It's not often that I make lunch.
I mean real lunch, not peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches, with a side of sliced strawberries, served on plastic Dora the Explorer plates.
But, when my girlfriend and her kids visited from out of town the other weekend, I wanted to do something special. She's been my best friend since way back in junior high, when we both brought rice cakes and diet chocolate soda to school for lunch.
She's just as slender now as she was back then. For all I know, she still subsists on rice cakes. I figured the least I could do was make her a decent meal.
I picked a Caesar club sandwich from a cookbook. It was the photo that won me over. Crusty bread, shavings of Parmesan cheese, a glimpse of creamy dressing. It looked like something from a fancy deli or a ladies-who- lunch-type of restaurant.
Definitely not like something you'd make at home.
When I read the recipe over, I liked it even more. No complicated ingredients, no fussy preparations. Another plus: It called for arugula. My husband experimented with growing this salad green in our garden this year, and we now have enough arugula to run our own salad bar. We're always looking for new ways to use it.
My husband did the shopping that morning and came home with everything on the list. After he got home, I rushed around, trying to roast the chicken breasts and toast the bread while fighting with the food processor. All before our guests arrived.
I don't know why, but I can never get the lid of my Cuisinart to clamp down on the bowl correctly. By some miracle, I managed to do it this time. But, if you're food-processor challenged like me, you can use a blender for this recipe.
You'll need one or the other to mix the mayonnaise spread, a combination of garlic, mustard, anchovy paste and tons of mayonnaise. This is the best sandwich spread ever. It's very garlicky, with an ultra-creamy texture. I could eat it by the spoonful.
Making the spread is the most difficult part of the recipe, and -- minus the food-processor difficulties -- it's not too hard. However, the dish is a bit time-consuming, for a sandwich. It takes about an hour to roast the chicken breasts, toast the bread and cook the pancetta.
But don't cut corners. It's the details -- like the toasted bread -- that make this sandwich fabulous.
It looks wonderful, too. Mine turned out just like the picture in the cookbook -- a first for me!
We ate outside, picnic-style, on a Dora the Explorer blanket. The kids had peanut butter, this time on Diego paper plates we bought for the occasion (they were out of Dora, much to my 3-year-old's dismay).
The grown-ups had the sandwiches. If I would have thought about it beforehand, I would have picked up some diet chocolate soda -- for old time's sake.
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Argh! After I made the delicious dressing (minus the anchovy) in a favorite bowl and let the flavors marry for a couple hours, it slipped out of my hand as I took it from the fridge, splintering ceramic and splattering dressing all over my kitchen!!! It was 9 p.m. and we were starving, so I just quickly threw the ingredients together again (no processing; I just sprinkled the parsley over the arugula) and it was fabulous. I can only imagine what it would have tasted like with the flavors melded. My husband gave it two thumbs up; my daughter didn't think it would be so good; and my son thought the flavors exploded in his mouth! Besides no anchovy, the only switch I made was using thick-cut bacon. I will definitely make this again, but next time I will put the dressing in a covered plastic bowl!
With garlicky mayo, a hearty and crusty bread, Parmesan cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, this chicken sandwich was right down my alley. My husband, however, is not a fan of mayo, so I made one half with the mayo and the other with an olive oil/canola oil base. The arugula with its crisp, peppery flavor added a fresh touch. Since the weather warmed up, I made this sandwich for dinner one evening along with a mixed fruit salad. My husband and I truly enjoyed it. But my 14-year-old son chose instead to have leftover pasta. I think the pile of arugula scared him away. Oh well, that left more for us.
I knew I would like this recipe even before I tried it. It's like a chicken Caesar salad but with toasted bread in the place of croutons -- ingenious! I did make some changes, like using bacon instead of pancetta, Romaine instead of arugula, and simply omitting the sun-dried tomatoes. Since I changed all that, I thought I should use the dressing in the recipe instead of bottled dressing. It didn't really take that much longer to make the Caesar dressing from scratch, and the flavor was really good, but I wouldn't be averse to using store-bought in a pinch next time. Also, because of hubby's past struggles with sandwiches on ciabatta, I used a batard (kind of like a double-wide baguette), removing some of the inside bread to make room for all of the goodies.
Overall, a very nice sandwich, and one that I will make again.
When I had to ask for help in finding three of the ingredients for this recipe, I thought the sandwich would be exotic. The recipe was easy to follow, however, and it produced a sandwich that was a great pleasure to eat. The four of us who shared it at a picnic table in Columbia had nothing but praise for its delicious combination of ingredients. That was the secret to its success, I believe: the combination. No single flavor was dominant, not even the anchovy paste. Once the chicken breasts are put into the oven to bake, the sandwich-maker has nearly a whole hour to prepare the remainder of the recipe. We'll enjoy this again throughout the summer.