Sunday, October 30, 2011

Epic Sandwich Time!

Hi everyone,

I'm really excited about this post! This sandwich is delicious and making it was the fulfillment of a craving long-deferred. I first saw it on TV in late July/early August sitting at home in Texas with my mom. With steak, guacamole, melted cheese, refried beans, and good bread, it was love at first sight--I resolved to make it and eat it. Well, three months later, I made it, and golly was it good!

Being one of the more fancy, delicious, and longer dishes I've made thus far in terms of entrees, I decided to post it first before anything else. Excitingly, it's also delicious as a stand-alone steak.

This is Pati's picture first with its cutesy border:

This is my rendition:


Messy and hard to keep together as a sandwich, but totally delicious.

About two weeks ago I decided that the time was ripe for this Epic Gourmet Sandwich. My friend Axel had cooked me dinner a few weeks ago and it was my turn to cook for him. I also decided that my boyfriend might like an epic sandwich, seeing as how it is a universal truth that all men love sandwiches. I kid, though I've never met one who didn't! He got roped into being my sous-chef, as you will see below.

The recipe is as follows, straight from Pati's Mexican Table:


Makes 4 to 6 generous tortas or sandwiches of about 4" length

1 1/2 lbs flank steak
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/8 tsp black pepper
Pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil

4 teleras, bolillos, petite baguettes, or baguettes sliced into 3 to 4 inches and cut in half
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese, muenster or mild cheddar
1 cup gucamole (see below)
1 cup refried beans (store bought or homemade)

Marinate the flank steak with the soy sauce, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, rosemary and black pepper. You may marinate it anywhere from 1/2 hour to overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and sprinkle with salt when you are ready to cook it.

Preheat the grill pan or grill at medium-high heat. Once it is hot, place the meat and let it cook anywhere from 4 to 5 minutes per side, depending on how well done you want the meat. You can drizzle any extra marinade right over the top of the meat while it cooks. For medium, its closer to 4 minutes per side, for over medium, closer to 5 minutes per side. Remove the meat from the heat and place it on a cutting board. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, slightly covered. Thinly slice across the grain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the baguettes, teleras or bolillos in half lengthwise and place in a baking sheet. Spread about 3 tablespoons of refried beans on the bottom half of each bread. Cover with about 3 to 4 tablespoons shredded cheese. Place in the oven and let the bread crisp and the cheese melt, for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Top the pepitos with a generous amount of the thinly sliced meat and 3 to 4 tablespoons of the guacamole. Place the tops on top! Eat while hot.

Makes over a cup

2 ripe avocados, halved, pit removed, meat scooped out and mashed
3 scallions, about 2 tbsp, rinsed, tops removed, white and light green parts thinly sliced
2 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, optional
3 tbsp jalapeno or serrano chile, more or less to taste, minced (seeding is optional)
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
Salt to taste

Gently mix ingredients in a bowl or molcajete and serve. It can be prepared up to 12 hours in advance if covered and stored in the refrigerator.

The Making of an Epic Sandwich

I took a trip to the Shaw's in Porter Square for the necessary ingredients. Since I'm not in Texas anymore I did not expect to find bolillos or teleras, but I also couldn't picture this luscious sandwich on a narrow baguette. Shaw's had a great alternative in the ambiguously named "French bread" loaf which you see about a third of in the picture above. It was nice and soft on the inside and crisped really well on the outside.

The flank steak was an adventure. It was really expensive, $17.98/1.75 lbs. I asked the nice meat section specialist for anything cheaper, similar to flank steak, and he said, "Everyone asks me that when they come in and ask for flank steak and see the price. But if you want flank steak, there ain't nothing like it. It's top of the line. You pay for what you get." Ok. I bought the flank steak.

I also decided to purchased serrano peppers because I know they pack more heat than jalapenos, and went with Monterrey Jack cheese because mild cheddar is boring and muenster seemed less Mexican, hahah.

The one thing I forgot: refried beans. I couldn't believe it, but as my guests said, the beans would have been too much. It was a really dense sandwich.

I made the marinade about two hours in advance and put the steak in the fridge. Cleaning the meat was an experience, especially with dollar store kitchen knives. I've never had to clean such a nice piece of meat so I was worried about messing it up. Thankfully, it came out okay. When I was done it was probably 1.5 lbs, which was just enough for 3 very hungry people.

Me and the meat

I had my sous-chef help me out with the guacamole, since we discovered in NYC this summer that we make good guacamole together.

We followed the above recipe this time, though we added about 1/2 more of an avocado and less cilantro because I chopped it less finely than Pati would probably recommend. I only used two of the serranos (I left the seeds in because I like a big kick), a perfect amount when chopped this size:

Those are the scallions to the left, and the serranos in the middle. Bling optional.


Rock out with your guac out!(...?)

After the guacamole, I sliced the French bread in half horizontally and then cut it into thirds. I laid about five pairs on a baking pan (after preheating the oven to about 400 degrees because I'm not sure my oven really did 350 when it said 350) and covered them with chopped up strips of Monterrey Jack. I don't have a picture for it, but I left them there about 7-10 minutes while I seared the meat to get the cheese bubbly and golden and the crust hard and crispy. Side note: This is a great, delicious snack on its own. I call it...Cheese Bread.

Then it was time to sear the meat. I turned it up to medium-high heat and seared each side for about 4-5 minutes to get a medium rare-rare finish on the meat. I had to cut the steak in half due to the size of our frying pan, so one steak came out more rare than the other but we all thought it was okay.

Be sure your pan is HOT before you put the meat in, otherwise you won't get a nice char on the outside.

Be sure to let the meat rest for about 5 minutes before serving to preserve tenderness and moisture. Otherwise all the juices will bleed out and the meat will be dry. These are the lessons I learn from watching Chopped obsessively.

The steak at rest. It looks so peaceful.

Next, I pulled the bread and cheese thirds out of the oven. While waiting for the last half of steak to rest boys and I dipped extra hunks of bread into the guacamole and the marinade left in the frying pan. DELICIOUS. I was really impressed with the marinade. It makes a delicious steak on its own.

Finally, it was time to assemble the sandwiches. DIY guacamole, steak. I recommend cutting the steak a lot thinner than I do here, but it was tricky to do with cheap knives.

The final product:


It didn't stay together very long because I cut the steak a bit thick and the bread was a bit overlarge, but eating it with your hands somehow made it extra satisfying for me. If you try it out, let me know how it goes! Flank steak can easily be substituted for some other kind of meat, but avoid frying pan steak because it won't sufficiently absorb all the wonderful flavors of the marinade.

So there you have it, folks! That is how you make an Epic Sandwich. Or Epic Steak, because it's just such a delicious marinade and such a great cut of meat. I am also permanently indebted to Pati's Mexican Table for introducing this sandwich to me. God bless cooking shows.

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