We've tracked down the planet's best meals on bread.
By Lynn Andriani
1The Vietnamese-French Hybrid
Banh mi (pronounced "bun mee") masterfully combines a crisp baguette with a succulent filling, such as tangy-salty grilled chicken, and bracing toppings, from chilies and cilantro to cucumbers to pickles. Once a trendy food, it has now settled into the realm of classic-Asian-sandwiches-Americans-love-to-eat; and now, established food writer Andrea Nguyen has devoted an entire book to the subject, aptly titled The Banh Mi Handbook. Her advice: Be choosy about the bread but don't suffer over it; a toaster oven can be your best ally for reinvigorating a soft baguette.
A Mediterranean take on English high tea sandwiches, tramezzini make us reevaluate our position on plain white bread. Because as chef Luca Manfe shows in his new book, My Italian Kitchen, the soft slices are the ideal blank canvas for flavorful Italian ingredients, such as cured meats, tuna, sharp cheeses, arugula and olives. In Italy, you can buy crustless white bread but it's hard to find here, so Manfe just uses a regular white sandwich loaf and cuts the crust off.
The French croque monsieur is a sandwich that somehow manages to be utterly simple (it's just bread, ham, cheese and bechamel sauce) yet ridiculously decadent. Kim Sunee, whose new book is A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes from My World Travels, calls it "a quick bite, a late night snack or even breakfast." Whatever time you're eating it, Sunee recommends trying it with a fried egg on top, which creates a deliciously oozy sauce (and calling it a "croque madame" instead).
This spiced chicken flatbread sandwich has a Middle Eastern name, but don't expect falafel or hummus. According to the new book Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond, by David Ponte and siblings Jamie and Lizzy Barber, two Syrian brothers living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, created it in the 1950s when they ran out of regular sliced bread at their diner. We're guessing they never went back to the old way, since flatbread actually forms the perfect, not-too-overpowering base for a marvelous combination of chili mayonnaise, a handful of arugula, sliced tomatoes and strips of peppery chicken and grated cheddar.
When we think Greek sandwich, we often picture a beef, lamb or chicken gyro. Yet, a Greek salad actually works brilliantly in a pita, and delivers the same variety of flavors and textures without any of the grease you occasionally find in gyros. You start by spreading a tangy garlic-mayo dressing on the bread, then top it with a mixture of thinly sliced cucumbers, halved grape tomatoes, slivers of red onion, chopped romaine and crumbled feta.
The Best Cooking Tricks We've Picked Up Over the Years
Finishing Pasta in the Pan
“Learning how to finish pasta in the pan was a life changer. One day, I was at Street & Co. in Portland, Maine, and saw chefs dumping cooked pasta into the skillet of sauce, stirring it around for a bit, and adding a splash of the water they were cooking the pasta in (and maybe a knob of butter), then serving it. So I ripped off the technique at home. It made sense: Why not cook pasta (at least the last minute or so) in the actual sauce? That way the flavor infuses the pasta. It was the addition of cooking water that proved to be the secret weapon. That starchy elixir created an emulsified, ‘creamy’ (note quotes) sauce that bound everything together, making it a complete dish, rather than two thrown-together elements. I've never looked back.” <em>—Scott DeSimon, deputy editor</em>