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sandwich it i
how to build a better sandwich

by Yee-Fan Sun 
1 2 3

Okay, I'll admit it: for a while there, the boy and I, we'd gotten into what you might call a rut. Not in our relationship, mind you -- things there were dandy. No, where we'd gone deadly dull was lunch.

Every Monday through Friday, it had come down to this: honey ham and Swiss-style cheese sandwiched between two slices of multigrain, one slathered with mayo, the other with mustard. It was a perfectly fine lunch, a step up, even, from the plain ham and American cheese sandwiches I used to have love as a kid. It used inexpensive ingredients that were readily available at the supermarket, ingredients that kept well. It was easy to make even in an early morning state of half-sleep; it could stand up to travel (less an issue for me, who works at home, than for the boy, who makes a 3-mile bike ride into his office/lab each day). Heck, it even tasted pretty good. But when you eat the same thing day in and day out, there's no question: that sandwich gets awful boring awful fast. The tastebuds get tired; the belly demands a change. Which is why after finally ho-humming my way through one ham-and-Swiss sandwich too many, I went on a mission: to branch out beyond the usual, and build a better sandwich … to make lunch fun again, and keep the boy from succumbing to the temptation of buying his workweek lunches.

Bored with your usual brown-bag special? Check out our tips on how to make a sandwich you'll actually look forward to digging into come noontime…

a strong foundation: choosing your bread
A good sandwich starts with good bread. Yes, I know, that cheap, pre-sliced, preservative-laden white bread keeps forever, but it's about as flavorsome as cardboard, and is guaranteed to ruin even the finest of fresh sandwich ingredients. If you must go with the long-lasting sandwich bread, at least get yourself a hearty multigrain, which will have the benefit of staying relatively fresh for you all week long, and provide decent flavor and texture as well.

Even better, though, is to skip the pre-packaged bread aisle of your supermarket altogether, and find yourself a bakery that bakes its loaves in-house. Better supermarkets might have one in-store; otherwise, get thee online to hunt down a bakery near you. At a good bakery, you should find an array of tempting bread options - bread studded with rye and sesame seeds and poppy seeds, flavored with cheeses and onions and olives and nuts, baked into all manner of shapes and sizes. While all are worth experimenting with, some are likely to prove better for sandwiches than others. I'm partial to oval shaped loaves made from sourdough, which seems to keep longer, and is packed with good flavor to boot. Round loaves are all right as well, though you may find you'll have to halve your bread slices once you get to the fat middle of the loaf to yield a sandwich that's comfortable to hold in your hands. Baguettes, on the other hand, are best avoided unless you're planning to make your sandwich that same day. It's also best to buy your bread whole rather than sliced; yes, it might take you a few extra seconds of prep work when it comes time to assemble your sandwich masterpiece, but your bread will be fresher and tastier.

Your unsliced non-baguette loaf should keep well enough for sandwich purposes for about three-four days, provided you keep it snugly wrapped up in a plastic bag. Now, some bakers will tell you that bread should be stored in paper rather than plastic; while it's true that this will maintain the crisp crust for longer, I find my bread dries out too quickly this way. If you find you're not getting through your whole loaf before it gets stale, try slicing half your next loaf and freezing it the day you get it home; just pull out frozen slices as you need them, and let thaw before using (you can speed up the process by very lightly toasting it).

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