Summer Sandwich Staples
South Mississippi has four seasons— almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas. However, early summer has an entirely different “feel” than late summer.
During the early days of summer, school is out. The entire season lies ahead. No more early mornings, no last minute cramming for exams, and no arguments over school lunches. The newness of that little slice of freedom is a feeling one doesn’t get to experience later in life.
Each summer month has a distinct feel. June still has a few cool mornings, whereas August mornings are hot and muggy.
Leaves, trees, and grass change, even the streets feel distinctive in the early part of summer. Last week I sat with my son and explained the difference between June feet and August feet. In June, a barefooted boy in South Mississippi has to tread lightly on the pavement and rocks. By August a southern boy’s bare feet are so calloused he could jump up and down on a sack of nails.
Note— June feet and August feet are entirely different than grocery-store feet, which are more about discoloration than texture, and can be acquired at any time of the year by walking barefooted with your mother through a grocery store.
Summer months have certain “tastes,” too. In June the strawberries are waning and the blueberries and blackberries are flourishing. July tastes like peaches and sweet corn. August tastes of fresh Gulf crabmeat, peas, and beans.
The two summer sandwich staples of the St. John home are— freezer sandwiches and marinated eye of round.
An eye of round is a very lean cut of beef that is inexpensive and is great for making sliced beef sandwiches. It is usually marinated for a day and then slow roasted, chilled, and sliced thin. My mom’s refrigerator almost always had a marinated, sliced eye of round in it.
It’s perfect for a quick, cold sandwich— just a little bread, mayo, lettuce, salt, and pepper and it’s lunchtime.
Freezer sandwiches are, like many great recipes, very simple in their ingredient content and preparation, yet extremely tasty as a finished product. The recipe consists of thinly shaved ham, Swiss cheese and a tangy poppy seed dressing, all prepared on an everyday run-of-the-mill hamburger bun.
The magic is in the dressing— Dijon mustard, horseradish and butter, which are the perfect foil for the ham and Swiss. The key is in the baking. As the sandwich bakes inside the aluminum foil the outside of the bun gets crispy and toasted while the cheese melts and the ham gets hot.
Freezer Sandwiches shun modern techniques and methods. In an era when most grocery store items are touting their lightning-fast prep time and microwave readiness, freezer sandwiches embrace the old-school bake-them-in-a-standard-oven-and-take-your-time-because-good-things-come-to-those-who-wait philosophy.
My mom used to pack an ice chest full of freezer sandwiches when I returned to college after a weekend home. We took them on vacation, sent them with other families who were going on vacation, and probably gave them as funeral food to grieving families.
Best of all, kids love freezer sandwiches whether they’re sporting June feet, August feet, or grocery store feet.
1 stick Butter, melted
3 Tbl Prepared Horseradish
3 Tbl Dijon Mustard
2 Tbl Poppy Seeds
1 lb Ham, thinly shaved
8 slices Swiss cheese
8 Hamburger Buns
Combine horseradish and mustard and stir well. Slowly wisk in the melted butter until it is fully incorporated and emulsified. Add poppy seeds.
Open hamburger buns and brush both sides of the inside with the poppy seed dressing. Place two ounces of ham and one slice of cheese on bottom part of bun. Repeat with the remainder of the buns. Close the tops of the buns and brush more of the poppy seed dressing on the outside tops and bottoms of buns. Tightly wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil and freeze.
To cook, preheat oven to 400-degrees. Place sandwich, still tightly wrapped in foil, directly on the center rack for approximately 30-45 minutes until center is hot and cheese is melted.
Yield: eight sandwiches.