Oozingly delicious toasted sandwich with chicken, mushroom and blue cheese, bacon and spinach
27 March 2018
Recently I had an international journey that took twice as long as it was meant to. Something was dodgy with one of the plane’s engines. Whilst, of course, I would have just slammed the cover back on and said “aah, it’ll probably be fine” the jobsworths at the airport decided that it needed to be properly fixed before taking human beings 32,000 feet into the air.
So I got a four hour night at a hotel followed by a taxi ride to be back in the airport at 3am, in order to catch a flight to Sao Paulo in order to sit at the airport for eight hours, and then to catch a flight finally back to the UK. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not complaining. I generally believe that things happen for me, rather than to me. So I was able to take advantage of the circumstances to spend a focused day with the laptop, removed from all internet distractions (save for one glorious hour session with the airport wifi before it cut me off). I actually got loads done. And on the flights I got lots of useful reading done as well. So it’s all good.
For some reason, it seemed like the only food I got throughout the whole of my journey was cheese and ham. Cheese and ham at the airport. Cheese and ham courtesy of British Airways on the plane.
But by the time I got home, I had a larger craving than usual for something both familiar and utterly comforting and decadent. At that point, I remembered this posting by Nicky at Kitchen Sanctuary, and decided the time was right to create my own version as a toasted sandwich.
First, I cooked some free-range chicken breast. I wanted it deliciously juicy and tender, so went to my go-to method with the sous-vide (60ºC for about an hour). It provides the best chicken I’ve ever had. But you can do it however you want - just bear in mind not to overcook the breasts so they dry out.
Once that was done, I sliced a pack of chestnut mushrooms and fried them in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil with about 25g butter added. Once they were cooked, I added a little more butter and poured in about 150ml double cream and turned the heat down to a simmer. I let that bubble away and thicken slightly, and then took it off the heat and crumbled in a 150g Binham Blue cheese (but any good quality blue cheese will do). The residual heat was just enough to melt the cheese into the sauce, encouraged by a little stirring. You don’t want the sauce to be too hot after you’ve added the cheese - you’ll keep more of the cheesy flavour if it’s just enough heat to melt the cheese and no more. Then, of course, taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. I also added a squeeze of lemon juice to liven it up - that extra acidity is what lifts it from good to great.
Once those elements were done, I added some good quality bacon to a frying pan with just a little oil and fried the bacon until crispy. While that was doing, I toasted one side of two slices of wholemeal bread. Once the bacon was done, I then fried the remaining side of the bread in the bacon-fat-enriched oil, and used those sides for the inside of the sandwich.
One slice of toasted bread, bacon-fat-side up. A small covering of baby spinach leaves. Because adding a few leaves will suddenly make it healthy, obviously. Then the chicken, ripped into manageable pieces. Then top that with the mushroom and blue cheese sauce. Then perch the crispy bacon on top of that and finally cap with the other piece of bread. Slice carefully in half. Think back to all the trials and tribulations you’ve ever endured and let the luxuriousness of this amazing sandwich wash them all away.
After a month of living on this sandwich, you would no doubt resemble a beached whale. But for a welcome-home comfort food hit, it was beyond compare, and well worth the faffing around.