Saturday, February 5, 2011

How to: Make a Cheese Sandwich

Making a cheese sandwich is something that is incredibly simple yet so many people manage to do wrong, or at least manage to do consistently in a way which never quite allows them to experience the full measure of this gastronomic delight's possibilities. Here's a foolproof guide to getting the most out of your


  • Cheese:
    This should ideally be a nice, strong, mature farmhouse cheddar, but it really is up to your personal preferences in conjunction with your spirit of adventure. For a really special treat, use Brie. Honestly. You will thank me.
  • Pickle:
    Pickle, chutney, whatever you want to call it: a jar of lumpy brown vegetable chunks in some kind of vinegary sauce is what's required here. The chunkier the better; none of that spreadable rubbish.
  • Bread:
    Again, down to personal taste, but if it's ready sliced and doesn't have any nuts or seeds in it, then I really don't know why you're bothering.
  1. Break the seal on your bread's package.
    Ideally, your loaf should still be warm from the bakery, which means you can inhale some heady goodness. It's all part of the process. If by some extraordinary lack of foresight I have underestimated you and you've just baked your own loaf then please allow me to prostrate myself at your feet.
  2. Slice your bread.
    As mentioned before, if you use pre-sliced bread you're really doing it wrong. You should be using the kind of loaf that almost has more seeds and nuts in it than it has actual bread, and the crust should be covered in poppy seeds that fall off everywhere. Remember to cut it on a chopping board and to keep the bits that fall off- you'll need these later.
    Your slices should be pretty thick. If it's a nice, fresh loaf then a good general rule to follow is that the finished sandwich should stand a chance of being about as thick as your own head. If in any doubt, simply cut the loaf into half, and then each half in half again.
  3. Prepare your cheese.
    Whichever cheese you use it should not, under any circumstances, be grated, especially if you're using Brie. Grating cheese introduces another utensil, and one that is an absolute cow to wash up. Remember that when cooking anything, the prime directive is to create as little washing up as possible.
    Cheese should be sliced. Moreover, cheese should be sliced using the bluntest knife you can find, thereby adding justification to a greater thickness of the individual slices.
  4. Arrange your sandwich. This must be done in stages as outlined below:
    a) Lie your bread slices on top of each other to make sure they fit. Open the currently empty sandwich like a book and place the slice designated 'lid' to one side so that you know its required orientation upon placement. Your bread can be buttered at this point, although it is not absolutely necessary.
    ii) Arrange your cheese slices on the slice of bread that you have designated 'base'. This should be done such that no bread is visible amongst the cheese - overlapping the slices is a good way to achieve this - and such that the cheese reaches all the way to the four corners of the slice. It is important to note that the arrangement should be functional and in no way aesthetically pleasing: you're making this to please the belly, not the eye, and any unnecessary prettiness may hamper the eating process.
    c) Apply the pickle. This should cover all of the cheese to a depth that can only be described as 'liberal'. A useful maxim for this stage is "there is not enough pickle on this sandwich."
    iv) Collect all of the nutty, seedy goodness that fell off the bread while you were cutting it in step 2. Sprinkle onto your sandwich as assembled so far. If your droppings appear a little meagre for your tastes, then remember that there is likely to be a considerable amount of nutty goodness hanging around in the bread's packaging. Add this to your haul before sprinklage commences.
  5. Place the lid slice on top of the sandwich, making sure that it is adequately aligned. When you're happy with its placement, press down firmly but not excessively with the palm of your hand.
  6. Eat as your preferences and conscience dictate.

Important notes
  • Do NOT cut the sandwich. This wastes time, increases mess and potentially loses bits of the sandwich. Also, a large part of the satisfaction of a really well-made sandwich resides in its weight and size. Eating a sandwich in sections reduces the impact of these aspects.
  • You may serve the sandwich on a plate, although to do so would be to potentially violate the prime directive of food preparation. A more sensible alternative would be to present the sandwich on the chopping board upon which it was prepared. This has the added bonus (and potential excuse) that it looks nicely rustic.