Chosen Bites: A new sandwich for a new year

Ethnic replaces gourmet as the new ideal, says chef Laura Frankel.

Food 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Food 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
My food prediction for the New Year is exciting and delicious. With home cooks honing their skills and Chefs as the new rock stars, food is on everyone’s mind all the time. I am predicting that ethnic food will replace gourmet food as the new ideal.
Gourmet is defined as a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, which is characterized by elaborate preparations and presentations of large meals with small, often quite rich courses.
As a professional chef, I have dazzled diners with tiny plates and dishes that took days to prepare. I love that and will always enjoy some intricate foods. But, with the economy uncertain, people eating at home more often and interesting ingredients only a mouse click away, I am forecasting that global flavors and ethnic cuisines will be the new trend.
While ethnic ingredients have always been available to a certain extent, it is now easy to watch a chef or home cook make an ethnic dish on Youtube or the Travel channel. The cultural divide has shrunk and those of us who love to eat our way around the planet, but can’t always get away or afford to do so, can now enjoy interesting flavors everyday of the week.
My favorite way to try a new cuisine is with something we can all relate to, a sandwich. The Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich is loaded with flavor and everyday ingredients that are prepared in an interesting and flavorful way.
Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese term meaning bread. The bread is typically a French baguette and is a product of French colonialism in Indochina where many French influences remain part of the culture. The sandwich made from Bahn Mi is a symphony of flavor combining the crispy crusted baguette with sour pickled carrots and spicy mayonnaise and a marinated meat or vegetables. The sandwich is garnished with cilantro and cucumbers. The final end result is a multi textured sandwich so intricately spiced that each mouthful is an explosion of flavor.
Bahn Mi Chicken
 ¼ cup soy sauce 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 1 tablespoon honey 2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder* 1 clove of garlic, minced 1 scallion, minced Pinch of crushed red chilies, optional
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 large baguette, cut into 4 6-inch sections or 4 individual baguettes
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.
Marinate the chicken breasts for at least 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Drain the chicken from the marinade and discard marinade.
Place the chicken breasts on a rack with a sheet pan underneath and roast the chicken for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
For the pickled carrots and Daikon radish
For the pickling liquid
1 cup rice wine vinegar ¼ cup sugar 1 tablespoon kosher salt 2 star anise Several “coins” of fresh ginger 1 large pinch of crushed red chilies
For the vegetables
2 carrots, sliced very thinly into matchstick ½ cup thinly sliced daikon radish 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
Bring the pickling liquid to a simmer.
Pour the liquid over thinly sliced vegetables and let sit for at least 4 hours.
Drain the vegetables and save the pickling liquid, covered in the refrigerator.
For the mayonnaise
½ cup prepare or homemade mayonnaise 1 tablespoon lime juice 2 teaspoons Asian hot sauce
Garnish: cilantro leaves, thinly cut scallions
Assemble the Bahn Mi Slice open the baguette, but leave it hinged. Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips.
Spread the spiced mayonnaise on each baguette. Arrange the chicken strips on the bread.
Top the chicken with pickled carrots, jalapeno and daikon and garnish with cilantro leaves and scallions. Enjoy!
*Chinese 5 Spice powder is an aromatic mixture of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cinnamon and ginger and can be found in many grocery stores, online or can be home made.
Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes