So over the last three weeks I had a long trip for work to Paris and then right away, a shorter trip for relaxation to Colorado (I know, I know, you’re not crying for me). After arriving home in Southeast Texas in the wee hours last night and working all day today, I found myself home alone for dinner tonight with no “on purpose” food in the refrigerator. That is, no food that was purchased with a menu or recipe in mind; all the Grill-Meister and I have in the icebox is a plethora of condiments and some too-old leftovers, and he’s not here tonight to justify my ordering Chinese.
What to do? What to do?
Comfort food to the rescue: a Scrambled Egg Sandwich.
I give thanks to my Dad for teaching me the joys of this humble little culinary bundle of joy. I made it a little differently than he did when I was growing up: his version with “Sandwich Spread” and cheddar on white bread evolved into mine with jalapeño jack and fresh baby spinach on wheat, but it’s still a wonderful go-to comfort food item.
There’s really no recipe for this: simply scramble a couple of eggs the way you like them (don’t forget the salt and pepper), toast a couple of pieces of bread, and assemble by resting the eggs atop a bed of baby spinach or perhaps some thinly sliced tomatoes on the bottom piece of toast, adding a slice of your favorite cheese and topping with the second piece of toast. Voila, a lovely dinner for one, reminiscent of your childhood. Or mine, at least.
I’m curious – what is YOUR easy comfort food when you’re home alone?
The Grill-Meister owned a German deli here in our little suburb of Houston for a while, years before we met. The relics of that adventure are “I would never want to own a restaurant again” and this marvelous sandwich, the U-Boat. It’s a German-ish variation of an Italian sub sandwich.
The U-Boat is party food. Big bites for people with big appetites. Perfect for big games or big parties or just a bunch of hungry teenagers.
I convinced the Grill-Meister to revisit the U-Boat recently for a Super Bowl party we were attending, and documented his every move as he made it. Here is the recipe, just for you.
The U-Boat Sub
Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course, 8-12 as an appetizer)
Large loaf of soft Italian or French bread (not a baguette), sliced in half longways
7 oz. thinly sliced Black Forest ham
5 oz. thinly sliced garlic (German) bologna
2 oz. thinly sliced hard salami
6-8 slices each of provolone, American and Swiss cheese
2 large, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded or sliced in ribbons
Your favorite Italian dressing, about 1/4 cup or enough to spread across the top of the French bread
Freshly ground pepper
Large wooden picks (optional)
Gather all ingredients and place the bread on a cutting board. Starting with the ham, add a layer of meat, then alternate with a layer of cheese, overlapping the slices in each layer. Then scatter a layer of red onions, followed by the tomatoes. Add a liberal amount of freshly ground pepper, then the lettuce. Sprinkle a generous amount of the Italian dressing on the second half of the bread, then position it atop the sandwich. If you’re serving the U-Boat as an appetizer, use the picks to secure it in sections, about 1 1/2 inches apart. If it is a main course, cut the U-Boat in quarters.
Where did the name U-Boat come from? The Original Italian U-Boat was a successful submarine sandwich restaurant in Chicago that swelled from a single location in 1975 to 32 stores in its heyday, only to file for bankruptcy and close during the recession in 1983. Chicagoans remember it fondly, according to this article. There isn’t a recipe for their U-Boat Sub online, although it may exist in someone’s attic. The Grill-Meister’s U-Boat is similar to recipes for an Italian Sub, although it has a German spin with the Black Forest ham and garlic bologna.
We love to make paninis when we visit Little House in the Rockies in Central Colorado. There’s something about eating a hearty sandwich by the fire while looking out the window at a snowy forest – it’s comforting food in an even more comforting setting.
The latest is a throw-together panini that turned out great! Canadian bacon, provolone, mushrooms and fresh basil on ciabatta buns rocks! Here are some loose instructions; this is a recipe that is wonderful in its inexactness. If you don’t have a panini press (or two), just make this sandwich like a grilled cheese, turning it to cook each side.
Canadian Bacon, Provolone and Mushroom Panini (Makes 6)
6 ciabatta buns
12 Canadian bacon slices
6 slices provolone cheese
2/3 cup of sliced mushrooms
approximately 1/4 cup Italian dressing
1/2 bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
freshly ground pepper
small amount of olive oil in a bowl (to brush on the buns)
Dijon mustard and dill pickles (optional, for serving)
Toss the mushrooms in a small bowl with just enough Italian dressing to coat them. Open the ciabatta buns and lay them out on a cutting board, then arrange mushrooms on the bottom half of each bun. Top with a generous amount of the torn basil, then with freshly ground pepper. Next, add the provolone, one slice for each sandwich, folding the slices so that they don’t hang over the sides of the buns. Follow with two slices of Canadian bacon for each sandwich, then add the bun tops. Turn the paninis over and brush lightly with olive oil on the bottom.
Heat the panini press to medium and add the sandwiches, olive oil side down, then brush the tops with more olive oil. Close the press carefully, press down, and cook until the inside of the paninis are done and the ciabatta buns are nicely toasted. Serve with Dijon mustard or other condiments, as desired.
Note: these panini presses are Sunbeam, and while they’re fine for a little cabin in the Rockies, we prefer the one we have at home. It gets a workout every Wednesday when the Grill-Meister makes dinner, AKA Sandwich Wednesday. Read all about it in the posts below, which also provide a couple of recipes and panini cookbook recommendations.
