My tastebuds were dancing. They were truly ecstatic after eating this sandwich.
Now, we all know tastebuds enjoy cheap thrills from time to time. They get worked up over the easy highs of fat and sugar. This sandwich isn't a brownie or a french fry. But it's got layers of flavor that remind your tastebuds that despite many seemingly satisfying meals, they are rarely stimulated like this.
With the one-year anniversary of the publication of The Flavor Bible upon us, I thought carefully about arranging this sandwich as such. Cheese and apples are a classic combination. (Cherry Street Artisan in Columbia had a nice brie and apple panini.) The port salut cheese I had in the fridge is slightly milder than brie, but it would do. Prosciutto was a logical addition, providing some salt and that cured flavor I can't describe. Back to the apples, I'd been wanting to make apple fennel slaw with lemon juice as a side dish for a while, but I decided the sweet and sour flavors would be perfect for the sandwich.
Think about this with me for a minute: Fresh French bread with a firm crust and pillowy inside. Warm soft cheese and extra thin slices of salty cured ham. The crisp bite of green apple with a lemon tang that gives way to the faint anise sweetness. And I don't know much of anything about pairing wine with a dish, but I will say that a few sips of chardonnay put this whole thing over the edge for me.
Dancing tastebuds. That's all I can say.
Prosciutto, Cheese, Apple and Fennel Sandwich
Not from any specific recipe, simply inspired several things I've eaten, seen or read about
- French baguette
- Prosciutto or thinly sliced quality salami
- Port salut or brie cheese
- Large green apple
- Fennel bulb (I didn't have a
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whole bulb, just the top stalks and fronds. That was enough flavor-wise, but the sandwich could benefit from the crunch of fennel bulb slices. See this version from Bitchin Camero.)
- Juice from 1/2 a small lemon
Cut the apple into 1/4-inch thick slices. Toss with lemon juice and fennel fronds in small bowl (feel free to add slices of the bulb or stalks if you haven't already used the bulb in vegetable soup with chimichurri).
Cut port salut cheese into 1/4 inch slices. This next step is maybe a little silly, but it was effective. I put the slices of cheese in a small pan over high heat until they just started to melt on each side, then quickly transferred them to the bread. (Brie is a softer cheese, but it has a rind and my port salut didn't. You can warm the brie on a dish in the oven, then spread it easily on the baguette.)
Layer cheese, ham and apple mixture on bread, and enjoy as a sandwich.