Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers Lesson 65 – A Chef’s Sandwich

So in the last class I taught you how to make incredible egg salads. I can only imagine all the inventive spins you added! All the talk about egg salad sandwiches got me thinking about what I and the other chefs I know love to eat after a long night of cooking. What is it? A sandwich. But not just any sandwich, a chef’s sandwich. A chef’s sandwich is loaded with flavor, is extremely satisfying and goes well with an ice cold beer.

I actually start thinking about my sandwich as I’m driving home from the restaurant. Over the years I have had to modify my sandwich because as I got older, I could no longer go right to bed after eating a thousand calorie sandwich! So my latest creation is just as delicious, but much healthier. I will teach you how to make my version of a chef’s sandwich in this class.

Before I get into the actual recipe, I want to talk about a component of this sandwich, roasted red peppers. Of course you can buy them jarred in your supermarket or from the salad bar, but trust me when I tell you, neither compares to ones you roast at home. When you make them at home they are sweeter and smokier because both the jarred and salad bar types have been put into a salt/citric acid solution to preserve them. Plus when you make them yourself you can make a variety of yellow, orange and red. The method is very simple and you can make a big batch and store them in a jar or Tupperware in your fridge.

The first step is to put your oven rack in the top position and then set your oven broiler to high. I chose the oven method instead of gas flame or grill because everyone has an oven, but not everyone has a grill or a gas oven. Now, place the peppers on a foil lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler, once one side is blackened, use tongs to turn the peppers. Continue cooking and turning until pepper is blackened on all sides. Next remove from the oven and immediately place in a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers sit in the bowl at least ten minutes. This steams the pepper and allows for easy skin removal. After ten minutes, take the peppers and remove the seeds and skin. Finally, pat dry with paper towel.

Okay, now that you have the peppers, let’s get cooking!

This recipe will make two sandwiches. You will need: four slices of rye bread, two veggie burgers, two large slices of roasted red pepper, one large avocado, one large tomato, ½ a shallot finely minced, ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise, one tablespoon ketchup, one tablespoon finely chopped sweet pickles, four slices smoked provolone, spray oil, salt, pepper, large sauté pan, knife, medium bowl and a spatula.

First thing to do is to cook the veggie burger to package directions and set it aside. Of course you can make a couple of hamburgers if you would like, but I really like the health benefit and flavor of using a veggie burger.

Next in a medium bowl combine the mayonnaise, pickles, shallot and ketchup. Mix well and set aside. Now thinly slice the tomato into six slices and salt and pepper. Remember, you season every element of your dish that is what creates delicious. The next step is to slice the avocado into six slices. Squeeze lemon over it and again, salt and pepper. Set both of these aside.

Can you guess what you are doing? You are building a mise en place for your sandwich. This means that when you are ready to build your delicious sandwich everything is right at hand and ready to go.

Now that you have your mise en place, you are ready to assemble the sandwich. Remember, how you build a sandwich is very important. When a sandwich is assembled properly, the bread keeps it integrity, nothing slides out as you bite it and all the flavors hit your palate. So, first thing to do is lay out the four slices of rye bread.

Generously spread the mayonnaise mixtures on both the top and bottom of the sandwich. Next, lay out the smoked provolone, one slice to each piece of bread. Place the cooked veggie burger on the top of the cheese. Top each veggie burger with three slices of tomato and three slices of avocado. Next top the tomato and avocado with the roasted red pepper slices. Now place the remaining pieces of bread on top of the veggie burgers and veggies. Next take the large sauté pan and spray with oil. Place it over medium heat and put both sandwiches into the pan. Cook about three minutes on each side until the bread is toasted and the cheese has started to melt. Remove from pan and enjoy with an ice cold beer.

I hope you try my version of a chef’s sandwich, but I really hope you come up with your own chef’s sandwich! There are no rules, just remember that you always want to balance flavors; Sweet and salty, acidic and creamy, etc. Also, don’t neglect the importance of mouth feel. You want a nice chew to the bread, creaminess from a spread or cheese and a little crunch. Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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Chef Ivan Flowers

Chef Flowers has over 25 years of fine cuisine experience. The former Executive Chef at Top of The Market, San Diego, also owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.