Strange IndiaStrange India

I recently had one of those lunch conundrums where I only had tumbleweeds rolling through my fridge, and a few mismatched condiments. I didn’t have the means to make an egg sandwich, but I did have the awkward remains of a cheese board—jams, nuts, cheese, mustard. I admit, I had my doubts, but taking a risk sometimes pays off. I present to you: the cheese board sandwich.

It was a cold sharp cheddar and blackberry jam sandwich that enlightened me. (Sure, I was beside myself with hunger, but it was truly damn good.) Distinctly different from a grilled cheese sandwich, this one had only cold or room temperature components. The cheddar was tangy, salty, and robust, and the jam was sweet, earthy, and mellow. With a spongy ciabatta holding it all together, each giant bite I took was better than the last. 

I was initially surprised at the combination, and then realized, oh, of course—any combination that you would eat in small bites on a cheese board is going to absolutely rock in large portions as a whole sandwich. What is a cheese board anyway, but a selection of ingredients that combine to make the perfect, most flavorful, most texturally appealing mouthful? Instead of daintily balancing each offering on a tiny, weakling cracker, I say, cram it all between two big slices of bread.

A good sandwich only requires a balance of flavors

The combinations are only limited by your choice of cheese board accessories. Like a cracker, your sandwich bread is a vehicle for any flavorsome bites you can fit on top—cheese, jams, tapenades, honey, or mustard. Add slices of fruit, fresh or dry, along with nuts, pickles, or olives. 

I toasted up a couple slices of ciabatta, but you can use a baguette, bagel, or regular old soft wheat slices. Now it’s time for the most difficult and most liberating part: pairing flavors. Think about combining two or three parts of the five flavors: salty, acidic, bitter, sweet, and umami. Try slices of salty parmesan with sliced sweet pears and candied pecans in your sandwich. How about a swipe of black olive tapenade with ripe figs and manchego? Layer slabs of blue cheese with toasted walnuts and dried apricots on a roll and drizzle it all with honey. 

Upon first glance, you might not have the most perfectly matched meal in your fridge, but don’t give up. I bet you can make a great sandwich with components that make no sense on paper. When you think about it, the cheese board sandwich makes perfect sense. And yet, there are a lot of notions restricting what makes a sandwich a sandwich. Does it need meat? Does it require cheese or lettuce? Are nuts allowed? It seems folly to look for limitations. If it makes a good nibble on a cracker, then it’ll make a fantastic meal between two slices of bread.

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