So, this video crossed my Facebook timeline recently…and it looked fantastic, so of course I had to try it. I learned some things in the process…
It can be expensive.
I was out of a few things (red pepper, brown sugar), but I opted out of others (that thinly sliced cheese officially listed as ‘Normantal’)…and still spent $40 on ingredients. stone ground mustard, sage and rosemary (I got the dried stuff because it’s good to have around), brie, and most of the other ingredients all added up pretty quick. Obviously it was all supermarket sized packaging, so I could easily make 3-6 of these, but at $8-$12 per sandwich, it’s nothing I’d call a bargain.
Ciabatta bread is a pain.
Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is delicious, but the video was a bit deceptive in that the loaf shown rose relatively high, and was quite dense. While I’m sure an actual bakery could sell such a thing easily, the supermarket I went to only offered a loaf of ciabatta about 18″ long and about half the height of the one shown.
I made do with diagonal cutting, but even that was quite the challenge. Getting even two slices out of it, with a similar size, thickness, and consistency, took well over half the loaf to accomplish. I definitely needed to change from my garden variety steak knife to a dedicated, serrated bread knife to get anywhere near what I was looking for. Moreover, its porous consistency meant that one of the problems I ended up with was that, on more than one occasion, I got a good slice that ended up with a hole in it. For a brief moment, I considered how nice it would be to have a jigsaw handy.
That ‘just wisk oil and egg yolks to get mayo’ section is bollocks.
Okay, not really. That is, basically, how it’s done. However, Gordon Ramsay did a video on making homemade mayo, and there is a bit of an art to it – the slow drizzle at the beginning for starters, and it’s entirely possible I didn’t add enough oil. Since the Facebook video didn’t list any quantities or proportions, pretty much everything I did involved guessing and listening to my heart, which is clearly a bad idea. If you’re going to do the homemade mayo part, do that separately from other parts of cooking, rather than trying to fit it in while you’re caramelizing the onions. And, while the dude in the rustic video did it with nothing but a wooden spoon, don’t be a hero – if you’ve got a Cuisinart, use it.
I ended up with mostly-raw egg yolks for mayo, and the egg/lemon/mustard combination was still a net positive that was present, but not overpowering.
Save that onion-caramelizing trick…but getting that look is tricky.
No seriously, those onions were incredible and, even if you don’t go all out like I did making the rest of the sandwich, adding red pepper and a little sugar to onions as you’re browning them makes it absolutely fantastic. However, getting them to have that crunchy look on a stove top is not easy. It’s a fine line with onions between ‘caramelized’ and ‘burnt’, something not helped by my use of a cast iron griddle rather than a frying pan – stirring and flipping wasn’t a picnic as I’m pretty sure just about every onion spent time on the stove at one point or another. While none of the onions were undercooked, getting that ‘crunchy’ vibe looks like it takes a bit of practice. Even so, don’t let it stop you – even at the browned stage, it’s a recipe to keep around.
Slow and low…and cover it.
Having made it through every step and the only part left being to actually grill it to the point of browning the bread and melting the cheese, those thick slices of bread require very low heat…and, if you’re like me and utilizing fans and/or air conditioning in order to avoid drowning in your own sweat this summer, you’ll basically-never get that cheese melted before you burn the bread if you don’t cover it. Okay, that might be a bit of hyperbole; this is where the ciabatta bread’s porous consistency does come in handy, as more heat gets to the cheese…BUT, if you use thicker slices like I did, you’ll definitely want to cover it. I just used an upside down pot, and it really helped. I had mine cooking for about 10 minutes and it really did come out ‘just right’.
You didn’t need that third cheese.
Hey, I’m interested in how it tastes. I really am. But it doesn’t look like the sort of thing that’s readily available. Aunt Google keeps bringing up results from France and the term lacks a Wikipedia entry, leading me to believe that its availability is prohibitive. I just made mine with brie and sharp cheddar. It’s certainly worth experimenting with others (I’m curious about using goat cheese with a little lemon juice and mustard instead of the homemade mayo), but just those two did the job just fine.
Even a half-baked attempt is well worth the effort.
What really made it work was the culmination of flavors – the rosemary with the bread, the mustard with the brie, the lemon juice with the cheddar…it all just worked really well together. Even my first attempt was fabulous and the recipe seems like it can withstand shortcomings in its implementation. Now, I wouldn’t call ciabatta interchangeable with Wonder Bread, but I would say that if you’re looking for something to attempt – and the admittedly high fat content doesn’t bother you, don’t let the fact that your result doesn’t look the same as this very-well-produced video give you pause.