A sandwich is like any other dish in that it starts with a list of ingredients. The better those ingredients, the better the sandwich.
The bread is the base of the dish and this roll, specifically a Bolillo from a local Mexican bakery, was baked yesterday. It was less than 24 hours old and while baked today would have been better, it would do quite nicely. The crust was thin and starting to soften but the toaster would fix that along the way.
The meat was from a lamb shank cooked the day before as well. In this case, yesterday was better than today. After cooking, the meat rested in it’s cooking juices overnight allowing all of the flavor to slowly permeate deep into the slowly braised flesh. The spices were simple, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, whole grain mustard, and date sugar all dissolved in home made chicken stock. Half of an onion was sliced along with a few carrot to add some depth to the stock.
First the shanks were browned in a hot skillet with just a bit of extra virgin olive oil and placed into a narrow rectangular steam table pan filled with the stock mixture, covered with a piece of aluminum foil and braised in a 325° oven for 3 hours.
To make the gravy, salted butter was heated in a small sauce pan and flour was added to slowly brown. When the roux was just the right color, the reserved cooking jus was skimmed of excess fat then added slowly while whisking to avoid lumps, and once incorporated, it was allowed to thicken into a rich creamy gravy. A few pieces of cooked carrot were smashed into the gravy to add texture, color and a bit of sweetness.
A good portion of the roasted shank meat was carefully shredded into the gravy and allowed to slowly heat through. It did not need to cook, and the intent was to be just warm enough to force one to draw in a bit of breath with the bite but not hot enough to scald the mouth.
While the meat was gently heating in the rich sauce, the roll was sliced in two. On one side, the top side actually, a layer of spinach and feta cheese was spread. It was left over from the previous evening’s Spanikopita bake and then the roll was put into the toaster oven to brown. It only took a few minutes for the crust to lightly crisp and the open face to become golden. A thin round slice of provolone was gently torn in two and placed atop the feta/spinach mixture and given just another minute to melt.
After being transferred to a dinner plate, the roll waited on the counter as the meat and gravy was brought from the stove. On the open side of the roll, a generous portion was spread gently from one edge to the over. On a sandwich, it is ideal for each bite to be the same so the fillings must be carefully arranged.
Once the meat and gravy was spread, the final addition was added. Six carefully sliced rectangles of daikon pickle were placed to cover the meat from one side to the other. The daikon had been in the strong pickle for about a month and by itself could produce a good pucker. It’s purpose here was to cut through the rich lamb while also providing a crunchy textural element.
Now complete, the roll was closed with the hinged side struggling to keep all of the ingredients in their proper place awaiting the first bite. It was decided that whole was best. Cut would perhaps look better, but this was for eating.
I carefully picked up the slightly bulging sandwich and avoided the temptation to crush it flat. The crush would have made it easier to bite but could easily displace the precisely structured layers.
Bringing the sandwich to my widely opened mouth, I crunched into the crust of the bolillo, on through the soft spongy crumb, and into the meat, cheese, and pickle. Thinking at first that the daikon was sliced a bit too thick and overshadowing the main ingredient, the next bite got me to a thicker portion of meat and gravy. It presented a balance of rich savory and vinegary tartness. The spinach and feta did not present a separateness like the daikon but added to the overall depth of the flavor.
This was simply one of if not the best sandwich I have ever had the opportunity to sink my teeth into. It was rich and savory with a complex balance of flavors that I am sure to try and recreate.
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