Archive for the ‘ Lunch ’ Category


If you haven’t tried Vietnamese banh mi by now, you’ve been missing out on a truly remarkable sandwich. At once exotic, but at the same time decidedly familiar, these guys are unlike anything in the American lunchtime lineup.  No cheese or mustard here, just the perfect marriage of sour, salty and savory Vietnamese flavors on a sweet, light-as-air, French baguette all harmoniously coming together in one killer snack.

Topped with crunchy pickled carrots and daikon, cool sliced cucumber, aromatic cilantro and spicy chilies, a good banh mi is a melange of flavors and textures. Not unlike a BLT, banh mi are salty, crunchy and juicy with a nice counterpoint of warm meats. Packed with savory roast pork or my version with grilled five-spice chicken shown above, the real beauty of this sandwich is its variety of delicious proteins.  From grilled lemongrass beef or sardine, to the deli combo loaded with roast pork, mortadella and paté there are plenty of options out there to satisfy any hankering. Here in San Francisco, Saigon Sandwich on Larkin Street is home to some of the finest banh mi around.  At $3.50 apiece, I defy you to find a better quality, more filling sandwich for cheaper anywhere in the city.  This is the Asian sandwich.

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Like roast beef, I’ll sometime make meatloaf just for the sandwiches.  Funny, considering I wouldn’t touch them as a kid.  I’m not sure if it was a texture thing or the idea of eating a ‘loaf’ in between two pieces of bread that threw me off, but whatever it was, I made sure they never ended up in my lunch bag.  These days, however, leftover meatloaf is a godsend and something that rarely lasts more than a day in our fridge. You see, as good as meatloaf is straight from the oven, something magical seems to take place after an overnight rest in the cold.  Not only do the savory flavors concentrate, but the consistency of the loaf changes as well, firming up a bit for easy sandwich slicing.  Served warm or cold, a good meatloaf sandwich seems to hit all the right notes.  You don’t need a recipe for a meatloaf sandwich, just the inspiration to make one.

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Throw grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, and cilantro over a bowl of Stagg Chili and you have a satisfying bowl of chili.  Throw those same condiments over a warm bowl of this hearty lamb and chorizo chili, and you have an epic winter meal.  But I’ll warn you, this chili isn’t for the faint of heart.  This is some rich, earthy fare the likes of which are seldom explored by the typical American diner.  In my mind, I believe this is chili the way chili was always meant to taste.

Thick, heavily spiced and slightly gamey, this is cold weather, stick-to-your-ribs food at it best, making it not only great for the winter season, but also perfect Super Bowl grub if you’re looking to feed a group with a big appetite. I’d go so far as to call this real man food, if my girlfriend weren’t so quick to remind me that women love chili, too.

Garnishes are key here; they lighten the rich flavors while enhancing the chili’s meatiness, so set out a spread of shredded cheese, chopped onion, cilantro and sour cream and let your guests go nuts.

Continue reading lamb chili recipe . . .


Sloppy Joes

I didn’t eat many sloppy joes growing up. Maybe my parents ate one too many soggy renditions during their own childhood, but for whatever reason this was an item that was rarely seen on the dinner menu at my house.  It turns out that my lack of experience with these saucy, loose meat burgers puts me in a minority among friends who all recount fond memories of eating them on a near weekly basis. For me, sloppy joes have always represented your typical lunch counter fodder: a half simmering pot of reddish-brown mystery meat smashed between a sodden, dissolve-on-contact bun. For them, Mom cracking open a can of Manwich stood out as a true suppertime treat in a lineup of otherwise dismal home-cooked fare.

It wasn’t until I came across a recipe for this iconic American sandwich in a recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine that I decided to give sloppy joes another look.  As usual, it looked as though the editors had found a few ways to rid the dish of it’s usual shortcomings and breath new life into an old favorite.  So, with a pound of ground beef sitting in the freezer and few extra homemade buns lying around from my fried chicken sandwiches, I set out to see what I’d been missing all these years.

The results were nothing short of spectacular.  Robust and beefy with a pleasant brightness coming from the addition of tomato puree, these joes were unlike anything I’d tasted in the past.  Gone was the typical grainy, greasy texture, replaced with a consistency that was pleasantly thick, yet saucy enough to blend seamlessly with the tender, pillow-soft bun.

Now to convince my parents to give them a shot.

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Spicy Chicken Sandwich Vibrant

When it comes to fast food guilty pleasures, for me, a good spicy chicken sandwich ranks near the top.  Having eaten my fair share from just about every fast food chain out there while I was in high school, I consider myself to be a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to the crispy, neon-orange chicken pucks of the world.  I know, I know, that crap is not only horrible for you, but also made from ingredients we’d all rather not know about.  That’s precisely why I set out to recreate this drive-thru favorite at home.  Think of it as a slow food take on a fast food classic.

Made with organic, boneless-skinless breasts, a spicy buttermilk marinade and fiery Cajun seasoning blend, the flavor of this scratch-made rendition easily outranks that of its greasy, artificial cousin.  When combined with ripe tomato slices, crisp lettuce and creamy mayonnaise on a homemade sesame seed bun, you have a fried chicken sandwich good enough to get excited about without the guilt of processed, chain food.

It might not be the healthiest sandwich out there, but like mozzarella sticks, you’ll feel better knowing its homemade.

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