I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. My encounter with Zinc Café’s open-faced artichoke sandwich the Saturday before last lingered in my mind like a persistent asthmatic cough. I became obsessed with the notion of recreating the inventive sandwich -- visualizing the process in my head in much the same way that I used to mentally prepare for a cross-country or track race. This Saturday am, I knew the time of reckoning was upon me. It would be the day I attempted greatness.
Or at the very least, my version of greatness.
The facts are these: One slice of sourdough is spread with cauliflower puree, and topped with braised asparagus, melted white cheddar cheese, a poached egg, and bread crumbs. Sounds simple enough, right?
Perhaps it would be if I had any of the aforementioned ingredients on hand. (Or had any idea how to poach an egg.) As I started collecting my asparagus from Trader Joe’s ($3.99 a package), and extra large organic eggs ($2.99 for six), block of white cheddar cheese ($4.60), head of cauliflower (99 cents/lb), and sweet sprouted bread ($4.69/loaf) from Whole Foods on Saturday morning, I began to feel a bit apprehensive about the effort (and expense). While I knew I would most likely use up the common food stuffs throughout the coming week, I felt a bit foolish loading my fridge up for merely two weekend lunches.
"What am I doing?" I thought as a pleasant young man rung up my groceries. I was half tempted to return it all and pick up some of my favorite cranberry tuna salad instead, but the mental image of the sandwich strutted in front of my visual cortex once again. My mouth moistened at the sight of the luscious egg and tender asparagus.
With my stomach (and debit card) leading the way, I charged on.
While the process of both shopping and executing the various stages of the recipe were time consuming, as soon as I placed the sandwich on my white square plate, I knew it was worth the stack of dishes I had to clean up later. I eagerly took pictures of the hot sammy, pausing to capture every angle, curve and sensuous layer.
"Brilliant!" I cried out. "That's it! Work it, work it, baby, work it!"
If I were Paris Hilton, I might even degrade myself to say, "It was hot." (Which it was since it had just come out of the oven.)
It was also really good. Craveably good. Smack my thigh and pat my belly good. Or at least it would have been if my roommate and her boyfriend hadn't been present for the unveiling.
Open-Faced Asparagus Sandwich
(inspired by version at Zinc Cafe)
1 slice bread of choice (preferably a thicker slice that can stand up to the ingredients)
6 spears of asparagus
White cheddar cheese
Bread crumbs (Grate a slice of stale/dry bread into fine crumbs. Toast in oven at 350 until light brown. Keep a close eye on them -- they only take a few minutes, which I discovered when I burned my first batch!)
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup shallots, minced
Pepper, salt (to taste)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss shallots with olive oil, pepper and roast in oven until tender. Meanwhile, steam cauliflower florets until soft. Combine shallots and cauliflower in sauce pan with chicken broth, pepper and salt. Mash cauliflower with a fork, and then cover and simmer together for 10 minutes. Puree ingredients in a blender or using a hand-held immersion blender. Set aside.
2. Turn temperature of oven up to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus spears with olive oil, pepper and salt, and roast in oven until tender (approx. 15 minutes). (Can do this step simultaneously with shallot roasting.)
3. Lightly toast bread. Top with ample cauliflower puree, the asparagus spears and cheddar cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake or broil until the cheese has melted.
4. While the sandwich is heating, use a nonstick pan to fry (or poach) the egg for the top. When egg is ready, remove the sandwich from the oven, place the egg on the top, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
5. Take pictures -- a sandwich this pretty demands to be shared with the world! (Or at the very least, the handful of people who are sweet enough to care about what it is you ate for lunch this weekend.)