As I write this the snow is drifting down, the wind blowing, its cold and wet outside. It has been snowing all week, a thick wet snow that only lasts until about 10 AM each day before the sun melts it off. Tonight we are expecting 3 inches, which might stick around a bit longer, but all of this is great news. Spring is here!
Saturday I was planning a fishing trip down in Colorado, where spring is farther along. A fishing buddy, Tom and I were going to try and fish the Cache la Poudre River up in the canyon north of Fort Collins, but A fresh snowfall, a cold and fever, and a spouses migraine cancelled the trip. The fact is that the river might be too high to fish as well, and facing all of this, and no one to go with I ended up staying home.
For the trip fare I had been planning on making a lunch that my buddy and I could eat in the canyon. Eating well when out fishing is, in my opinion, an incredible pleasure, and my plan was to make a couple of shooter's sandwiches to make our day complete - with or without successful fishing.
Like most men I love a sandwich. I like the base functionality of food shaped to fit directly into the mouth. Americans, in my opinion have the sandwich mastered, be it burgers or BLTs We know what we are doing, it's an art form, a national passion, in short, we Americans, are in my mind the go to experts.
That said, when it comes to putting together a sandwich for a day out, the British do have a pretty knock down entry. It can't be ignored, and most Americans don't know it from a real honest to God and Queen scone (which frankly we Yanks just can't seem to even grasp - more on that another time).
Enter the Shooter's Sandwich - what is in my mind, the quintessential sandwich for a day out hunting, fishing or just puttering about. Described in an article in the Guardian as "A triumph of Edwardian cuisine, the shooter's sandwich was originally created as a snack that a cook could make the night before it was required, effectively making a beef Wellington portable so a gentleman needn't get peckish while hunting." The shooter's sandwich is a portable destination. It travels brilliantly, wrapped and tied to fit perfectly in a bag or pouch, and will satisfy the most ravenous appetite. The perfect excuse to go for out for a hike - even if it is too cold or the water is too high.
You won't find this construction on any deli menu, gas station or 6-pack shop. You will need to make this British masterpiece the night before - which is what I did Friday afternoon. We ended up having folks over for lunch on Saturday to help us put it away. Which we did, with a fair quantity of stone ground mustard, horseradish and good beer.
- Your choice of a crusty round loaf of bread (a sourdough boule is perfect).
- 2 to 4 good boneless steaks (steak is always used for the traditional version), though sausages or other meats of your choice can be used as well. I used 4 New York strip steaks each about an inch thick, and 12 fresh brats for the other sandwich posted in the photo. The size and quantity of meat needs to match up roughly with the bread that you select. The sandwich is layered, you want 2 layers of meat, each roughly filling the whole of the cavity of bread you scoop out of the loaf.
- 1/2 pound of mushrooms, diced
- 2 good sized shallots, finely minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 cup of Cognac
- (Optional) 1/4 pound of good soft cows milk or sheep's milk cheese (I use Saint-André, Cambozola, or Saga and some shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano depending on my mood)
- (Optional) 1/2 cup of chopped Parsley
- A good coarse ground mustard - I prefer stone ground mustards)
- Hot prepared horseradish
1. Slice off the top quarter of the loaf, hook out most of the crumb and save for breadcrumbs.
2. Cut your shallots, garlic and mushrooms into fine dice and add butter and olive oil to the pan.
3. Cook mushrooms and shallots in the butter and olive oil, stirring continuously, until they've softened, reduced in size and lost a substantial amount of moisture.
4. Slowly, and carefully add the cognac to the pan, and reduce until the liquid is nearly gone - and absorbed into the mushrooms.
5. Season your steaks as you like and bring them to the pink side of medium in a hot pan, or on the grill. Don't bother resting them. Work fast and tuck the first layer, dripping and hot, straight into the bottom of the hollow loaf. It doesn't matter if the juices leak now - in fact it just makes the whole thing even better.
6. Layer in your hot mushroom mixture and then your cheese (if you choose to add it) the top it with your second steak(s). At this stage I usually smear hot horseradish on the top steak and Dijon mustard on the inside of the lid before fitting it back on to the loaf.
7. Wrap the whole thing in two layers of parchment paper and tie with butcher's string, press the whole package flat under a heavy cutting board or baking stone and as many weights as you can find. Leave under the weights in a reasonably cool place (don't refrigerate) for at least 3 hours before moving to a refrigerator overnight (with as much of the weight as you can fit in your fridge). Other directions will tell you to leave the whole package out overnight - I don't think this is safe, so I move mine to the fridge after 3 hours on the counter.
8. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. / 150 degrees C.
9. Bake the now pressed sandwiches for 15 minutes on a baking stone or baking sheet - with paper and string still on.
10. To serve cut through string & paper and slice the loaf into wedges. Best served sitting on a rock, on the side of a river, or with a fantastic view.