When I was growing up, sandwiches were a simple matter: you get two slices of bread and fill it with some kind of meat or cheese, maybe add some lettuce and tomato and voila – there’s your supper. I always liked them heated, so I would often get a simple sandwich press and brown it over the stove until it was to my taste.
I recall going out to lanchonetes (lunch counters) in Sao Paulo and Fortaleza as a kid and ordering a ‘misto quente,” which was basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. I have no idea what kind of cheese they used back then, but it was gooey and delicious coupled with the crusty toasted buttered bread. Here in the US, I recall visiting with my grandparents in Florida (where they briefly owned a condo) – he would grill up some burgers and then serve them with bread, mustard and ketchup – nothing else. I also recall going to a place in Fortaleza called Jairo’s (sadly, they closed after more than thirty years in operation) to have what they called a “gostosinho,” which was simply ground beef served in Portuguese bread with lettuce, tomato and a dab of mayo.
It is no longer like that anymore. Nowadays, if I want to make a stop at say, Grey Dog’s (which reopened in Greenwich Village close to its original location on Carmine Street) it is go through a many that has all these eccentric combinations among their selection of “Michigan” sandwiches. Once you make a selection, then you need to choose what kind of bread you want it in – they have about five different options, from what I remember. The Subway chain is not that different, since they too have various choices of bread and cheese plus all the vegetables to pick from. Thanks to that, going out for a sandwich is now akin to having a gourmet meal – except of course the price is a tad more reasonable.
Do not get me wrong – I love being creative with sandwiches, and often come up with some sophisticated concoctions at home, going from black bean veggie burgers to Hawaiian fish sandwiches and other ideas I get from time to time. However, I do sometimes long for the simplicity of the old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich (the best I have ever had was at Hooters – and yes, I went there for the food) or a Philly Chicken – they make a great one at Charley’s subs in Penn Station.
Recipe: Classic Misto Quente
– 2 slices bread (whole wheat or white)
– 2 teaspoons butter
– 2 slices lean ham
– 2 slices mozzarella or Muenster cheese
1- Spread butter on the outside of bread slices and layer cheese and ham on one unbuttered slice. Cover with remaining slice of bread, butter on the outside, and add oregano to top if desired.
2- Use a sandwich maker or put in oven at 300 F until cheese and melted and bread is toasted. Enjoy.