Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ham Sandwich

The simplest things in life are the best. To wit, sitting outside on a Spring day listening to music, drinking beer and eating pork would be the ideal way to spend March 26th. If only there was a way to do so. Hint: there is.

Back to more pertinent matters. Let's dissect the ham sandwich. First off, this may be the number one sandwich worldwide. Think of the variations: banh mi, ham and cheese po-boy, prosciutto and mozzarella panini, the Cuban Cuban, the guy from The State who had Ham Sandwiches for feet, etc... Point being, ham owns the title to the sandwich throne, as it should.

The ham sandwich is also the only sandwich which is just as good hot as it is cold. And name for me another sandwich which tastes like lobster stuffed filet mignon topped with foie gras when out on the open water? Another plus about the ham sandwich is that it got a 5 in AP Calculus.

The lesson here as always is pork makes everything better. And you suck at math, but you knew that. So what makes a good ham sandwich? Well, for me there are three criteria.

1) Ham. Duh. Good, quality ham. Chisesi fills this role around here. But there ain't nothing wrong with a good quality prosciutto de Parma or jamon Iberico every now and then. Just avoid ham that comes in a large rectangle, and you will be fine.

2) Dairy. I like cheese on my ham sandwich. Specifically, something that melts fairly well. In a pinch, I'll take a thick slather of cold, salted butter. If absolutely stranded on a desert island, a generous shave of Parmesan will do.

3) Pickle. This may be the most important element. Ham is a salty beast and it needs the subtle combination of acidity, salt, and sweet that a pickle brings. Now it need not be a dill pickle per se. For instance, I bought a jar of these pickled sport peppers a few months ago and have since become addicted to them. I de-stem them, remove the seeds and finely chop them. Then sprinkle this all over the sandwich. A ham and cheese sandwich without the pickle is a complete disaster.

Mayo, mustard, bread, etc... those all matter sure, but not enough to be taken serious enough to waste an article on. If I had to pick one ham sandwich for all of eternity to eat, I'd take a Cuban please with a a ham and cheddar on Bunny bread in the middle.

What is your favorite ham sandwich?

10 comments:

Chris said...

My grandparents are from Croatia and they live in New York City, so they always have prosciutto di parma, a good cheese like Piave, and nice, crusty italian bread. Perfect sandwich by itself, but they also make a salad with tomatoes, shaved onions, and cucumbers in red wine vinegar, so adding that and a little whole grain mustard to the sandwich is great. Taste of my childhood!

Celeste said...

Jambon de Bayonne & brie, on a baguette; or griddled Chisesi w/cheddar on Leidenheimer; or salty country ham on a biscuit...

Donnie Boy Riguez said...

The White Trash institution has always been ham and mayo on Bunny Bread. Generations of White Trash have thrived on this culinary marvel. I myself ate this combination daily for lunch from 2nd to 4th grade at Edward Hynes Elementary on Harrison Ave. Also, this meal is incomplete without chips. Personally, nothing makes a better White Trash Combo than Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Pontchartrain Pete said...

You forgot the old saying that "a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich." So the ham sandwich is versatile enough to play the victim card as well.

My fave ham sandwich is a specific one. Back in the day, I was helping someone renovate a Marigny shotgun. Now this was ages ago, before the Marigny was discovered. I don't remember which grocery it was, but we went to the corner store for lunch. You didn't order a po-boy, you bought a loaf of Leidenheimer's and they'd slice and sell you as much ham as you wanted from the meat case; same with cheese (I got Swiss). There was a self-serve table with some big jars of Blue Plate and Zatarain's Creole mustard and some knives to slice your bread.

I think it cost about a buck fifty, and after a morning of hard work busting plaster and hanging sheetrock, it was the best ham and cheese sandwich I've ever had in my life.

corinne said...

Back home in Rhode Island, there's a deli that titles all it's sandwiches. When it was Jim's Deli it was called the Honey Combo. But they sold the business, reopened as J's Deli, and now they call it The Stock Broker. Honey Ham & Honey Turkey sliced super thin with lettuce and plenty of Honey Mustard on a grinder roll. (aka, the New England equivalent to a po-boy roll - every region has their food slang!)

Double Chin said...

A well put together Croque Madame with creamy mornay sauce is about as good as it gets.

You can call me Madame Browne all day, as long as I have my grip on one of those sandwiches.

Awren said...

In the citeh, I've been increasingly partial to St. James' Brie de Meaux sammich.

Seriously, if you check my Foursquare, you'll find that I've been at St. James far too much lately for someone who has ceased to work out...

frog said...

I was not a fan of Chisesi ham until I tried their VIP ham. It changed my world view.

RBPoBoy said...

Go to Rome and have the guy working the counter at any one of the small pizza rustica shops in the Trastevere neighborhood cut you two rectangles of pizza rustica con prosciutto (size: "due etti" each) from the huge slab of thick pizza in front of him. Have him heat them up in the large open oven behind him ("scaldo per favore") Put one, face down, on top of the other. Go eat it sitting on the steps of the fountain in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere admiring the 12th century mosaics of the Blessed Virgin and Child on the campanile of the Basilica. Best ham sandwich ever IMHO.

Sometimes he will have "prosciutto con funghi". Also recommended.

Technically, this qualifies as "take out" and therefore would be an uncivilized abomination to a certain local food critic.

Eileen said...

The croque monsieur at Tartine is amazing !