Jun 26 11

The Ultimate Steak Sandwich

by Emily Benjamin

Just like the ingredients in my potato bake, I am sure making of the ultimate steak sandwich is a contentious issue. Some of you might favour the gourmet steak sandwich, served with caramelised onions on a toasted ciabatta. Others might dig the Coffee Club special, served on thick toast with red lettuce. But for me, it’s a simple, soft and tender delight, with very little effort required.

Firstly, ditch the toast. I mean it – toasted bread for a steak sandwich, or any sandwich for that matter, and you’re doing it wrong. Toast is uncomfortable to hold, has poor absorption qualities for the condiments, and breaks into pieces when you bite into it. Instead choose soft thick bread slices, or if you’ll allow in this instance, a soft bread roll. Doesn’t matter the size, although we’ll come back to that when we get to the steak itself. Bread should be 70% soft at an absolute minimum. Any toasting, if required, should only be done to the inside of the bread. Soft on top with maybe a little toasting inside. Got that? Good. Let’s get some fillers.

Obviously, you need a steak! And this is probably the point that stops me from ordering steak sandwiches more often. You never really know what you’re going to get. Will it be a thick cut, still-bloody steak, that consumes all the other flavours of the burger? Or will it be a cheap, well-done, stringy, fatty mess that tears apart the whole sandwich as you try to bite through the grizzle. Neither! The steak should be thin, but not over cooked. It should still have a little pink in it, so if it’s a thin slice be careful not to cook it too long. It should be tender and stringy-fat free – the worst thing you want is to take a bite and have the whole steak slide out of the sandwich and drop onto your plate, because you couldn’t bite through the grizzle. Then you get all messy putting it back together – tsk tsk. So it’s simple – a thin, tender, medium size steak, preferably in a similar shape and size to your bread of choice. Maybe buy the steak first and find bread to match! Whatever you do, you want to avoid having a steak that is too small for the bread. Just think of how disappointed you’ll be when you get to the last bite of your awesome sandwich, only to discover the steak finished and only salad between the bread. What a let down.

Now we’ve got the bread and steak sorted, there are three more areas to consider. They are:

– salad/fillers

– condiments

– side dishes

Salad and fillers should include the following; cheese, lettuce, tomato. Although they’re not always necessary, and without careful inclusion they will overfill the sandwich, I will also allow onion, avocado, egg and bacon. But nothing else. No fancy sprouts or shoots, pickles, capsicum – none of that. Keep it simple – sliced cheese, ripe tomato and iceberg lettuce. But even these three can go all wrong if they’re not ordered correctly. Here is the only way to lay it all together;

Bread – condiment 1 – Steak – Cheese – Tomato – Lettuce – condiment 2 – Bread

Steak, then cheese, then tomato, then lettuce. Not the other way around, or in a different order. I’ll explain the reasons. Firstly, the cheese should be next to the meat. The warm steak will melt the cheese – heaven. But you don’t want the cheese flavour being next to a condiment so they stick to opposite sides of the steak. Then tomato, next to cheese and lettuce, but away from the bread. We’ve all opened our lunch boxes at school at some stage, to find soggy, wet bread because the tomato had juiced all over it. Thanks, Mum. Gross. Keep the tomato in the middle, and you’ll be ok. Lettuce is next to last because, well, it should be. Got it? Good.

Now condiments. Tomato sauce, mayonnaise, mustard and BBQ sauce are the options. If you’re thinking the word ‘chutney’ right now you can forget it – I said nothing fancy. I personally don’t like BBQ sauce, but I know some people that can’t live without it, so I won’t weigh in on that one. Tomato sauce and mayonnaise work well together, as do mustard and tomato sauce. You probably shouldn’t use all three because you’ll over saturate your soft bread and have a soggy sandwich. Not cool. Consider your ingredients as well – mustard tastes great, but not if you’ve put avocado on the sandwich. But avo and mayo go well, so maybe thats an option. Just pick two, and spread one to each piece of bread. Easy.

Finally, side dishes. Depending on the size of your sandwich, you may not need any. But if you do, hot chips can’t really be beaten. Maybe wedges, but you won’t eat very many and no one ever serves enough sour cream and sweet chilli sauce to go with them. Also, wedges are very filling, which might leave you with stomach aches after your epic steak sandwich as well. So either no side, or some chips. With sauce, of course.

There you have it – the recipe for a perfect steak sandwich. Inspired by a delicious steak sandwich I just had here in Rio de Janeiro, made almost exactly as I would make my own. Melted cheese, tender steak and soft bread that was mopping up all the juicy awesomeness. Mm mm, a proper steak sandwich can’t be beat!

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