Dear Warm Chocolate Sandwich,
While I know I'm not supposed to use food, and, more specifically, sugar-rich, carb-loaded foods such as bread and chocolate, as a stand-in for therapy, your tender crispiness and sweet, warm, velvety filling indeed assuaged my melancholy heart this morning, and I want to thank you.
Because coming off a long weekend (4 days!--a hardened impossibility when you are a working person) and trying to force yourself to read about reading and to write--to reflect, mind you--on what a good literacy coach does is just a tad bit difficult when M.F.K. Fisher is sitting by your bedside, her governess-like, black and white eyes reminding you that food is a matter to be taken just as seriously and intellectually as any endeavor there ever was.
My dear Chocolate Sandwich, she tricked me into eating you with her well-worn prose! Her chapter in "How to Cook a Wolf," titled "How to Rise Up Like New Bread," which I sneaked a look at between reading about "literary expertise" and taking the laundry out of the dryer, orders the eater to make her own bread and subsequently provides recipes for "hot loaf" and "bucket bread." "Making good bread," Fisher writes, "is pleasant: one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with peace, and the house filled with one of the world's sweetest smells."
While I did not have the energy to make my own bread this morning, how, dear Chocolate Sandwich, could I not be reminded of your origins, a three-page printout of an old New York Times article that's been quietly biding its time in the back of my recipe binder for years now, waiting until the perfect moment to remind me of its presence? Was it you, dear Sandwich, who conspired with Ms. Fisher to pull me out of my post-weekend slump this morning?
In any event, Sandwich, I couldn't help but skip right to the back of the book and read Fisher's Conclusion. (Like a good chocolate sandwich, whose recipe was concocted during the Atkins-crazed, Anti-Carb Era of 2003, this act is both forbidden and satisfyingly filling for the very rebelliousness of it.) In an attempt to wrap her book up tidily and leave us with a little more than we bargained for when first reading her war-oriented directions to make a "sludge" containing vegetables, cereal, and ground meat, and to eat it cold if we must, Fisher ends with this affirmation:
"I believe that one of the most dignified ways we are capable of, to assert and then reassert our dignity in the face of poverty and war's fears and pains, is to nourish ourselves with all possible skill, delicacy, and ever-increasing enjoyment. And with our gastronomical growth will come, inevitably, knowledge and perception of a hundred other things, but mainly of ourselves. Then Fate, even tangled as it is with cold wars as well as hot, cannot harm us."
Now, my dear Chocolate Sandwich, how could I not want to make you after reading this? Why try to write my "Reflection" paper when I could instead be stirring ganache, measuring chocolate chips, buttering slices of bread? I wanted so much to grow gastronomically so that perception of myself would come and I could not be harmed.
And you, dear Sandwich, surely provided this, turning the spongy, light slices of un-grilled bread into two slick layers of thin, dense crunch, the ganache and chips between into a mouthful of thank-you, God. My melancholy lifted, I can now go back to work, because, as Fisher also reminds us in her Conclusion, we should not "live to eat," but, "since we must eat to live," we ought to do so with "grace and gusto."
Grace and gusto it is that I find in you, oh dear Chocolate Sandwich, and full I am.
Warm Chocolate Sandwich
Recipe by Maury Rubin of City Bakery
This warm chocolate sandwich will not disappoint you. The sheer idea of it--eating warm chocolate between layers of crispy, buttery bread, particularly in the middle of the day or for breakfast--is almost guaranteed to make you happy.
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli double chocolate chips, my favorite)
1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
4 slices of plain white bread (I used Zingerman's Paesano)
4 tsp chocolate chips (I used Nestle semi-sweet, but I would recommend a better chocolate, as long as it is semi-sweet)
1 T soft, spreadable butter
1. If not using chocolate chips or pieces, chop the bittersweet chocolate.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until little bubbles appear on the edges. Remove from heat and add the bittersweet chocolate. Whisk until smooth and refrigerate for about 30 minutes until slightly solid.
3. Spread a layer of the chocolate mixture 1/4 inch thick on two of the bread slices. Press about 2 teaspoons of the semi-sweet chips into the chocolate mixture.
4. Spread some butter on one side of the remaining slices. Place each slice over a slice of the chocolate-spread bread, and press lightly to seal. Freeze for 7 minutes.
5. Heat a panini press or a skillet and hand-hell press (you could also use a skillet and a baking sheet weighted with heavy cans or other heavy item) and add a little melted butter to the pan. Place sandwich, buttered side up, on the pan or press, and press down until bread is lightly browned. Flip sandwich and repeat. Cut in half diagonally and eat.
Makes 2 sandwiches. Recipe can easily be doubled.