your own (even when red peppers cost up to 3$ a pop in winter.) Once again, if you have the freezer space, roasted peppers can be at your finger tips with a bit of planning, either as strips in a little baggy or as a pesto. Both can be jarred if you enjoy canning. 

Makeshift lettuce
Winter lettuces are sad, sad, sad vegetables. Despite preferring winter cold to summer heat, lettuces do not enjoy the endless storage time and long commute to get to your table. Other leafy greens, such as roquette and spinach seem to fare better, but there are other ways to get crunchy goodness from closer to home: endives are the winter salad green, with lots of juicy crunch and a hint of bitterness. If you are looking for something milder, how about some sprouts? Growing your own is economical, and you get to try a whole slew of variety.
Other alternate crunches include sliced apples (really, thinly sliced apples are a lovely addition to any savoury sandwich), and cabbages -just imagine, a crispy coleslaw laced with roasted garlic mayonnaise... Can you say heaven?

Homemade Mayonnaise
Yields about 1½ cup/375 ml

ALL ingredients should be at room temperature.
1 egg yolk
1 tsp mustard at room temperature (Dijon is preferable)
½ tsp salt
1 lemon, juiced, or 1 Tbs vinegar
1½ cup/ 375ml vegetable oil (NOT olive oil!!!)

With a whisk or a stick blender, mix egg yolk, mustard, salt and lemon juice until well blended and thick.
While continuously whisking, slowly drizzle oil into mix. Stop pouring oil every now and then to whip the egg mixture vigorously, and to ensure that all the oil is blended in.
Continue whisking until all the oil is added. (If you are using a stick blender, you might not be able to incorporate all the oil. Stop mixing when the mayonnaise becomes too thick for the blades.)
Give the mayonnaise a good, final, vigorous blitz before calling it a day.
Taste, and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
The mayonnaise should be fairly stiff, if you prefer it a little looser, add a teaspoon or two of warm water.
Will keep about 5 days in the refrigerator.

IF the mayonnaise splits, do not panic! Do not throw the failure out: it can be saved.
In a clean, warm bowl (rinse it out with hot water), blend another egg yolk with a teaspoon of mustard, and one teaspoon of warm water.
Slowly dribble in the split mayonnaise.
Add the remaining oil. If the mayonnaise is too runny, add up to 1 cup of oil.

To make roasted garlic mayonnaise, add 2 or more crushed cloves of roasted garlic at the very beginning (with the yolk and mustard) or at the very end of the whole process.

There was an epoch when mayonnaise was made without mustard. It's delicious that way, but it can be a little more fickle. Egg yolk and mustard are both emulsifiers (they help to bind oil and water, two bodies that usually do not blend), but mustard is more powerful than yolks. I strongly advise that beginner mayo-makers start with the whole teaspoon of mustard, you can gradually decrease the amount as you get more comfortable making mayonnaise. For those who are avoiding eggs, you can make a mock mayo with (or without) half a block of silken tofu, mustard and oil.

If your eggs are fresh, there should be no problem with consuming them raw. However, if you are pregnant or have a suppressed immune system, you may prefer to use jarred mayonnaise instead. Mastering the art of making your own mayonnaise is extremely satisfying, and deceptively simple.

Bon app'!

En français


  1. Garlic mayo! I am totally drooling! This sounds so amazing! I have to try it.

  2. Oh, it's good Mimi! You'll love it!


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