I first tasted Chipotle Chicken Salad on a multi-family road trip to the Rio Frio area of West Texas. It was a marvelous concoction by my friend Theresa on her day to make lunch for the crowd. I never got her recipe, and she is cooking with the angels now. I miss her every day. But I devised my own recipe based on that taste memory, and it’s pretty darn good. It’s also very easy, and quick. I made it recently as an appetizer for a football-watching party and aw, shucks, there was abundant praise. This recipe is as foodie-worthy as it is appropriate for a tailgate party. Hmmm, there’s a big game coming up…
Chipotle Chicken Salad
3 cups cooked chicken, white and dark meat, skin off, roughly chopped (one regular-sized rotisserie chicken should yield about 3 cups when deboned)
1/2 cup diced onion (red, white or yellow based on your preference or mood)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 cup jalapeño jack or jalapeño cheddar cheese
1 minced chipotle chile and 1 1/2 tbsp. of the adobo sauce (from a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 can of mild green chiles (4 oz.)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ancho chile pepper (ground)
bread, rolls or crackers for serving, or you can put it on a bed of mixed greens
pepper jelly spread (optional), if you make little slider sandwiches
chopped cilantro for garnishing
Combine the chicken, onion, cilantro and cheese in a medium bowl and toss. In a small bowl, mix the chipotle and adobo sauce, yogurt, mayonnaise, green chiles, salt and ancho chile powder, then pour over the chicken combination. Stir well to mix, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary. You can also add more mayo or yogurt if the mixture is too dry.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with crackers, slider rolls or on a bed of mixed greens. Pepper jelly is a great condiment; I like the Inferno Sauce from Just Pure Flavors, a regular at our local farmers’ market.
About the Ingredients
I use a rotisserie chicken for this recipe, both the white and dark meat, which provides a broader range of taste and texture than just using chicken breast.
I go back and forth between using red, white or yellow onions – they are all good for their own reasons. Red onions are apropos in Southwest dishes, and pretty. Yellow onions are sweet and mellow. White onions are crunchy, sharper and more pungent. It’s all dependent upon your onion mood.
The Greek yogurt really gives the chicken salad a tart and tangy taste, while the mayo provides a sweet creaminess. I like using them together for the balance. You can use nonfat yogurt and light mayonnaise without impacting the taste, in my humble opinion.
If you have never used chipotle chies, it’s easy. Just pop open the can and use the amount you need, saving the rest for later. For this recipe, fish out a whole chipotle pepper, then mush your measuring spoon in the adobo sauce to get the 1 1/2 tbsp. you need.
I like McCormick’s Ancho Chile Pepper for the dried spice-it-up kick. If you can’t find it, cayenne will do, but it won’t be as multidimensional, taste-wise.
As the “delivery device” for serving the Chipotle Chicken Salad, I used King’s Hawaiian Rolls this time, both jalapeño and regular-flavored, and of course the jalapeño ones went first – bring on the spice! The slider-sized sandwiches are just right for a hearty party like the football-watching event we attended.
Wheat Thins or water crackers are also a great delivery device, more appropriate for snacking or an appetizer for a cocktail party.
If you saw my post about Sandwich Wednesday, you know that the Grill-Meister is also a whiz at panini-making. We’re at our cabin in the Rocky Mountains right now, and panini are definitely on the menu.
First-night food when you’re traveling and have landed at your destination needs to be easy. Right? That’s why we settled on the Hearty Ham and Sharp Cheddar Paninis. We brought the last of the Christmas ham with us on our cross-country driving trip, and picked up some wonderfully spicy jalapeño-cheese bread on our requisite road-snack stop at the Czech Stop in West, Texas. (There’s an upcoming blog about the Czech Stop – it is legendary.) The Grill-Meister figured that sharp cheddar would compliment the bread and the ham perfectly, and he figured right. He’s smart that way.
This recipe is so easy it hardly needs to be typed out. I bet you could make it easily just from these directions: 4 slices of bread, enough ham for two sandwiches, sliced red onion, and a bit of sharp cheddar. Assemble, brush with olive oil or butter, and press on the panini press, or cook like a grilled cheese. That is all.
But I’ll be a little more prescriptive, just in case.
Ham and Sharp Cheddar Paninis on Jalapeno-Cheese Bread
Four thick slices of jalapeño-cheese bread, or other specialty bread of your choice; make sure the slices are of even thickness if you’re using a panini press
1/4 lb of sliced ham (we used spiral sliced ham leftover from holiday entertaining)
Enough sliced sharp cheddar for two sandwiches
Thinly sliced red onion
Olive oil or butter for
Heat the panini press to medium. Lay out the four slices of bread on a cutting board. Put a small amount of olive oil in a saucer or small dish, and then brush it on one side of each piece of bread, then turn over. Alternatively, put a thin spread of butter on one side of each piece, then turn over. Assemble the sandwiches:
Place a layer of cheddar on two slices of bread, reserving a small amount.
Top the cheddar with the ham.
Add the sliced red onion.
Top the ham and onion with a bit more cheddar. This will help the fillings “stick” to the top slice of bread and prevent the sandwich fillings from falling out.
Place the remaining two slices of bread atop the filling on each sandwich.
Put the sandwiches onto the panini press, close the lid and press gently. Cook until the filling is hot and the bread is golden brown. If you don’t have a panini press, cook the sandwiches like a grilled cheese, first on one side in a large, flat skillet, then on the other, pressing down slightly.
Voila! You have a tasty, main-course sandwich that only needs a salad or fruit. On our just-arrived-at-the-cabin-weary-from-traveling-day, we just had clementines on the side. It was just fine.