I found out that today is National Sandwich Day. Who knew we had a day dedicated to sandwiches? I love sandwiches. They’re the easiest thing to pack for lunch, they’re adorable cut into dainty little shapes for tea, and our family road trips just wouldn’t be the same without a cooler of sandwiches and drinks in the trunk of the car.
It’s commonly believed that the sandwich was the invention of John Montagu who was the 4th Earl of Sandwich in England. I can’t vouch for the truth of that, but the story goes that Lord Sandwich was a notorious gambler. They say he spent long hours at the gaming tables and rather than get up to eat, he would ask the servants to bring him some sliced meat between two pieces of bread so he could hold the food in one hand and keep his cards in the other. His friends embraced the custom and when they got hungry, they would ask for “the same as Sandwich” and that’s how the sandwich got its auspicious beginnings.
Anyway, in deference to National Sandwich Day, I decided to make Croque Monsieur for dinner tonight. Croque Monsieur is typical French bistro fare. Fancy as its name is, it’s basically just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce and more cheese. It’s delicious served all hot and melty with a glass of wine or an ice cold beer. If you top a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg, you’ll have what’s called a Croque Madame. But that’s for another post.
CROQUE MONSIEUR (Makes 6 sandwiches)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
12 slices firm white sandwich bread
room temperature butter for spreading on the bread slices
1 jar dijon mustard
6 ozs. thinly sliced Black Forest ham or Virginia ham
At work a couple of weeks ago, two of my friends and I were reminiscing about Spam. Verna is Hawaiian-Filipino and Kaileigh is Mexican-Filipino. Besides having Filipino blood in common, we all share a love of Spam. Anyway, Kaileigh was telling us about this really easy dish she makes called Chili con Spam and she shared her recipe with us.
Fast forward to today. School is officially over and 3 of my kids came home this morning. I decided to fix a late breakfast to feed everyone…. bacon, eggs, hash browns…. and then I thought it would be a perfect time to try the Chili con Spam recipe. I searched everywhere but couldn’t remember where I saved it! I decided to google it, but only ONE recipe for Chili con Spam came up. It was a recipe submitted by a lady in Guam named Jane Certeza who apparently took 2nd Place for it at The Great Spam Cook-Off Island Style. I looked at it but it had way more ingredients than I remembered Kaileigh’s recipe having so it couldn’t be the same one.
I decided to text Kaileigh and ask her for her recipe again which she promptly sent off to me. Ah…. that was the one I remembered! Super easy with just 4 ingredients. But then another obstacle came along. Kaileigh’s recipe called for yellow wax chilies which I didn’t have. Great. I didn’t want to drive all the way down the hill just for chilies and none of the kids did either. So with wails of, “But I just drove hours to get here, Mama. You want me to drive some more?!?” ringing in my ears, I turned back to the Guamanian recipe which I happened to have all the ingredients for in my pantry.
Guess I’ll have to save Kaileigh’s Chili con Spam for next time. Sigh……. By the way, the Guamanian Chili con Spam was a hit. Everyone loved it and it quickly disappeared.
CHILI CON SPAM
1 can (12 oz.) spam, cubed
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (15 oz.) stewed tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. cumin (I only used 1 Tbsp.)
dash of black pepper
1½ tsp. sugar
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
In skillet, fry spam until light brown on all sides.
Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions are softened.
Stir in stewed tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and sugar.
Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add tomato sauce and kidney beans.
Simmer over low heat for an additional 10 minutes or so.
Growing up, my Mom always made us Picadillo, but it was a soup. It had ground beef and potatoes swimming in a tasty broth and it was absolutely delicious. So the first time I went to a Cuban restaurant and saw Picadillo on the menu, I was very surprised to learn that their version was not a soup at all! It was completely different, but equally delicious. Served with white rice, black beans, tostones (fried plaintains) and mojo (garlic sauce), it was different and to die for. I asked a couple of my Cuban friends at work what spices go into Picadillo and was surprised to learn that both of them put cumin and cinnamon in it! Well, cumin wasn’t surprising, but I only ever use cinnamon in sweet stuff like pies and desserts. So… here’s my attempt to recreate the Picadillo I had at the Cuban restaurant. I think it turned out pretty darn good!
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 tsp. salt (add more or less, to your taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and cut in cubes
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced
2/3 cup raisins
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pan set over medium high heat.
Saute onions and garlic for about 2 minutes, then add ground beef.
Season with salt and pepper, and cook until beef is browned through.
Stir in green bell pepper, diced tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, and bay leaf.
Lower heat and let simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in olives and raisins and let simmer for another 8-10 minutes more.