Saturday, May 13, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #91 - Farm Fresh Double-Decker Homemade Jobber

Sandwich #91: Bacon, American cheese, farm fresh chicken eggs, red pepper spread, Bay's multi-grain English Muffin
Location: The Laboratory
Date: May 9, 2017


I had no intention of reporting on any research from the lab but the invisible forces that control the sandwich universe had other ideas. In other words, somebody gave me some eggs. This came hot on the heels of Sandwiches #89 and #90 which were developed based on hot tips given to me by various lovers of sandwiches. Together, we are advancing the sandwich arts and for this we should all be proud.

A longtime reader, and provider of Sandwich #6, has moved to the country and is the keeper of a brood of hens. He contacted me the other day to see if I wanted some eggs for an upcoming sandwich review. (This somewhat answers a question that has been bothering me - what do those chicken people do with all those fucking eggs?) I accepted those eggs, naturally, and here we are.
Fresh from the farm. I knew right away I was going to cook up that green martian egg.
I felt that if I was going to go back into the lab and poop out another review of a homemade sandwich I needed an angle besides "farm fresh eggs". All I came up with was making a double-decker which would use up two eggs and two slices of American cheese. Admittedly, this is a rather weak excuse for denying you people a review of a real sandwich from a real restaurant. Controller of the Sandwich Universe don't care about your feelings right now. So here we are. 

The Sandwich - Usinger's bacon, American cheese, farm fresh chicken eggs, red pepper spread, Bay's multi-grain English Muffin. First, I want to point out that these eggs came from actual farm chickens, not some of those punk-ass city chickens that live on Jennifer Street and have a Bernie 2016 sticker on their coop. I was sure this would affect the flavor. (It did not.) I succeeded in cooking the eggs over medium so there would be plenty of yolky ooze. I did not use the Mason jar lid cooking method. The blueprint for this sandwich was simple: toasted muffin base, egg, slice of cheese, bacon, egg, slice of cheese, toasted muffin top with red pepper spread. I thought the eggs were just right and when I cut it in half on the cutting board I had my proof. Luckily I was able to easily transfer all that yolk over to my plate.

Fear not - the cheese did melt some more.

Double your eggs, double your yolk.

The Result - It was delicious but maybe just a little too much. American cheese is tasty and it melts beautifully but two slices paired with the eggs was a little thick on the tongue. The red pepper spread was added in the hope that it would help combat this but it wasn't enough. This sandwich could have used something vinegary to help break it down - pickle slices or giardiniera would have been good. I had plenty of yolk to mop up with the muffin and that was wonderful. I only went with a single layer of bacon so this whole thing wouldn't get entirely out of control. I think that was a wise choice. 

And that is that. I would like to promise you a review of a sandwich from a local establishment but I'm afraid it is out of my hands. I have resigned myself to play whatever cards the Sandwich Gods deal me. If you want to read a review of a sandwich from a restaurant I suggest you pray that the winds guide me there. Pray hard. Pray like a motherfucker. If you want to read reviews of homemade sandwiches (you don't), suggest a fresh angle or come over to my house and slaughter a hog and we'll make some fresh pork belly breakfast sandwiches. The neighbors won't like that but maybe we can make them a sandwich. They're nice people. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Breakfast Sandwiches #89 & #90 - Hot Tips aka I Swear This Isn't A Cooking Blog

Sandwich #89: Nueske's ham, smoked gouda, chicken egg, Cholula original hot sauce, Bay's multi-grain English Muffin
Location: The Laboratory
Date: April 24, 2017

Sandwich #90: Nueske's ham, American cheese, chicken egg, Cholula green pepper hot sauce, Bay's multi-grain English Muffin
Location: The Laboratory
Date: April 25, 2017

I've been getting a lot of hot tips lately on the sandwich front and I appreciate all of them. The first was regarding Bay's Multi-Grain English Muffins. I'm already a fan of Bay's but I hadn't tried the multi-grain so I knew I had to get on that. Then I heard that my local neighborhood market had Nueske's ham on sale for about half of the normal cost. (If you aren't familiar with Nueske's ham and bacon I'm not sure what you're doing here and it makes me feel a little bit like I've failed you). After that I stumbled across info on cooking an egg in a Mason jar lid to give it that fast food puck-like appearance. I knew I had to try that. Finally, I learned of the newest addition to the Cholula hot sauce family (and they are like family to me), the green pepper variety. Specifically, it was mentioned that the green pepper sauce is great on eggs.

