Five Ways to Make Any Sandwich Incredible

by Mariana Rufin

A sandwich, in essence, is two pieces of bread and a filling. Sandwiches from your childhood may conjure up thoughts of ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, humble creations that are famous for being transportable and convenient. While sandwiches have the potential to be flavorful and exciting, they are often lacking in these departments. Avoid disappointing sandwiches by using these five simple tips to turn any sandwich into a new favorite meal:

Caramelized Onions

Caramelization is the process of cooking an ingredient for an extended time to bring out its natural sweetness, resulting in a sweet, nutty flavor with a deep brown color. To caramelize an onion, simply cut it up lengthwise and cook it slowly over medium heat for about half an hour. While the process of caramelization can be time consuming, these onions can last for weeks in the refrigerator, and are the perfect quick addition to burgers, grilled cheeses, and cold cuts.

Homemade Aioli and Mayo

Although aioli and mayonnaise have a similar creamy texture and are often confused, they are entirely different condiments. Aioli is an emulsion of garlic, egg yolks, and olive oil, while mayonnaise uses egg yolks and neutral oil. One thing to note is that aioli and mayonnaise use raw egg yolks, but whipping the ingredients at a high speed makes them both safe to consume. If possible, using yolks from pasteurized organic eggs can lengthen the condiments’ shelf life and improve their taste. Aioli and mayonnaise are simple to make, and they are highly recommended for elevating a sandwich’s taste. Additionally, they can stay good for almost two weeks if stored properly in an airtight mason jar.

To make aioli, start by finely mincing and crushing a couple of garlic cloves into a paste, either by hand with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor. Then, combine the paste with one or two egg yolks, salt and pepper, and optionally, a tablespoon of dijon mustard and a tablespoon of lemon juice. In order to make a full cup of aioli, drizzle an entire cup of olive oil into the mixture while whisking or blending consistently using a whisk, emulsion blender, or electric hand mixer until the texture is creamy and thick. To make mayonnaise, follow the same steps, but omit the garlic and substitute olive oil with a neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil.

Fried squid sandwich with homemade aioli

Roasted Garlic

Minimal preparation is involved in this recipe — simply cut as many heads of garlic as you need in half then wrap them in foil and place on a baking sheet. To add more flavor, consider coating the garlic in olive oil and adding fresh herbs like thyme, tarragon, and rosemary. Roast in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately half an hour, or until the garlic bulbs are soft enough to squeeze out from the head with minimal pressure. Roasted garlic can be used to make any number of sauces, such as roasted garlic marinara or roasted garlic aioli. The cloves can even be spread onto bread as is. Instead of having the sharp and pungent taste of raw garlic, roasted garlic has a sweet and mild flavor that can be enjoyed on its own.

Compound Butter

Compound butter is a type of butter that is frequently used in high end restaurants. But don’t be intimidated by its reputation. All you need is a stick of softened butter and a few additional ingredients. You can make compound butter at home by evenly combining ingredients of your choice into softened butter, wrapping it tightly in plastic or parchment, and setting in the fridge until the butter is hard again. Although you can use many different combinations of ingredients with the butter, we recommend adding roasted garlic, fresh herbs, chili oil, or pesto. Adding shredded cheddar or gouda cheese creates a compound butter that is perfect for toasting bread for grilled cheese, giving the sandwich a crispy, cheesy exterior. Another way to really upgrade a sandwich is with bone marrow compound butter for a steak sandwich, patty melt, or savory roasted vegetable sandwich. Alternatively, compound butter can even be sweet! Try adding condensed milk, jam, cinnamon, honey, or maple syrup to make a spread that is perfect for setting atop french toast or for an open-faced breakfast sandwich with fruit and almond butter.

Create a New Condiment

As mentioned earlier, mayonnaise and aioli are extremely versatile ingredients, and they can be combined with Korean chili paste (gochujang), chili oil, pesto, sriracha, or any other condiments to make a unique sauce. However, there are numerous ways to invent new condiments, relishes, and sauces to spice up a plain sandwich. For a quick burger sauce, combine worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, minced gherkins, garlic powder, and just a touch of white vinegar. To make honey mustard with hot honey, reduce honey and red chili flakes together in a saucepan over medium-low heat for no longer than 10 minutes, and then combine with yellow mustard once cooled. Also, a clever way to use up extra fresh herbs is to blend them together with olive oil, salt, garlic, and spices to make a chimichurri-style sauce.

Shrimp toast sandwich with spicy mayo: gochujang, chili-garlic sauce, mayonnaise, sesame oil, & rice wine vinegar

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