Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy Labor Day Weekend

Unbelievably, tomorrow is Labor Day which means summer is coming to a close.

Admittedly, I feel bittersweet about the end of summer this year. This summer was busier than I expected and with everything going on, I got into a bit of a funk and feel like I never really gave it my best shot. I didn't eat enough tomatoes, it was far too hot to garden, and I spent a lot of time indoors rather than out. Okay, I'm from the North so to me summers are for outdoor activities but everyone I know in the South says that's crazy talk and summers are spent indoors which is understandable when it's in the 90's and near 100% humidity every single day but I miss long hikes and lazy afternoons near a lake.

However, life is not all bad. I'm really looking forward to cooler weather (no surprise there) as well as sweaters, autumn produce, Halloween, and caramel themed desserts like this, this, and this. Further, fall has always been a favorite time of year for me because I think it's the most exciting fashion season of them all. I think Vogue agrees with me, given that the September issue generally weighs as much as Kate Moss and is chock full of the most beautiful spreads. I even love to pore over the ads. Don't even get me started on the knitting patterns that will be coming out as I may just swoon and forget that we're talking about summer! The fireflies haven't closed their nightly show for the year just yet!

Since this weekend is the perfect excuse to squeeze in a picnic, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite sandwiches of all time. This is the sandwich I instantly think of when I'm planning a picnic and it's no secret that I like to picnic often. It's even the sandwich we toted along on the picnic over which I promised Jared my hand in marriage (I told you I love picnics). What I love most about this sandwich is that not only are the main ingredients are either easy to come by or I already have them in my pantry but that it really takes substitutions well. No ciabatta to be found at you grocer? No problem; any toasted, crusty loaf would be delicious. No pancetta? I've used bacon in its place many, many times.

The dressing is what really makes the sandwich sing so substituting other things for what you have on hand or what is more pleasing to your palate is easy. The only thing I wouldn't do is skip the anchovy paste. I know, I know: I don't like fish, anchovies smell, etc. But trust me, you won't taste them as fish, but rather as a salty, savory note. Plus, the paste saves forever and has tons of extra uses once you get over the anchovy "yuck factor" (and believe me, it was definitely a food that took me some courage to try but now I use them all the time). Finally, this beauty travels well and can serve six if you have lots of extras to go with it or two if you count on extra sandwiches for lunch the next day. So now you have no excuses: pack one of these along on an outing and celebrate the last weekend of summer in style!

Caesar Club Sandwich
Originally Published in Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten.

Note: I have made many substitutions in this recipe but I'll give you my top two and just encourage you to be adventurous. First, I almost always have bacon on hand but I generally just buy pancetta for a special occasion so feel free to substitute there. Obviously, a better bacon will give you a better result but you don't need artisinal bacon to have a delicious sandwich! Second, my fiancee doesn't love arugula, so I have used baby spinach and romaine lettuce instead both of which work equally well and aren't as bitter as the arugula Ina calls for.

Makes 1 Giant Sandwich, easily sliced into 4 sandwiches or 6

2 split chicken breasts
4 oz thinly sliced pancetta (or bacon)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large ciabatta bread
2 ounces baby arugula (or spinach, or romaine)
12 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2-3 oz. Parmesan, shaved


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Places chicken skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.
3. Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steal blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate dressing if not using immediately.)
4. Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the arugula on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cute into desired size. Serve at room temperature.

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