On top of all that I cleaned my toaster oven on Sunday. After a trip to the grocery store(s), some time in the lab was clearly in order.

Although this is most definitely not a cooking blog the majority of the info that follows pertains more to cooking than simply enjoying delicious sandwiches. If that idea enrages you (which would be understandable) then it's best that you leave now or just skip ahead to the photos.

Let's talk about cooking those eggs. The larger, wide mouth jar lids are about the same diameter as an English Muffin and are clearly the right choice for this. The first time I tried it I didn't use enough cooking spray and I overcooked the egg a bit. This resulted in egg bits getting stuck to the edges of the lid. You can see these egg edge bits in the photo of #89 below, I peeled some off and plopped them on the ham. They look a little sad. I also waited too long before flipping the egg - I was waiting for the egg whites to set up before I flipped it and as a result the bottom was overcooked a bit. You can also see this in photos of #89 below. The egg is somewhat covered with Cholula original hot sauce but it's apparent that it is a touch overdone, at least for my tastes. I cooked the other side only for a minute or so but the yolk was mostly cooked through. Not bad, but not my intention.

When cooking the egg for #90 I used a lot more cooking spray, focusing on the edges of the jar lid. I flipped it when the whites were mostly set up. I used tongs on the edges of the jar lid and had a spatula ready to try to contain the egg should it try to escape. It held in the lid well but I flipped it a little aggressively and the yolk took a beating. You can see in photos of #90 below that I had broken the yolk as soon as I cracked the egg. They don't call me The Incompetent Chef (TM) for nothing. As with the last egg, I only cooked it on this side for a minute or so.

Aside from the broken yolk, egg #90 turned out much better than #89. You can see there is still some runny yolk. Overall I'm in favor of the jar lid cooking method. I'm not sure how often I'll do it but it makes for a beautifully stacked sandwich. Just look at those photos of #90 and tell me this research wasn't worth it. Even #89 looked good with the top on.

#89 Egg. My first attempt at cooking an egg in a jar lid. I have to admit I was a little bit excited about this.

#89. Egg bits that stuck to the jar lid evident in upper right.

#89. The top hides my egg flaws. That gouda melted nicely.

#89. The egg wasn't totally cooked through, but almost. 

#90 Egg. I broke the yolk right out of the gate.

#90. That turned out much better.

#90. Just look at it. LOOK! AT! IT!

#90. You can't beat Kraft American Singles for that gooey cheese effect. 
The Sandwich - Breakfast Sandwich #89. Nueske's ham, smoked gouda, chicken egg, Cholula original hot sauce, Bay's multi-grain English Muffin. I was worried that the smoked gouda would be too much with that delicious smokey Nueske's ham flavor. My concerns were unfounded, it blended nicely and had a good melt to it. As noted the egg was a bit overcooked. I like the multi-grain English Muffins, they have a slight nutty flavor to them and give the impression that perhaps this sandwich might be somewhat healthy.

The Sandwich - Breakfast Sandwich #90. Nueske's ham, American cheese, chicken egg, Cholula green pepper hot sauce, Bay's multi-grain English Muffin. The real goal here was to do a better job of cooking the egg. Mission Accomplished. However, I didn't want to make the same sandwich again, so I picked up some Kraft Singles and a bottle of the green Cholula. Those slices of American cheese melt so well and add a wonderful viscosity to a sandwich. They may not exactly be cheese but you can't beat the functionality and that salty flavor. They taste like a happy childhood. The green Cholula is also a winner - it has a bit more of a tangy, raw bite than the Original. I'll probably keep both on hand from here on out.

Results - These were damn fine sandwiches. That's all I have to say. This was an unprecedented amount of work in the lab for a Monday and Tuesday morning but the results speak for themselves.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #88 - Field Table aka I'm Flying Blind Here

Sandwich: Breakfast Sandwich
Location: Field Table
Date: April 15, 2017
Cost: $8

I received a hot tip that the facebook page for Field Table mentioned the first outdoor Farmers Market of the season and that they would have grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches. As luck would have it I had to drive through the downtown area in the morning and I had been wanting to get to Field Table for several months. I'm the kind of person that will only go to the Dane County Farmers' Market if I can be out the door by 8:00 am at the latest. Any later than that and I can't deal with the slack-jawed hordes of shuffling gapers. Having my progress impeded by puzzled people staring in wonderment at a pile of arugula sends me into fits of rage. I have accepted this and therefore my trips to the market are limited. It's better for everyone this way.

