In Crust We Trust! – A Guest Blog By the Philz
I pledge allegiance to the Bread, and to the Sandwich for which it stands, one meal, between two slices, divisible into halves, with sauces and layers for all.
Bread; The foundation of any sandwich.
With careful thought and selection of bread and ingredients, one can truly elevate the sandwich from a food of convenience to one of remembrance. Bread, the many types, the thickness of cut, the amount of or lack of toasting, all play key roles. But before we think about bread in terms of using it in sandwiches, let’s take one step back.
There are countless celebrity Chef’s out there, but I’ve always enjoyed watching Jacques Pepin, for a variety of reasons, but mostly just because I like his low key practical approach to technique and cooking. On many an occasion, he has mentioned that one of his favorite foods is bread and butter. Of course, he’s not referring to just any bread, but really good crusty French bread. And I completely agree with him. There’s something so satisfying about the nice crispy crunch of the crust of a baguette and the moist chew of the bread, especially when covered in a little salted butter, but it’s clear to me, that my favorite part of all of this is the crust. It is to the point where I will purposefully strip the bread from the crust, set the crust aside, and save that to eat last. Or if it’s still available, I’ll go straight for the end piece(s).
Similarly, and while I know not everyone agrees with this, but give me an end piece of meatloaf, lasagna, or any baked pasta for that matter, and especially give me the corner pieces brownies over the edges and certainly those over the center pieces. On all of these, the flavors are generally slightly more concentrated and developed and the differences in texture add something interesting to the mix. Certainly a lot of people do agree with me here as there are multiple types of baking pans that turn all brownies into edge pieces.
I mean, come on, those faces don’t lie. No way is that little kid that kid that good of a photo actor. Also, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s also why Pie is superior to Cobbler, but that’s a story for another time and on another blog.
Hopefully by now, I’ve got you marching along with me on my “Crust Is the Best!” Parade.
So where am I headed with all of this?
Sliced Sandwich bread. The ordinary stuff in your supermarket aisle.
The stuff you see people on tv and in real life slice the crust off of when making sandwiches for kids. In some respects, I don’t have a problem with this, for example, with cucumber sandwiches, but that crust is not the topic of this post.
Really, a knife and fork for that?
The crust that concerns me today are the heels. Most of us, myself included, go straight for the center pieces of sliced bread as the “choice” bread. I completely understand that the heels, when left on the ends, help keep moisture in the rest of the loaf and make it last a tad longer. But what about when you get to the end and all you have are the two heels? I know some people just throw these out, feed them to ducks, turn them into bread crumbs, or other non-sandwich related things. And to some extent, I still have no problem with this. But a recent sandwich got me thinking; Is there a sandwich that is better suited to using the heels from a sliced loaf of grocery store bread versus using the center slices?
After a little experiment, I can confidently say, for me at least, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”.
“Thankgiving Style” sliced deli chicken on wheat.
From the bottom up, bread excluded;
Homemade Cranberry sauce (leftover from a dinner last week)
Sliced Deli Chicken
Very small amount of shaved red onion
Warmed and spreaded goat cheese
There were 2 regular slices of bread left in this loaf, but I chose the heel instead. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the other heel because it was just too thin and small. So this sandwich was made with 1 regular slice on the bottom and 1 nice THICK sliced heel on top. Guess I got partially lucky.
I specifically decided on the heel here for its stronger toasty flavor that happens when bread is cooked and the Maillard reaction takes place, giving bread its brown color. Sometimes this browning is incorrectly identified as caramelization, especially when people talk about “caramelizing a steak”. It’s undisputed in the land of cookery that the Maillard reaction helps to deepen and intensify savory umami flavors. Just what I wanted here.
The thought here in choosing this stronger flavored heel was to mimic a bit of stuffing or dressing that would be on the Thanksgiving table, and I truly think it accomplished this. I honestly think the sandwich would have come up tasting a bit “flat” had I just used two center slices.
Generally speaking, I really enjoyed this sandwich. I wish I had applied more cranberry sauce, and I did go back to the fridge for a bit more. I tried adding a bit of sriracha to select bites, but I’m not sure if that improved it or not. At one point I almost though the combo of sriracha and my cranberry sauce tasted like ketchup. A little weird. That was my last addition of sriracha.
Other observation, the sandwich was markedly better eaten with the heel side UP in terms of flavors, however, I kept finding myself flipping the sandwich over to eat it heel side down. I think the heel has a bit more structure in making it easier to hold with it down. Something to think about for a later day or blog post.
What would I have changed?
If I wasn’t so hungry and in a little hurry, I would have definitely toasted the outside of the bread with a little butter. I would have added more cranberry sauce from the start and maybe a tad more goat cheese. I could have done without the red onion but it was a reasonable compliment to the sandwich. A bit of julienned carrot & celery (in the Thanksgiving stuffing spirit) might have been nice as well. Also, I would have toasted the pecans. All in all I was pleased and happy to discover that the dregs of the ubiquitous Sliced Loaf of Sandwich Bread can be used to make a good sandwich even better.
Regardless, if you’ve made it this far, I hope this post at least made you think about those perfectly browned pieces on the end of your bread that have probably been neglected.
Maybe you haven’t neglected them and you’ve already used heels to make a sandwich. What did you think? Let us know, we’d love to hear about it!
And seriously, ducks don’t need your bread anyway.