Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Season 01

Episode 102: The Substantial Sandwich

This week’s show is about sandwiches. Everyone likes sandwiches, so why should they just be for lunch? A well-made sandwich is a thing of beauty, but many of us don’t think of it as dinner. I’d like to change that forever. The hearty sandwiches I’m making offer a lot of complexity – big flavors, tasty toppings and add-ons, a whole meal on a bun or between slices of bread.

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Tips, Tools and Ingredients

Tips. If you don’t want to invest in a Panini Machine, you can improvise your own machine by cooking your sandwiches in a heavy skillet (cast iron and/or a ridged grill pan would be a good choice) and pressing them down with another skillet topped by a brick (if you happen to have a brick kicking around) or a full kettle.

There are several things you can do to get more juice out of citrus. You can roll it on the counter while pressing down which sort of bruises it. Or you can pop it in a 300 F oven for about 10 minutes. Or you can put it in a microwave oven for 20 seconds. All of these tricks help to make the juice come out more easily. This is especially helpful with limes that don’t give up their juice easily (and if you are a fan of those fun Latin alcoholic drinks with lots of fresh lime juice this will streamline the drink-making process). Meanwhile, my colleague and buddy, Ming Tsai says that he thinks nuking citrus makes the juice taste cooked. I disagree but you can decide for yourself.

When I am flouring an ingredient, especially something small like clams, scallops, zucchini sticks, etc. I follow this procedure:
Line a pie plate with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, fill the parchment with seasoned flour (flour seasoned with salt and pepper to taste – I just add salt and pepper and then take a little taste to make sure it is properly seasoned) and then, working in batches, add the clams or scallops to the flour and coat them with flour by lifting up the sides of the parchment and tossing them around. Then I shake the clams in a sieve and cook them right away. If you flour an ingredient ahead of time and let it sit, it will sweat and become gummy.

You don’t need a deep fryer to fry at home (they take up too much space anyway). If you have a large DEEP saucepan you can use that. Fill it up with no more than 2 inches of oil (an oil with a high smoke point like peanut oil or they now make a high smoke point canola). Heat the oil to the appropriate temperature according to the recipe, which is usually around 365 F, using a deep fat thermometer to read the temperature. When the fat is hot, add a batch of the battered clams. Do not add too many or the temperature will drop significantly and the fat might bubble up too high. Do not drop the clams from a distance or the oil might spatter and hurt you. Transfer with a slotted spoon or spider (large strainer/spoon which is used a lot in Asian cooking) to paper towels to drain and salt while they are still hot. You can keep batches in a warm oven while you fry the remaining clams.

If you want to lighten up the meatball sandwich recipe by using ground turkey or pork that is fine but keep in mind that ground turkey and pork tend to be dry and tough because they are so lean. You can make the end result more moist and tender by adding some shredded napa cabbage and perhaps some diced red or green pepper to the meatball mix.

If you are substituting dry herbs for fresh herbs the general ratio is 1 to 3, so for every tablespoon (which is 3 teaspoons) of fresh herbs you will need 1 teaspoon dried. But whenever possible please try to use fresh herbs; they have a much fresher flavor.

Tools. The colorful Citrus Juicers that I use on the show are available from Broadway Panhandler. They come in three sizes – a large orange one for oranges, smaller yellow for lemons, and yep you guessed it, an even smaller one for limes. I find that the yellow one works fine for lemons and limes. Recently when we covered “gadgets for $20 or under” on GMA, I discovered a new Mexican-style citrus juicer which has two reamers (a yellow and a green) built into one.

The Double Skewers I use on the show, which are my favorites, were invented by my friend Elizabeth Karmel, who has a wonderful website called www.Girlsatthegrill.com She used to work for a company that manufactures grills and is my go to person about everything related to grilling. These double kabob skewers can be found at www.laprimashops.com. Go to the category “bbq/grilling essentials and click on “Grill Friends”

Discover your Food Processor Grating Disk. Almost every food processor comes with this attachment. I use it to grate all sorts of vegetables. Use it for carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, basically any root vegetable and you will find that they take no time at all to saute in a skillet with a little vegetable or olive oil. Heat the oil, add the grated vegetables and cook stirring, for about 3 minutes. A touch of lemon or lime juice, balsamic vinegar, toasted nuts, and/or fresh herbs, dresses them up a bit.

Ingredients. I am a fan of Low Fat Mayonnaise (not no fat, no fat = no flavor), because I prefer the lighter texture. My favorite brand happens to be Hellmann’s but whatever brand is your favorite check out their low fat version. Why not save a few calories? Sometimes I add a little fresh lemon juice to balance the sugar that you find in most commercial mayonnaise.

There are 2 main types of clams found in the Northeast, quahogs (pronounced ko-hogs) and soft shells. Quahogs are classified by size. Littlenecks are 1 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches across and you get about 7 to 10 per pound. They are tender and have a sweet taste. Cherrystones are 2 1/4 to 3 inches across and come 5 to 7 a pound. They are chewier than the littlenecks. The largest clams, are simply called quahogs or chowder clams and are chopped up and used for just that. Soft shells, also known as steamers, fryers, or long necks (after the black siphon that protrudes out of their shells) are usually steamed or shucked and turned into fried clams. They really should be called “thin shells,” because their shells are thinner, not really softer, than other clams.
I chose to use littlenecks for this recipe because they are easier to find than soft shells (or steamers.)

Greek Yogurt is much thicker in texture than your usual supermarket brand.
Many supermarkets (I know Whole Foods does) carry a Greek yogurt called FAGE and even the no fat version is delicious (alright I am contradicting myself, in this case no fat does have flavor). If you can’t find Greek yogurt you can simulate your own: purchase about 1/3 more regular yogurt than the amount of Greek yogurt called for in the recipe and allow it to drain in a coffee-filter-lined strainer in the refrigerator for about 4 hours or until it has reduced to the necessary amount. For example, drain 1 cup of regular yogurt to get 2/3 cup or 3 cups of regular yogurt to get 2 cups.

When you buy Ground Beef, I recommend getting ground meat from a specific muscle such as ground chuck, sirloin or round. I am not a fan of something called ground beef or just “hamburger” I like to know what muscle my meat came from. Of course the best solution is to grind your own. Many kitchen ware stores sell meat grinders. And the Kitchen Aid mixer has a meat grinding attachment which is very easy to use (who knows you might start making your own sausages?).


Thanks to

Sara's Weeknight Meals is produced by Silver Plume Productions and WETA Washington, DC, and distributed by American Public Television (APT) to public broadcasting stations nationwide. Corporate funding is provided by Best Buy, Gallo and King Arthur Flour. |