How to brown bag in style

The Prince George Citizen - - Worklife - Becky KRYSTAL

The great­est thing since sliced bread.

We’ve all heard and prob­a­bly used the fa­mous adage, and as trans­for­ma­tive as that in­no­va­tion was, to me it leaves out half (at least) of the equa­tion – that is, every­thing that goes be­tween those slices.

Yes, I’m talk­ing about the sand­wich. With­out the fill­ing, all you have with sliced bread is... thin­ner bread.

There are about as many rea­sons to love sand­wiches as there are ways to make them. They’re por­ta­ble and you can eat them with your hands. They’re fast, easy and cheap to make. Oh, and they’re fun!

That’s where these recipes come in. If your fa­mil­iar brown-bag sand­wich has left you feel­ing kind of blue, fear not. We took five classic lunch sand­wiches and gave them a boost. These up­dates won’t make them un­rec­og­niz­able or twee, but they will make them taste fresh, flavour­ful and spe­cial.

But first, a few sand­wich best prac­tices:

• Don’t over­stuff. Sure, you can put any­thing in a sand­wich. That doesn’t mean you should put every­thing in a sand­wich. Be­ing ju­di­cious with your fill­ing means you can fo­cus on a few qual­ity in­gre­di­ents. Plus, the sand­wich will stand a chance of ac­tu­ally hold­ing to­gether.

• In­cor­po­rate fla­vors in high­im­pact, low-vol­ume ways. There are plenty of strate­gies for amp­ing up fla­vor with­out mak­ing your sand­wich heftier. Whip up a fla­vored mayo (call it an aioli, if you like) by doc­tor­ing it with Sriracha, chipo­tle pep­pers, cit­rus zest and more. In­cor­po­rate a spice blend into yo­gurt. Repur­pose ba­con fat for toast­ing bread. You might be sur­prised how cre­ative - and thrifty - you can be.

• Aim for a mix of tex­tures. It’s just as im­por­tant as the right bal­ance of fla­vors. Choose el­e­ments across a few cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing creamy, crunchy, crispy, saucy and soft.

• Pro­tect the bread. In­su­late the bread when us­ing wet fill­ings, or at least wait to as­sem­ble un­til you’re ready to eat. Some­thing fatty (but­ter, mayo) or a slice of cheese can do the trick. So does toast­ing the sides of the bread that will face the in­side of the sand­wich. This also gives your teeth some­thing soft to sink into first.

• Pro­tect the sand­wich. Why go through the ef­fort of mak­ing a sand­wich only to pull it out of your bag smashed? Do your­self a favour and pack your home­made beauty in a hard-sided con­tainer or sturdy lunch bag. If you re­ally want to be ex­tra, wrap it in parch­ment or wax paper first.

Ready to as­sem­ble? Great. Try one of my cus­tom cre­ations and then start putting to­gether some of your own.

Sriracha Mayo BLT

Here’s a sand­wich where it doesn’t pay to go too far off script. Good ba­con, good to­ma­toes and good mayo, tweaked ever so slightly for ex­tra fla­vor im­pact, turn this diner sta­ple into a desk lunch worth sa­vor­ing.

In­gre­di­ents

2 slices white bread

2 slices cooked thick-cut ba­con, drip­pings re­served

1 ta­ble­spoon may­on­naise 1 tea­spoon Sriracha

2 to 3 slices ripe to­mato, sprin­kled with salt

2 to 3 leaves green leaf let­tuce

Steps

Brush one side of each slice of bread (some­thing sturdy such as coun­try or hearty white) with the ba­con drip­pings. Toast the greased side for a few min­utes, ei­ther in a skil­let or un­der the broiler set on high, un­til golden brown. In a small bowl, mix to­gether the

mayo and Sriracha. Spread half the Sriracha mayo on each of the toasted bread sides, then as­sem­ble the ba­con, to­mato and let­tuce be­tween the slices of bread.

Vari­a­tions: Peach in­stead of, or in ad­di­tion to, to­mato. Leave the Sriracha out of the mayo. Try a dif­fer­ent kind of let­tuce – classic ice­berg and but­ter are both good.

Rasp­berry PB&J

A peanut but­ter and jelly is so easy to make and so easy to mess up. I wanted to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to turn it too fancy and pre­cious, but a few sim­ple up­grades gave me a sat­is­fy­ing, well-bal­anced sand­wich I wish I’d had packed in my school lunch bag.

In­gre­di­ents

2 to 3 ta­ble­spoons crunchy nat­u­ral peanut but­ter

2 slices whole-wheat bread 2 ta­ble­spoons rasp­berry jam or pre­serves

2 to 3 thick (about 1/4 inch) slices tart ap­ple

Steps

Di­vide the peanut but­ter be­tween the slices of bread. Spread the rasp­berry jam on top of one of the peanut but­ter lay­ers. Place the ap­ple slices on top of the jam, fol­lowed by the other slice of bread.

