The story goes that John Montagu was such an inveterate gambler that he did not want to leave the gaming tables even to eat. So he called for meat to be brought to him between two slices of bread; that way, he could eat at the table and keep his fingers clean, thus saving the cards.
Montagu was more than just a dedicated gambler. He was also the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Two hundred and fifty years later, we still gobble up the gustatory creation that bears his name.
Where would we be without the sandwich? How would culture be different? If nothing else, McDonald’s would never have been so popular just selling ground meat patties on a plate. And we would never have known the extraordinary sensation of eating peanut butter and jelly on bread, quite possibly the closest mankind has ever come to achieving perfection.
To celebrate the great gift that Montagu gave us, I decided to try new variations on classic sandwiches.
Instead of a hot open-faced roast beef sandwich, I gave mine a French flair and made it easy to cook, too. I gussied up a traditional grilled cheese sandwich. I took the concepts of shrimp salad and shrimp cocktail and combined them. And instead of a BLT, I made an LGBT.
That is to say a lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato sandwich — it’s just a BLT with guacamole and a trendy name.
What difference could a little guacamole make? Quite a lot, actually. It entirely changes the sandwich’s complexion, providing a cooling counterpoint to the bacon’s smoky salt.
The guacamole also adds more of the creaminess that is typically provided by mayonnaise, only it brings with it that wonderfully rich taste of avocados, the faint bite of red onions and just a hint of garlic.
It’s that garlic that is the secret to my guacamole, by the way. Usually when you use raw garlic, no matter how finely you mince it you still run the risk of swallowing an overpowering mouthful of garlic. But I was at a great Mexican restaurant in New York many years ago that eliminated that problem by putting garlic powder in their guacamole. I’ve been using garlic powder ever since.
For my next dish, I began with an American classic and then took a detour to France. I’m calling it a Hot Roast Boeuf Sandwich.
At heart, it is still a hot, open-faced roast beef sandwich, a dish served at one time in every diner in America. The difference is in the cooking of the beef.
Inspired by boeuf bourguignon, I simmered the meat in red wine, which I mixed with Dijon mustard (after all, Dijon is in the dish’s native region of Burgundy). I added a bit of celery, somewhat more carrots for a touch of sweetness and quite a lot of onions because I wanted it to be a beef and onion sandwich.
The result is a familiar meal with a deliciously unexpected taste.
Devising the grilled cheese recipe was easy. Cheddar cheese goes particularly well with apples. Both apples and cheddar cheese go well with walnuts. I put it all together with bread, smeared on a little more Dijon mustard, which is also a good foil for the apples and cheese, and grilled it in a pan.
It’s definitely a winner. I don’t see a reason to make an ordinary, boring grilled cheese sandwich ever again.
Finally, I made my version of a shrimp salad sandwich. I chopped up cooked shrimp and stirred in a little mayonnaise (I don’t like too much in my shrimp or chicken salads.) Then I made a batch of my own cocktail sauce — you could use a commercially available cocktail sauce if you want, but homemade is better — and stirred in just enough to flavor the mayo.
The sandwich was intriguing and irresistible. The cocktail sauce gives it more bite than ordinary shrimp salad, and also more flavor.
I am certain that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, would approve.
Hot Roast Boeuf Sandwich
Yield: 6 servings
3 pounds boneless chuck roast
Salt and pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
1 rib celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced thin
4 ounces mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
6 slices toasted bread
Generously season the meat with salt and pepper.
Combine the wine with 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) of the Dijon mustard and pour into a large slow cooker. Add the meat, clove, celery, carrots, onions and mushrooms and cook on low power until tender, about 8 hours.
While the meat cooks, mix together the mayonnaise, horseradish and remaining 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
When the meat is done, discard the carrots, celery and clove, if you can find it. Remove any visible fat and slice the meat against the grain. Spread the horseradish-mustard sauce on the toast and portion out the meat, onions and mushrooms; these are open-faced sandwiches, so there is no top slice of toast. Pour some of the jus over each sandwich and serve.
Per serving: 726 calories; 42 g fat; 15 g saturated fat; 224 mg cholesterol; 58 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 369 mg sodium; 69 mg calcium. Recipe by Daniel Neman. Horseradish-mustard sauce recipe by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken.
Shrimp Cocktail Salad Sandwich
Yield: 3 servings
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 1/2 tablespoons cocktail sauce, see note
6 slices white bread
Note: You can use commercial cocktail sauce, but it will taste better if you make your own by mixing 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 tablespoon chili sauce, 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish, 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice.
In a medium bowl, stir together shrimp, celery and red onion. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and cocktail sauce, and mix this with the shrimp.
Use this mixture to make sandwiches, adding lettuce and tomato if desired.
Per serving: 408 calories; 23 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 168 mg cholesterol; 22 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; no fiber; 1,200 mg sodium; 114 mg calcium. Recipe by Daniel Neman
Yield: 2 servings
4 slices bacon
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons diced tomatoes
Pinch garlic powder
1 wedge lime
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, optional
4 pieces bread, toasted
2 pieces lettuce
4 thin slices of tomato
1. Cook bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
2. Peel and seed avocado. Mash in a small bowl until as smooth or chunky as you want. Stir in onion, tomatoes, garlic powder and lime juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper; add more garlic powder if desired.
3. Spread mayonnaise on toast. Layer with lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and bacon, and top with other slice of toast.
Per serving (with mayonnaise): 458 calories; 33 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 16 mg cholesterol; 11 g protein; 35 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 8 g fiber; 549 mg sodium; 47 mg calcium.
Grilled Cheese with Apple and Walnuts
Yield: 1 serving
2 slices bread
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 ounce cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
1/2 small apple, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter
1. Spread the mustard on both slices of bread. Add cheese, apple and walnuts to one, and top with the other slice of bread.
2. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook the sandwich, turning once, until both sides are golden brown and the cheese has melted.
Per serving: 470 calories; 31 g fat; 13 g saturated fat; 58 mg cholesterol; 13 g protein; 40 g carbohydrate; 12 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 688 mg sodium; 261 mg calcium.