By Our Chef, Phillip Schaaf
Sandwiches are the quintessential handheld meal—perfect for a quick lunch, from a summer picnic to your kid's lunchbox.
A sandwich is as quick and easy as you want it to be, but it can also be an elaborate array of flavor and technique. Personally, I don’t think that there’s one component of a sandwich that is more important than the other. From the bread to the spread to the pickles or the jam—each has a place and a purpose. The best sandwiches are thought-out and layered with carefully chosen ingredients.
There are some classic sandwich building blueprints to work with. The PB & J, the Turkey Club, and—my personal favorite—the Ham & Cheese. I fell in love with ham and cheese sandwiches early on. My grandfather owned and operated a roadside restaurant in Grenada, MS, called Spencer’s Dairy Cream. He served the best hamburgers, milkshakes and hot ham & cheese sandwiches. And the ham & cheese was my go-to. Dripping with griddled butter and ham fat, all melty with cheddar cheese… I still dream about that sandwich.
The griddled hot ham and cheese doesn’t really travel well, but there are several ways to make a delicious sandwich that will. One that I love is a bit healthier, with some vegetable cream cheese made fresh in the home kitchen. There are just a few basic tips to getting this right. First, good bread is essential. Find a bakery that does it right. I love a good pretzel roll, and—because my family has been semi-obsessed with soft pretzels and cream cheese lately—the veggie cream cheese and ham will go great on the hearty pretzel bun. Pickles are optional, but the bright acidity of a pickle will cut through the sweet cream cheese and smoky, salty ham.
This sandwich can be slapped together in a matter of minutes. The vegetable cream cheese spread takes maybe 10 minutes to make and can store in the fridge for a week. It’s really good on everything, so it will probably only make it a few days before it is devoured.
What You'll Need
Veggie Cream Cheese Spread
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 scallions, chopped into pieces
1-2 sprigs fresh tarragon, or thyme
2 8oz packages of cream cheese
2 T olive oil
1 t kosher salt
1 t fresh cracked black pepper
1 T finely chopped chives
Prepare the vegetables, and then place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until fully mixed. Place in an airtight container and store for up to a week. This will make about 3 cups. The recipe can easily be scaled to make less.
Building a Proper Ham and Cheese Sandwich
1 pound Grass Roots smoked sliced ham
4 pretzel rolls, lightly toasted (or your preferred bread)
1/2 C veggie cream cheese
Sliced pickles, either spicy dill or bread and butter
1. Slice the rolls and toast the inside with a touch of oil or butter. Not too much or the roll will be greasy.
2. Smear each toasted side of the roll with a tablespoon of the veggie cream cheese.
3. Place 1/4 lb of the smoked ham on the bottom half of the bun and then place the pickles on the top.
4. Add some peppery arugula, or crunchy iceberg to give it more texture and flavor. Or leave it off if you’ve got a picky eater. The great thing about sandwiches is they are easily customized so that all the members of your family can be happy.