The written menu above the counter listed breakfast sandwich, but no details. They may have had a printed menu with more info but I didn't see it and I didn't ask for it. I'm not much of a journalist but I'm pretty good at eating.

At the counter they said they had to check with the kitchen to see if they had breakfast sandwiches as they sometimes only have them for brunch. Not surprisingly, at least for me, the news from the kitchen was that they were offering breakfast sandwiches and I ordered one to go.
I don't even know why I ordered it to go and then it came in a plastic container and I felt like a terrible person for having wasted petroleum products to make a container and I knew I was going to eat it right then and there. 

I was quite taken by those black and white sesame seeds.  

I didn't have a proper plate, or knife, so instead of the standard cross section shot you get a "first bite" shot.

The Sandwich - Breakfast Sandwich. As I said above, there was no description in sight so I didn't know what I was getting. What I got was bacon, a perfectly cooked egg and romaine lettuce on that sesame seed bun. The bun was fantastic, light but able to keep everything together. I swear I thought the black sesame seeds added a touch of earthy flavor but I looked it up just now and it seems that most people think the flavor difference is subtle at best. So, I'm probably full of shit about being able to taste the black sesame seeds, but the sesame seed flavor overall was a great addition to this sandwich. There was no cheese on this as far as I could tell. I thought there was some extra viscosity, besides the runny yolk of the egg, but I don't think it was cheese. Perhaps an aioli? If there was cheese it was sparse and light and melted right into the egg. The bacon was a little overly crisped for my tastes, it got a bit crumbly. I mentioned the chicken egg, which was perfect for me, leaving a bit of yolk in the container that I mopped up with the last of the bun. Romaine lettuce was a nice, healthy addition. 

The Result - 3.85 Mystery Sandwiches out of 5 Mystery Sandwiches. This was a good sandwich but the bacon was a bit overdone and I would have liked a bit of cheese (or more cheese). I think a sharp white cheddar would have really been something on this. I haven't been complaining about sandwich costs much lately but I think $8 is a little steep for this. I get it though, rent on the Capitol Square is not cheap. Also, I don't know kind of coffee they serve but it was excellent. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #87 - Back In The Lab With Bacon & Pimento Cheese

Sandwich: Bacon, Pimento Cheese, Avocado, Chicken Egg, Red Pepper Spread, English Muffin
Location: The Lab
Date: April 11, 2017

At the risk of appearing as though I'm padding my stats, I'm reviewing another creation from the lab. Let it be known that I have made and eaten several breakfast sandwiches in the past weeks that I did NOT include here. Those were fine sandwiches but this particular sandwich merits inclusion due to the pimento cheese.

If you follow golf at all you know that The Masters Golf Tournament took place this past weekend. You probably don't care about golf but you may care to know that The Masters is famous for the pimento cheese sandwich they sell at the tournament. A few years ago I found a recipe and have been making it ever since. I searched for the recipe today and there are several versions online, all of which are probably tasty. Southern Living, some Chef Guy, and a weird Golf Unfiltered web site are just a few of the places that can tell you how to make pimento cheese. Take your pick. They are all a little different and likely not the real Augusta National recipe.

Anyway, I made pimento cheese and rather than put it on crappy white bread I picked up a nice baguette from Batch Bakehouse and took it to a party. As I was mixing the cheese I thought that it would probably be good on a breakfast sandwich and I knew there would be some leftover, so, here we are.

There is a lot to like here.

Ohhhhhhhhh BABY!

OK, so I overcooked the egg a little bit.
The Sandwich - Bacon, Pimento Cheese, Avocado, Chicken Egg, Red Pepper Spread, English Muffin. Specifically, Usinger's bacon, Roland Red Pepper Spread and Thomas' Light Multi-Grain English Muffin. The real bonus of using pimento cheese is that it melts so nicely and gets into every nook and cranny of your sandwich, and thus, your tastebuds. The recipe I use has pepper jack cheese in it so it has a slight kick. What else can I say about this sandwich? Look at it. It was beautiful. It was tasty. It should have been put in a museum but instead it went into my belly and I have no regrets. Wait, I do regret overcooking the egg a bit, there was scant yolk-ooze. 

