Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pressed sandwiches

I take sandwiches pretty seriously as a general rule. It's hard to think of a more versatile (dare I say - perfect?)  food.

In fact, the only troublesome aspect of sandwiches is the difficulty of making them ahead of time, for a crowd. The bread either gets soggy or dries out, or sometimes, in miraculous defiance of all laws of nature, does both. Lettuce gets limp. You start thinking about the bad sandwich experiences you've had (bologna on cheap bread with iceberg lettuce, slightly squashed, sitting in a lunch bag all day). You get sad. You decide to make a giant bowl of pasta salad instead.

Enter the pressed sandwich. A few carefully chosen ingredients are slapped together on an entire loaf of sturdy bread. You wrap it lovingly in wax paper, stash it in the fridge and leave it alone. When the time comes, you can slice it directly through the wax paper and start serving. It is, quite possibly, the most perfect picnic food.

pressed sandwich - prep
{pressed sandwich - prep}

I first saw the idea on Martha Stewart, and you can read the detailed instructions here, although I never ended up making that exact sandwich so I can't speak for it. Instead, I have a very basic formula that I use when considering new creations. You can serve 5 - 6 very hungry people or get 12 daintier servings (which is what we did for the shower).

Large, wide loaf of good quality rustic bread, about 12 ounces (I use ciabatta, most of the time)
~ 3/4 cup sauce of some sort
~ 5 - 8 ounces of cheese
~ 1 - 2 cups main ingredient(s) - usually roasted veggies or grilled meat

:: Slice the bread in half, lengthwise. Spread sauce evenly over top and bottom halves. Layer the cheese on one or both halves. Arrange your main ingredient(s) over the cheese. Press both halves together. Wrap tightly in wax paper and tie with twine. Stick it in the fridge for at least two hours, preferably weighted down a bit (I'll usually put it under a cutting board with some jars on it). I usually do it a full day ahead, but that's mostly for convenience.

Note - if you're using anything that comes stored in water, like fresh mozzarella or roasted peppers, you'll want to let it drain on a dishtowel for a bit and then thoroughly blot it dry, to avoid adding extra water to the sandwich.

DSC_0051
{pressed sandwich - mozzarella, prosciutto, basil, sundried tomato pesto}

My favorite variation consists entirely of ready made selections from Trader Joe's. TJ's ciabatta bread, one container of the sundried tomato pesto (in the refrigerated section, near the cheese, usually), one jar of roasted red bell peppers and some fresh mozzarella or sliced provolone. A bit of prosciutto is a nice variation if it doesn't need to be veggie friendly.

For the baby shower, I also did a meaty option - ciabatta, bbq sauce, Gouda, caramelized red onions, sliced, cooked chicken breast and applewood smoked bacon. Yum.

baby shower - food
{pressed sandwich - smaller servings}

25 comments:

  1. that looks way better than the egg salad sandwiches served at the last baby shower i went to.

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  2. yum, this looks great. i think i've seen jamie oliver do something similar too, it's a good idea.

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  3. what an amazing idea. i want to have a picnic so i have an excuse to try this!

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  4. gooood lord... that looks amazing!

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  5. i now know what i'll be packing for our dinners at shakespeare in the park this year. fine, fine work as always, rachel!

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  6. oh, i totally didn't expect this - i always think of pressed as being warm. what a great idea. i will have to try it.

    i'm totally a sandwich girl too - always trying new things. my all time favorite though is a good old fashioned cubano.

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  7. yum, rachel, that looks so good! i have a fear of soggy sandwiches, so i always stick to paninis (press in the morning & re-toast in the toaster oven at work). but this is a good alternative! thanks :]

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  8. you made me these for my 25th birthday and i still remember exactly how they taste. pure perfection. x

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  9. Yumm! Way better than a soggy bologna sandwich :)

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  10. those look tasty and pretty enough to break my paleo diet! i'm not a big sandwich person actually, but those look perfect!

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  11. I just discovered this blog and these sandwiches look delicious! Thanks so much for posting this!

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  12. sweet idea for summer picnicking -- thanks!

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  13. Wow, what a great idea! I wish I was hosting something so I had a reason to use this idea. xD

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  14. That sounds like the best invention ever. I am so making one.

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  15. This may be my favorite post!!!! I am gonna make these over the summer at one point :)

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  16. I love picnic sandwiches! It's a long standing tradition in my family to make mile-long, hoagie-style sandwiches and take them on picnics, like something from a Yogi bear cartoon. We call them sando's. I like salami ones. Yours look delicious!

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  18. These are perfect for party niblets and picnics now that picnic weather has finally arrived in my neck of the woods. Just like panini sandwiches from Italy which always taste so yummy and fresh even from the grubbiest places. Thanks for this post you always have such great ideas.

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  19. Great post. Perfect for showers or parties. I was thinking of doing this with chicken salad. Hav eyou tried that?

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  20. I've always wanted to try this! I'm glad it was such a success!!

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  21. I get so bored with sandwiches, but this looks worth the time and effort- pretty, and soo delicous!

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