Vari­a­tions: Use fig pre­serves. Try a dif­fer­ent crunchy nut but­ter. Make it a club with an­other slice of bread and more fill­ing.

Spicy, smoky turkey

Chipo­tle mayo and smoked turkey will re­mind you of the out­doors even if you are eat­ing it at your desk. An­other bor­ing turkey sand­wich? Never again with this zesty num­ber.

In­gre­di­ents

1 chipo­tle in adobo, drained and minced

3 ta­ble­spoons may­on­naise 2 slices sour­dough bread

1 slice pep­per jack cheese 4 ounces smoked turkey Hand­ful baby spinach leaves

Steps

In a small bowl, com­bine the chipo­tle and may­on­naise. You’ll need about a third of it (or as much as you want) for this sand­wich; the rest will keep in the fridge for a few days. Spread half of the re­served mayo on one side of each slice of bread. As­sem­ble the cheese, turkey and spinach be­tween the slices of bread.

Vari­a­tions: De­crease the chipo­tle or leave it out of the mayo. Swap in Mon­terey jack, or any deli sliced cheese, for the pep­per jack. This would also be good on a kaiser roll.

Dill pickle egg salad

I pre­fer a mus­tard-based salad over a mayo-based one, so I pulled in­spi­ra­tion from my potato salad recipe. The eggs worked great in lieu of potatoes, with the dill, pick­les and rye bread com­ing to­gether for a very punchy sand­wich.

In­gre­di­ents

1/4 cup ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1 ta­ble­spoon brine from a jar of cor­ni­chons, gherkins or other small pick­les, plus more as needed

1 1/2 tea­spoons white or red wine vine­gar, plus more as needed

1/2 tea­spoon mus­tard, such as Di­jon

1 ta­ble­spoon honey, plus more as needed

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pep­per 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced 3 cor­ni­chons, gherkins or other small pick­les, finely chopped 2 tea­spoons minced fresh dill 2 slices rye bread Hand­ful mixed baby let­tuces

Steps

Com­bine the oil, pickle brine, vine­gar, mus­tard and honey in a mini food pro­ces­sor or lid­ded jar you can shake. Sea­son lightly with salt and pep­per. Process, or seal and shake, to form a creamy vi­nai­grette. This should take a minute or less. Taste and add more brine, vine­gar or honey, as needed.

Com­bine the egg, cor­ni­chons and dill in a medium bowl. Add 2 ta­ble­spoons of the dress­ing. Tuck the egg salad into the bread in be­tween two thin lay­ers of let­tuce.

Dou­ble mango curry chicken

A dou­ble dose of mango – fresh and chut­ney – goes into this aro­matic salad. My ver­sion is based on a yo­gurt dress­ing rem­i­nis­cent of a tan­doori mari­nade. There’s no need to cook a chicken un­less you want to, be­cause this is the per­fect use for a store-bought rotisserie bird.

This recipe scales up eas­ily if you want to make enough chicken salad for a few days.

NOTE: Toast the al­monds in a small dry skil­let over medium heat, toss­ing fre­quently, un­til fra­grant, three to five min­utes.

In­gre­di­ents

3 ta­ble­spoons whole milk Greek yo­gurt

1/2 tea­spoon curry pow­der

1 ta­ble­spoon olive oil Squeeze fresh lemon juice Pinch kosher salt

Pinch su­gar

3 to 4 ounces cooked chicken, torn into 1- to 2-inch pieces

1 ta­ble­spoon chunky mango chut­ney, such as Ma­jor Grey’s

1 ta­ble­spoon toasted sliv­ered al­monds

2 ta­ble­spoons diced mango

2 or 3 leaves but­ter let­tuce 2 slices chal­lah

Steps

In a medium bowl, whisk to­gether yo­gurt, curry pow­der, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and su­gar. Stir in the chicken, chut­ney, al­monds and diced mango.

Pile the chicken salad on top of the let­tuce in be­tween the slices of chal­lah.

Vari­a­tions: Use cu­cum­ber in­stead of mango. Opt for an­other kind of nut.

Change the fla­vor pro­file with a dif­fer­ent spice blend. Try in a wrap or pita.

WASH­ING­TON POST PHO­TOS

Bring style to week­day, brown bag lunches with the Sriracha Mayo BLT, top right, a crunchy Rasp­berry PB&J, mid­dle right, a spicy, smoky turkey sand­wich, right, a dou­ble mango curry chicken salad sand­wich, above, or a dill and pickle egg salad sand­wich.

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