The Result - Delicious. Just go make some pimento cheese. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Guest Review - Ugly Apple Cafe aka A Former Colleague Ate A Sandwich

At the beginning of 2016 one of the goals I set is to have more guest reviewers. I've done little to foment this idea but still like the concept of other voices and taste buds offering their opinions. 

My initial concept of the guest review was to have sandwich eaters join me in breakfast excursions so we could volley witty and insightful comments about bacon and such and then distill them into cohesive reviews on this page. 

That isn't what happened here. 

This review arrived unsolicited and is for a food cart that I had not heard of. The author is a friend and former colleague so while I did not join him on this sandwich mission, I do have some knowledge of his tastes and expectations. 

It would seem that my occasional remarks about guest reviews do not fall on deaf ears (eyeballs?).

Colin said he wrote this as a way to dip his toes into the exciting and mystical world of a food blogger but I think he really just wanted to escape the drudgery of the day to day office life. 

The use of the word "ugly" as a way of branding your merchandise or services always seems like a dubious ploy, at best. Certainly there are exceptions to this premise. For every Coyote Ugly Saloon or Bumping Uglies, there is an Ugly Kid Joe [Did you know they are still an active band? - Ed.] or Ugly Christmas Sweater, which is an entire industry that caters to the twee concept that "ugly" sweaters are hilarious and ironic. They are neither. 

This raises an interesting point, though: Who is it that determines what constitutes ugly? It was Shakespeare who said "Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye, Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues" which seems like a fancy way of saying one man's trash is another man's treasure. On the whole, however, I think we can all agree that consumers tend to avoid products or services which evoke unpleasantness. One such place you, dear reader, need not avoid entirely, despite the name, is the Ugly Apple Cafe, though you might want to sample something other than the breakfast sandwich.

Curiously, the Ugly Apple Cafe is neither ugly nor a cafe.  In fact, the Ugly Apple Cafe is a peripatetic cart which serves aesthetically pleasing food. 

The Ugly Apple Food Cart (if I may) aims "To serve a fast and fresh breakfast to Madison, work with local farmers, minimize waste by using their overstock produce, and help Madison's less fortunate get fed." So, instead of one man's trash being another man's treasure, it would appear that one man's overstock produce is another man's breakfast. Here is what is on offer:

Photo stolen from someplace.

You can add (overstocked) meat to your (overstocked) sandwich served on an (overstocked) biscuit for a mere $1.25, which beats the hell out of buying an Ugly Kid Joe cd.  My sandwich looked like this upon arrival back to my office:

Hello. I am a sandwich.

The reviewer did their homework and provided the proper cross section shot. 

The Sandwich -- Chicken egg, sausage, and cheese on a biscuit. I do not share the opinion of the proprietor of this sando-zine that all eggs must be runny to be enjoyed; instead, I think fluffy and fixed-in-place are just lovely. [Ahem. - Ed.] Such was the case with this chicken egg which was bouncy and flavorful and buoyed on the biscuit (for a time, anyway). The cheese (of unknown variety) was melty but offered little in the way of flavor. So, too, with the sausage which did not have anything to recommend it.  Usually you like some sort of pepper or sage or general porkiness in your sausage, but none was on offer with this little puck. I can overlook flavorless cheese or even unremarkable sausage if what holds it together is stupendous but unfortunately this was yet another missed beat. The biscuit was doughy, not flaky, and disintegrated a few bites into each hemisphere. 

The Result -- 1.75 dregs out of 5 dregs. I appreciate the effort that went into buying castoff ingredients and recycling them into a re-purposed breakfast, but this sandwich needed more. Adding some salty cheese and increasing the butter in the biscuit making process would go a long way in improving this sandwich. Otherwise, one man's trash is just that.
Editors notes. I'd really like to try this sandwich as a way to gauge that rating. On my own scale a 1.75 is reserved for the truly awful, which this doesn't quite sound like.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #86 - Bagels Forever Redux

Sandwich: Salami, Egg & Cheese
Location: Bagels Forever
Date: March 11, 2017
Cost: $2.46

I first reviewed Bagels Forever 39 sandwiches ago. (Oh, a "sandwich" is not an accepted unit of time?) That visit was on Christmas Eve Day as I was waging a last minute War On Christmas and unlike many of these reviews was an unplanned visit.

