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!

Filed Under → Words
Mar 7 11

Birthday Blog!

by Emily Benjamin

I celebrated my first overseas, away from home birthday on Monday, and although I didn’t do ‘much’, I had a truly fantastic day. Here’s how I spent it.

Woken by Monkey, he greeted me with the expected HAPPY BIRTHDAY, THE BENJ!  but fortunately didn’t sing to me, which was a relief. Breakfast  was upstairs at 9am and what was on the buffet? PORK RIBS! This was going to be a good day :)

At 10.30am I was greeted by staff offering me flowers, a big bunch just for me. I’ll admit I specifically chose our accommodation because they mentioned special birthday treatment – and they stayed true to their online promise. As well as the flowers, they are getting me a cake for the afternoon! Huzzah!

Before 11am, we set off for a Wonderful Package at SF Spa – which included a sauna/steam room, thai massage, hot body wrap, facial and foot treatment. The expected time was 4 hours for all of this, so the wonderful staff said ‘because you are with us for so long, we will get you some lunch.’  Woohoo! It was at about lunch time that we realised this 4 hour treatment was already 3 hours of the way through, and we still had at least 2 hours of treatments to go. Granted, they’d up-sold us to include a salt scrub as well (which was a-maz-ing, by the way!) so we were ok about the extra time. A facial and foot treatment to come after lunch, and to be honest, I was exhausted. The overall treatment time, including a 15minute break for lunch, was over 6 hours. SIX. HOURS. And I love special treatment, but my attention span was truly tested there. Yes, my skin is as soft as I’ve ever felt it, my feet are as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and I feel many months younger.  But there is only so much pampering a girl can take, especially when she has family skype dates to attend!

We made it back to the hotel at about 5.30pm and I rushed upstairs to get online for Skype. Dad and Lauren greeted me with balloons and ice-cream which was awesome, and even Benny made an appearance, albeit a brief one. Then I spoke to Mum, and quickly to Mak, and when we wished them goodnight it was time for our dinner.

Dinner was just what I needed. A 350gm rib fillet steak, medium, with a side of mashed potato with truffle oil, and green beans. A number of times during dinner I just couldn’t help myself, and would roll into fits of giddy laughter, overstimulated by the yummy intake of iron and carbs again. Yes, I’m a massive carnivore. I know it, everyone I know knows it, and I have no shame in admitting it! So, so good to eat a tender piece of steak after 3 weeks of chicken and pork dishes where they would use only about 50gm of meat each time. The steak was amazing. The mashed potato, epic. So creamy and perfect with the steak and beans. Oh and I should mention the entrees as well – Chicken Bastille with roast chicken cooked in pastry with paprika, tomato and some other vegies, and divine slow roasted blackberry duck with pumpkin gnocchi. All served with a bottle of Oyster Bay Pinot Noir. An amazing food fest – Happy birthday to me!

This took us all the way to 11pm, and we were knackered. It’s not every day that you spend only eating and relaxing, and the combination of the two was exhausting. I know, I know – you’re probably reading this at work, and hating me more every minute. BUT I have birthday immunity so don’t be mad! It was a lovely first birthday away from home (my 26th, unless you remove the few months of wrinkles erased from my face during the spa treatment!) and I felt perfectly spoiled the whole day, as anyone should.

But I’ve forgotten – my presents! I got some money from home, to put towards the steak and wine dinner, and a nice hotel for the night. I didn’t think I needed it, but it was so nice to have a comfy home base for 3 days, with good hot water, a soft bed and a mini bar, hehe. I’ll also get to replace my lost phone and perhaps get an iPod Shuffle or Nano to last me through the next 6 months. And finally, Jamie has treated me to a luxurious 2 night, 3 days cruise on Halong Bay, aboard the Halong Phoenix Cruiser. Oh. La. La!

Enough birthday jibberish, but I thought I would let everyone know the ideal way to spend a birthday overseas. Don’t be on transport, make your favourite things readily available, and try to spend it with either someone you love, or someone that keeps you distracted. I was lucky enough to spend it with my awesome boyfriend and best-boy-friend, Jamie Talbot, and he helped make it awesome. Twenty six doesn’t feel so painful, right now :)

– Em :)

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Filed Under → Words
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