What is it about the humble sanger that has a boy like me in raptures? I am not talking any old shop bought thing that is a couple of lumps of ordinary bread, unthoughtfully stuffed with a myriad of ordinary ingredients. Oh nooo! I am talking a well crafted taste sensation that leaves me wanting, nay begging, for more.
I ask this question as, last night, I partook of a simple but spectacular offering that had me salivating before it hot the table. Just three ingredients – slow roasted lamb, fontina cheese and somebody’s grandma’s tomato relish. It doesn’t sound much but perfectly grilled, with lashings of butter on the outside, and the cheese oh so perfectly melted inside – it was a taste revelation.
Where? I hear you ask? Trocadero at the newly refurbished Hamer Hall. It was a small bite (or I thought a small bite) before we hit the theatre to see a show.
Sandwiches are ages old. This scrummy little item was named for John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. The Earl was an aristocrat, and it is rumoured that he instructed his valet to slap something together that he could eat while playing cards – cribbage in fact. He didn’t want to get his cards greasy and grubby whilst munching on meat with his bare hands, and so instructed the valet to tuck the meat between a couple of slabs of bread. Others seemed to like the idea and so asked for ‘the same as Sandwich.’ The rest, as they say, is history.
I consider myself the master of the toastie and it is something that goes down particularly well, late at night after a few social libations. I generally start with some very good, dense bread like a sourdough. Between the slabs of bread, I smear both horseradish and a very good quality mayonnaise. I don’t make my own – remember the social libations? Right.
I then add quality cheese – really good aged vintage cheddar tends to be my most used. Dont be stingy with it mind! It is then cooked in a frypan, with loads of butter. Make sure the pan is not too hot for the butter will burn. Allow it to simmer and steep in the pan until you are sure one side is done, then with more butter in the pan, turn and grill the other side. It sounds simple but this is the food of the gods and my late night cheese toasties are known in four states.
If you dont fancy making your own, be sure to find a purveyor of fine sandwiches that knows what they are doing.
In Melbourne, there are many venues that can cater to your taste, and are serving some very fancy gourmet offerings. There is nothing better than a trip to Earl Canteen for a pork belly sandwich with apple, cabbage and fennel slaw and wilted silverbeet. If something more exotic is your thing, then check out a Vietnamese offering of Banh Mi – usually made with pork cold cuts, pate and some cucumber, carrot and coriander. There are many to be found across Richmond and Footscray. To’s Bakery in Hopkins Street, Footscray gets my vote for sure.
Po Boys are classic American, with prawns creole flavours, aoli or mayonnaise and some iceberg lettuce. I discovered one of these at My Mexican Cousin and fell in love with it. Of course, traditionally American as well is the Reuben – layered corn beef or pastrami on rye bread with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing.
You will find something that takes your fancy I would guess. Maybe the perfect salad sanger is your thing. Whatever you have, it can never contain tomato sauce, plastic cheese slices or fish or meat from a tin – these are all travesties of diabolical proportions.
There is nothing more heartwarming than the grilled cheese toastie however, to warm the cockles of your heart. Now if you will excuse me, I am off to the kitchen. Mmmmm, cheese.