This visit was also a last minute decision as I was in the neighborhood and needed a quick snack. It essentially happened just like the first time - I was driving down University Avenue contemplating a quick bite and realized I could take another swing at Bagels Forever.
It's not really jumping off the page at you, is it?

I don't know if this is poor photo composition or artsy.

The cross section photo does not reveal what we hoped it would. 
The Sandwich - Salami, Egg and Cheese on Salt Bagel. I was fairly certain my previous review had been of a bacon sandwich so I was debating between salami and Canadian bacon. I nearly chose an "Everything" bagel but those always look like a damp bagel had been dropped into a bag of bird seed and I just couldn't go for it. The bagel and meat are your only choices, they don't offer choice of cheese but they have several options on hand for sandwiches and would likely switch it up if you asked politely.

The chicken egg is not runny so that's a little disappointing, but understandable. The salami was a touch on the dry dry - they must toast it and I think it was in longer than it should have been. The cheese was a bit sparse. The bagel was not toasted enough and was feisty and doughy when I tried to cut it in half. It tasted great, and I would recommend a salt bagel for a breakfast sandwich without reservation, but this needed to be toasted more. 

The Result - 2.75 Sandwich Audibles out of 5 Sandwich Audibles. This sandwich was somewhat underwhelming. The flavor was fine, mostly I think I liked the salt bagel, but the texture was a bit chewy and it was on the dry side overall. The price is right (I think it was $2.75 but I'm not 100% positive) so that's the rating I gave it. Not bad but I wouldn't go out of my way to get one. I think the takeaway here is that if you had these same ingredients at home you could make a superior version of this sandwich.
Update 3/18/17 - I found the receipt for this sandwich and it was $2.46. Price has been updated.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Breakfast Sandwich #85 - Special K Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich aka All Lost In The Supermarket

Sandwich: Bacon, Egg & Cheese Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich
Location: Freezer Section At Your Local Supermarket
Date: February 19, 2017
Cost: $1.22 (4 for $4.89)

I was doing my normal grocery shopping and had no thoughts of breakfast sandwiches. Honest. I had one more item on my list before I was going to be on my way, and then I looked up and there was a sign, literally and figuratively, "breakfast entrees". 

Did you know Special K makes frozen breakfast sandwiches? I did not. I accepted this opportunity which had presented itself and chose the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Flatbread variety, although there were several choices available.

That photo isn't really selling me. This is clearly 100% pure research. 
In its protective sheath.

Post microwave. Mint for scale.
It didn't really cut in half so much as just smoosh apart. 

The Sandwich - I chose the Bacon, Egg & Cheese but was close to going with the sausage. I'll be honest, I don't think it would have mattered. It's hard to go into eating this with an open mind but I did try, although my expectations were low. So low. I think when they are creating these things in their labs they probably spend as much time on the smell as the the flavor. This thing smelled OK when it came out of the microwave but everything went downhill from there

I'm getting ahead of myself. You, the astute reader, are probably thinking "of course a sandwich made in the microwave will suck". You are not wrong to think that, but, these did not offer an alternative cooking process. The directions listed "in the microwave (recommended method)" and nothing else. So that's what I did. I guess I could have tried the toaster oven.

The pasteurized processed gouda cheese melted nicely. I can say that. Other than that this was more or less a squishy salt bomb. Looking at the ingredients we've got sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrate as well as good old fashioned salt. Given the flavor I was surprised to see that one of these is only 24% of your daily sodium intake. It tasted a lot higher. The spongy texture didn't help.

The Result - 1.22 Frozen Foods Misadventures out of 5 Frozen Foods Misadventures. The cost of this sandwich was $1.22 and that seems as good a rating as anything.

I don't think it's worth writing much else about this. Even for somebody who wants a quick and cheap option to eat before work, I can't envision them enjoying this. Who knows, though? Maybe I'm just a breakfast sandwich snob. (I am).

There are still three left that I'm going to put in the freezer at work with a note on them and they'll be gone within 48 hours, I'll bet. Maybe I can get somebody at work to offer a second, third or fourth opinion. That would be swell.