The Guardian has recently been parasitizing working hours from offices across the land by initiating a discussion about the best sandwich in the world. Suggestions ranged from the pretentious (Toulouse sausage with Dijonnaise and butterhead lettuce on home-made 50/50 white/wholemeal with poppy, sunflower and linseeds) to the frankly obscene (prawn cocktail crisps and salad cream). Some people even went for my favourite, the hot lampredotto (tripe) rolls sold from stalls in Florence.
The columnist Tim Hayward’s own suggestion - and the excuse for the article - was shooters sandwich. Less a sandwich, more a picnic in a loaf, it looked so bloody delicious I had to give it a go.
The concept is basically beef Wellington in a loaf of bread. Mushrooms and shallots, sandwiched between steaks, all stuffed into a loaf and pressed so it doesn’t fall apart. The flavour options chiefly come in the frying of the mushrooms/shallots. Tim Hayward sautéed his in butter and bone marrow. I used a little olive oil, then added truffle butter and put some lardo di collonata in the pan also. This, in case you haven’t been introduced, is salty, herbed, cured fat – like the fat from parma ham but without the meat. Then a splish of brandy.
I fried the steaks a little under the medium advised (in my defence, I was a bit pissed). For bread, I got a pain de campagne from Flour Power in Borough Market, but any crusty round bread would do. Cut the top off, pull all the middle out and reserve for anything that requires breadcrumbs – I’m going to make smoked trout fishcakes tonight.
Next, line the bottom of the loaf with a steak, spoon the mushroom/shallot mixture in, pressing down to fill the spaces, and top with the other steak. Now I decided the lot would be much improved with the addition of blue cheese, so I sliced some stilton and layered it on the bread below the first steak, and on top of the second. This, as it turned out, was A Good Idea.
The Guardian instructions would have you believe that you should wrap the finished article in greaseproof paper and string, then foil. I had no such paper, or string, so went straight to the foil stage and it worked just fine. Thus, including the foil, it’s a 5-ingredient sandwich (bread, steak, mushrooms, shallots, foil) which makes it an appealingly convenient proposition.
When all the fat and protein are snugly fitted in, put a board (or hefty French food encylopedia) on top and weight down with whatever's handy. Leave for 6 hours min, or pref overnight. No need to refridgerate. Slice like a cake.
And boy oh boy is this sandwich ever delicious. The flavours mingle like a dream, the juices soaking into the bread, which still maintains structural integrity so it acts like a cold pie crust. The blue cheese adds a pungent gaminess to the mix, but you could easily leave it out if that’s not your thing. It’s superbly rich – from the cheese but also, perhaps, the butter and – let’s face it – the cured ham fat. The marvel is, that it’s also portable – you can imagine bringing this on a shoot, or for a picnic in the park.
Best of all, it makes a whole loaf’s worth. Half of this, with salad, provided two hearty meals for me and Mr DDD. The rest will do for work lunches. And there’s nothing more tremendously comforting than knowing there’s such brilliant snacking fodder in the fridge.
Hello gout, my old friend …