i have a riddle for you.
what is the best thing about a sandwich, and also the worst thing about a sandwich?
i’ll give you a few minutes to think about.
ok, i know you are impatient, so i’ll just tell you. the best and worst thing about a sandwich is that it exists between two (or more) pieces of bread. if the contents of the sandwich are soft and easily smashed, the sandwich becomes squishy (as is often the case with sandwiches containing avocado). if the contents are rough or crispy, they can rip or pierce the bread, and then you basically just end up eating bits and pieces of your sandwich off the plate with your bare hands.
if only there were a way to circumvent these problems…
and as if god knew that you were having issues with your sliding, squishy sandwich, the skies parted and down from the heavens descended a perfect, pure, white puff of cloud. and on the cloud was a grinder.
yes, the grinder. why not hollow out the bread? why not stuff anything you want into the cavity? i can’t think of any good reason. cheese, meat, veggies, and any kind of sauce you want. that doesn’t sound amazing and innovative and delicious at all, does it? well then, how about we bake it until the contents are melted and piping hot.
cue handel’s hallelujah chorus.
chopped chicken and spinach grinder
- one chicken breast
- french bread
- chicken stock
- three cloves of garlic
- half a small onion
- smoked cheese
- black pepper
- red pepper flake (optional)
- remove the skin and rinse the chicken breast with cold water. dry it off with a paper towel. put enough chicken stock to cover the meat in a pot and bring it to a boil. you can add whatever spices you like, but it doesn’t necessarily need any. i generally only add a little hot sauce and maybe some black pepper. cut the chicken into two or three large pieces, place it in the boiling stock. cover and bring the heat down as low as you can. let simmer until the chicken is done all the way through.
- hollow out the bread. this step can be a little difficult for some people. honestly, in my experience, any tool or special device you think is going to help you hollow out a french loaf will probably be of limited use. just use your hands. cut the loaf in half and slowly scrape out the soft part of the bread bit by bit. do everything you can not to break the crust of the french bread, because this is the key feature that is going to keep your hopelessly overfilled sandwich from becoming a royal mess. if you have giant hands like me, you might want to get a younger sibling or spouse or carnival employee to do this step for you.
- separate the leaves from the stems of your spinach. wash them with gently running cold water, and move them to a colander to drain off any remaining water. once dry, chop finely and add to a bowl.
- grate the cheese. i prefer a very fine, long grate, which means instead of a conventional cheese grater i tend to use a grater made for chocolate. finer strands of cheese mean a more even distribution inside the grinder, and because cheese is your main binding agent, your sandwich will hold together a lot better. add the grated cheese to the bowl with the spinach.
- peel your garlic and onion. slice both very thinly. make sure not to dice, because both onions and garlic can contribute not only flavor, but also excellent texture to a sandwich when done correctly. add some oil to a frying pan, and once the oil is hot enough, add in the slices of onion and garlic. saute them until the onion is transparent and a little limp and the garlic is browned. add to the mixing bowl.
- by now, your chicken should definitely be finished. take it out and chop it on a cutting board. notice i said chop, and not mince. chopped chicken, especially when chopped along the grain of the meat, is really succulent and super tasty. when chicken (especially boiled chicken) is minced, you end up losing all the juices on the cutting board. shreds of obliterated chicken will ruin the sandwich. cut it into chunks small enough that they fit inside the sandwich, and then stop worrying about it. add the chicken to the bowl.
- add black pepper and red pepper flake to the mixture, and then top it all off with a hearty portion of mayonnaise. fold the contents of the bowl repeatedly using a rubber scraper or a spoon. make sure not to be too rough with it or your sandwich fill will lose any texture.
- fill the sandwich. this can be a little tough to pull off. i advise spooning the contents into the opening, and then using a long slender object (such as a chopstick) to pack the spoonful down into the sandwich. this next bit is important. do not overfill the sandwich or it will bust open right now or in the oven later. all you can do is use your best judgement. the only advice i can give you is to fill the sandwich until it is reasonably firm to the touch.
- fire up the toaster (or convential) oven. once the oven is hot, place the sandwich on a baking tray or a doubled over piece of foil and bake, watching closely. another option is to wrap the whole thing tightly in foil, but this will result in a faster melt with less toasting of the bread. remember, you don’t need to cook the contents of the sandwich, you only need to melt them. ten or fifteen minutes should be plenty, and many times it won’t even require that. just make sure to turn on the oven light and intervene if anything looks like it is going seriously wrong.
- once finished, take the sandwich out of the oven and put it on the cutting board. you don’t have to cut each piece in half again, but it sure is good for presentation and might make it easier to eat for those of you with dainty hands and small mouths. if you do decide to cut it, make sure to use a very sharp knife and move in a careful and deliberate manner. if the knife is too dull and you just push down to cut the sandwich, the contents of your grinder will ooze out and you’ll defeat the purpose of making the whole thing.
- feed your own gob, or feed the gob of others. this isn’t a dainty meal. this is a big man feast. it is chock-full of calories and fat, but the practical upshot is that it is super delicious. also, keep in mind that you can wrap this beast in foil right out of the oven and it makes for pretty excellent picnic food. when it comes outdoor excursions, a spill-proof sandwich is the best kind of sandwich.
makes two enormous sandwiches (each sandwich is half of a french bread loaf)