Gulf Coast Cooking

Coast Cooking: Nothing beats a good soup and sandwich

A club sandwich is classic Americana.
A club sandwich is classic Americana.

Remember the old television jingle? Soup and sandwich, soup and sandwich ... any time, any weather ...."

Some of the best old commercials were so good because they were spot on.

Nothing goes together on a cold day better than a sandwich and a steaming hot bowl of soup.

One of the best-known combos in this part of the world is a cup of gumbo and a shrimp po-boy.

What could be better?

But it may be that you are looking for something just a bit different.

Chicken noodle soup is an old classic, but if you want to put a little swing into this food idea, make it with a Vietnamese twist.

The famous Vietnamese beef pho also comes in a chicken version and along with a generous helping of rice noodles, it is nothing short of divine.

A real East Coast classic is the Reuben sandwich. Overloaded with corned beef, topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, this could be the perfect sandwich.

Two other favorite sandwiches are the BLT, so simple, but just waiting to be souped up, and the classic club, which is another winner.

The club doesn't need to be tinkered with too much. Loaded with layers of turkey or chicken, bacon and lettuce and tomato. What's not to like?

The old soup and sandwich combination really is a simple and near-perfect food pairing. You can make a classic, or go out on your own and make your sandwich more of a Dagwood.

The soup can be just as simple or as long-cooked and hearty as you like. When the wind rattles your windows this winter, turn back to a classic combination and warm your family with a great homemade bowl of hot soup and a delicious sandwich.

CLASSIC CLUB SANDWICH

When you make this sandwich, use a good quality, crusty bread, not the white crust-less stuff.

3 slices whole wheat bread

Lots of mayonnaise

2-3 slices Swiss cheese

4 slices deli smoked ham

4-6 slices fresh tomato

Lettuce

4-6 slices crispy, smoked bacon

2 slices white cheddar

4-6 slices deli turkey

There isn't a right or wrong way to load this sandwich, other than placing the tomato and lettuce on top. Make sure to toast the bread, and use a little butter if you like.

As is always the biggest consideration, the quality of the ingredieyonts is paramount. If you can afford the time and money, use a good bacon. Be careful in selecting the cheese you use as well, the pre-sliced stuff is not top shelf.

Lastly, if you are brave enough, use your best homemade mayonnaise. Toast the bread, load the sandwich and serve at once.

A QUICK GUMBO

No, this isn't the family recipe for a traditional gumbo, and to a traditionalist it will be sacrilege, but it is good.

1 cup smoked sausage

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

3-6 cloves chopped garlic

1 cup sliced okra

1 pound medium shrimp

4-5 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Oil as needed

Sauté the sausage in a heavy-bottom stock pot until well-browned, remove and set aside. Add the onions, bell pepper and okra, season aggressively, and cook until the okra begins to fall apart, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the sausage to the pot and then the chicken stock, simmer for at least 30 minutes. Separately, heat a sauté pan with a little oil, very hot, and cook the shrimp in small batches. No more than 2 minutes. Add the shrimp to the pot, take a cup of the gumbo stock and deglaze the pan the shrimp cooked in, add it to the gumbo. Now taste and re-season as necessary. Served with steamed rice.

BACON LETTUCE AND TOMATO

This is another classic bit of American culinary tradition. What could be simpler than to combine crispy fried bacon with slices of fresh tomato, mayonnaise and crispy lettuce? Well, it is pretty simple, but it certainly can be given culinary upgrade to turn it into a killer good BLT. First has got to be the quality of the bacon. Not all bacon is created equally and it is hard to find the right brand. If you are standing in the grocery store looking at the dozen or so types of bacon, eliminate all of the ones that are not smoked. That should get you closer. Price is not always indicative of what is best, but thick cut is a must.

1 pound best quality smoked, thick cut bacon

1-2 delicious smelling tomatoes (no smell, no taste)

3 slices hearty, locally baked bread

1 bunch your favorite lettuce

Best quality mayonnaise (homemade is best)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fry the bacon over medium heat, removing the grease if it gets too deep in the frying pan. Toast all three slices of bread, using a little butter if your diet allows. Slice the tomatoes as thin as you can. Slather mayonnaise on the first piece of toast, add bacon, tomato and lettuce and then season to your taste. Add the next slice of bread and repeat the process. Yes, it is a BLT club, if you must give it a name, and it is delicious. Serving this sandwich hot is paramount, so you have to work fast. Serve with the soup below. If you really want to make this sandwich go zoom, batter and fry the tomatoes, a la fried green tomatoes. Wow!

VIETNAMESE INSPIRE QUICK CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

1 bunch rice noodles

1 cup cooked chicken

3-4 cups chicken stock

Soy sauce

Cilantro, sliced jalapeño peppers, bean sprouts

Heat the stock, add the chicken and simmer 5 minutes. Add the rice noodles and cook until tender. Serve in large bowls and plenty of the veggie garnish. Season with soy if you like.

Julian Brunt, who comes from a family with deep Southern roots, writes Coast Cooking in Wednesday's Sun Herald and has a blog at sunherald.com. He is a food writer and photographer with columns in magazines.

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