You never know what can get your heart pounding. You might think you are ham-and-cheese-with-mustard-on-one-side-mayo-on-the-other-hold-the-lettuce-hold-the-tomato kind of person. You even might be all of that with a memo attached that says “please don’t talk to me about changes.”
But what about if you tasted chow-chow, and all of a sudden a ham and cheese sandwich moved you like no other ham and cheese sandwich had moved you before?
You don’t know unless you let yourself know.
Chow-chow is a classic Southern dip or spread that can be made with a whole variety of ingredients. The critical ones are sugar and vinegar, but beyond that, there seem to be few boundaries.
The other day I was trying to figure out what would be the best thing to take on a bus to New Jersey to a graduation party, featuring a menu of comfort food deliciousness (fried fish, collards, macaroni and cheese).
I flipped through one of my all time favorite Southern cook books–meant for a whole other event–but an invaluable resource just the same–“Being Dead is no Excuse.” I decided to make crustless sandwiches that I could cut into minis on arrival, based on a few of the Southern staples featured in the book.
Number 1: chow-chow, (I added toasted coriander seed to the recipe) on ham and cheese sandwiches (one side butter, one side chow-chow)
Number 2: egg salad with mayo and baby arugula
Number 3: Pimento Cheese
1 head of garlic, 1 3 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, thrown in the food processor and chopped until smooth with a few tablespoons of wine vinegar (I used red). In a stainless steel pan, combine this with 1 1/4 cups of wine vinegar, 1 1/4 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 28 ounce can of squished plum tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end, add a few tablespoons of chopped golden raisins and a few tablespoons of toasted slivered almonds. Toast about a teaspoon of whole coriander seed, then crush in a mortar and pestle and add to taste.
1 pound of sharp orange cheddar, 1/2 pound of monterey jack, 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced, 1 whole chopped kosher pickle (remove the seeds), one small jar of chopped pimentos, a few chopped fresh chive, a few tablespoons of mayo, and salt. Taste.
I know you know how to make egg salad, but let me give you a tip: coat each side of the bread with a little homemade mayonnaise, be sure the eggs are not overcooked (start eggs in cold water, and as soon as they come to a boil, turn the water off, cover and let them sit for 12 minutes; throw them into ice water to send the sulfur away from the edge of the egg, preventing them from going that nasty green). Be sure the egg salad has just the right amount of salt. Freshly ground black pepper should be added, but just to bring out the best in the egg, not as a starring talent.