A Simple, Most Delicious Sandwich

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My mother recently described a sandwich an old man prepared for her at a bed and breakfast in Barcelona: toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, moistened with a squeezed tomato and topped with jamón Iberico. In the mornings, the man tops this concoction with an egg fried in olive oil. Holy cow.

These pigs, the man told my mother, feast on acorns, which impart a nutty flavor into the meat while also making the fat composition of the meat high in monounsaturated fat, the good kind that, like olive oil, helps lower bad cholesterol. I believe it. When Ben and I visited Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin told us roughly the same thing. He described his pork as “olive oil pork” because his pigs’ diet consisted of acorns and other nuts from his forest.

I wasn’t able to find jamón Iberico at any shop near me, and depending where you live, you might have difficulty, too. Jamón Iberico made its first appearance in this country in December 2007, when the U.S. finally approved a producer in Spain to export the delicacy. LaTienda.com gives a more extensive history about jamón Iberico and jamón Iberico de Bellota, which is the acorn-fed variety. According to La Tienda, the black-hoofed Iberian hog is a prized animal whose lineage stretches back to Christopher Columbus who is said to have had a few of these hogs aboard the Santa María when he set out to discover the New World.

Oh how I long to get my hands on some of this ham. Prosciutto di Parma is a fine substitute but jamón Iberico sounds so exotic and divine. To my sandwich, I added a few slices of Mahón, a cow’s milk cheese produced in Menorca, an island off the eastern coast of Spain. Manchego would be nice in this sandwich as well.

Also, I just saw in my Gourmet magazine email newsletter, that Ruth Reichl’s “secret weapon” for a no-cook summer meal is the American version of serrano ham produced by the Edwards family of Virginia. Made from humanely raised Six-Spotted Berkshire pigs smoked slowly over hickory, this ham, according to Ruth, pairs nicely with melon or simply with some really good bread. (While this is by no means local to me, this might be a nice alternative for those east coasters looking to eat more locally.)

Also, if you live in the area, check out some of the food Chef Nolan is cooking up at Cafe Mimosa.

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Pigs at Polyface Farm:
such happy pigs

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ingredients

The Most Delicious Sandwich on the Face of the Earth, Presently
Serves 1

two slices of bread, bakery-style bread (French, Italian)
1 clove garlic, gently smashed and sliced in half
1 tomato
extra-virgin olive oil, use a good one (Temecula Olive Oil Company Citrus Reserve)
nice salt
a few thin slices of jamón Iberico or prosciutto di Parma or Serrano ham
a few thin slices of cheese, such as Mahon or Manchego or Zamorano

1. Toast or grill the bread. I grilled it, but that was mostly to get the pretty grill marks for the picture. Toasting would be simpler and just as effective.

2. Rub each slice of bread with the cut garlic.

3. Cut the tomato in half (or cut off one-third of it). Squeeze the tomato over each slice making them nice and juicy. Drizzle each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

4. Top with a few slices of the ham. Lay each piece down one at a time, allowing the meat to sort of form ripples so air pockets form between the layers. Top with the cheese. Close the sandwich and eat.

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29 Comments

  1. Holy cow indeed! I wish tomatoes could all be consistently sweet so I can make this work. Also, having a bunch of jamon iberico by my side right now wouldn’t hurt! ;)

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  2. Mmmm, yummy piggies. The simplicity of this sandwich of course makes it sound so good. Plus, the idea that this originated from authentic Spanish jamon and olive oil tops it all off.

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  3. holy cow? i think you mean holy pig!! :) what a scrumptious sandwich–sometimes the easiest and most basic things are just better. lovely photos, too.

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  4. The bread w/tomato is a traditional Catalan preparation and its better than ice cream (not peanut butter and chocolate, but far better than just plain chocolate). This ham is one of the most complex meats around, but damn is it expensive! I’ve always wondered what the pigs looked like- they’re so cute! I thought they’d be horned and fuzzy for some reason. And I’m all for the Edwards ham. Tried it at Slow Food Nation in SF last year and it was amazing.

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  5. That does look like a delicious sandwich! I am going to look for the jamon iberico, we have a few places it ight be hiding around here. I will report back!

    I hope you get a chance to make that yellow cake recipe. It is really a fantastic cake. Now if only I could find a from scratch brownie recipe that is a satisfying…

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  6. Hi Alexandra!
    I’m new to your blog and I’m loving it. I’m so glad I found you :)
    Simple sandwiches are the best, the quality of the few ingredients in them is what matters! Jamon is indeed hard to find, but might be worth the search :)

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  7. Glorious sandwich! Iberico ham is just extraordinary. It feels like silk and the flavour is so nutty! It isn’t like any other ham I’ve ever tried. Very expensive though!

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  8. Droooooool. I love visiting your site simply for the fact that I love to drool over your photos. You’re good at the food photo thing Ms. Alexandra :) What a lovely story, and what an amazing looking sandwich!

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  9. I know exactly what you mean. When I was in Las Alpujarras in Spain, I had the exact same sandwich, served with the fried egg. Truly magical! Serrano ham is an acceptable substitution, but it’s just not the same. Beautiful post, I just found your blog and will definitely be a regular reader.

    Reply

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