Background: I work for Elm Café. We make sandwiches (herein referred to as “sammiches”). Today we made one that I was particularly excited about, so on my personal Twitter account @allansuddaby I tweeted: “Just sampled an @elmcafe sammich: beef shortrib, Brie, port-soaked plums, rutabaga, red wine reduction. Will cure what ails you.” National Post columnist and local wit Colby Cosh responded: “Sounds like the Incredibly Random Sandwich Generator came up with a winner!” at which I literally lol’d. Then it dawned on me that the ingredients in this sandwich are emphatically not random. I thought it would be interesting to explain why they make a great sandwich.
Because Flavour Dynamics: The Sammich Apologist
The sandwich in question is composed of braised shortrib dressed in a red wine reduction; Brie cheese; dried plums (prunes…) that have been soaked in Port; and raw rutabaga cut into a fine julienne. Following is a glimpse into the mind of a chef (albeit not a famous chef…) that will demonstrate how he struck upon this seemingly random assortment of ingredients using the sound principles of flavour dynamics.
To begin, our objective is to make a delicious sandwich based on beef shortrib.
Beef shortrib. The familiar, delicious, savoury flavour of beef, though in one of its more fatty, unctuous incarnations. Definitely needs acid to balance. Red wine has such acidity, so a reduction of red wine and beef stock will fit perfectly. [Editor’s note: This is so classic it didn’t really require explanation… but there it is…]
I would like to put cheese on this sandwich. Let’s take a look at the cheese shelf of the walk-in cooler…
Brie! Subtle but complex savoury flavour, often reminiscent of mushrooms, ergo a natural pairing for beef and red wine. A very faint bitterness on the finish. Also commonly consumed with fruit, especially cooked or dried fruit. Let’s play on that association and incorporate fruit in this sandwich. It should be a relatively mild fruit so as not to overwhelm the Brie. Dried plums fit the bill. They also echo the fruit character of the wine in the reduction sauce. Let’s reinforce that connection and soak the plums in a delicious, sweet, fortified wine, namely Port.
At this point we have employed several ingredients with soft textures; we are clearly in need of some crunch. Though almost always served cooked, quality rutabaga is delicious raw and would serve several purposes in this sandwich: it has a robust crunch, a faint sweetness (complimenting the fruit) and a faint bitterness (complimenting the Brie).
In conclusion, I love this sandwich because flavour dynamics.
This sandwich will be available at Elm Café (10140 – 117 Street) on Saturday, January 23, 2016. Possibly the next day as well.