I was going to call this sandwich the P.A.S.T., or even the B.A.S.T., figuring that pancetta is a bacon, albeit Italian bacon, coming as it does from the pork belly, the same cut that provides us bacon. However, I don’t think either acronym is going to catch on quite as well as B.L.T. has. Then there’s the additional issue with B.A.S.T. being, well, so easily bastardized and, yes, mocked. And no one has any business mocking this sandwich, I can assure you of that.
While I was outside shooting photographs of my rapidly cooling, yet stunningly gorgeous, sandwich, JR was inside devouring his, such that when I returned from my pre-lunch photo shoot, he growled through mouthfuls of asparagus, bread, and pancetta, “ohmmmygoddd, thisisthebesssstsandwichI’veeverrrrrhad, maybethebessstANYthingI’veeverrrrrhad.” “Seriously?,” I asked, cutting diagonally through the now tepid model sandwich. “Yes. Absolutely,” he said clearly, now that the mash that had been garbling his speech had moved on to the digestion phase of its short life. “I’d like another one. Right now.” “We’ll have them again tomorrow. I have enough for tomorrow, too.” A brief silence, then a look of acceptance, followed by happy anticipation, “Ok, that sounds good,” he said, “I can have it again tomorrow.” Amazing what a little bacon flavor will do to a person. Bring him to the brink of disappointment, and then back from the edge with dreams of pork bellies future to keep him going.
If you could use a bit of cheer in your day – and let’s face it, who couldn’t? – I suggest you make this sandwich. And be sure to have enough ingredients on hand to make it again tomorrow, ok?
- 8 slices (approximately 4 ounces) pancetta
- 8 fresh asparagus spears, woody bottom ends snapped off, cut into 3 pieces per spear
- 8 slices deep dish focaccia bread or good-quality bakery bread (such as Iggy's Deep Dish Onion Focaccia)
- 4 1/4-inch slices fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped, and if packed in oil, drained of excess oil
- In a medium saute pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta to desired crispness. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate to allow oil to drain. Add asparagus to saute pan and cook until bright green, for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently to coat with pancetta fat. Remove asparagus from the pan until you're ready to construct the sandwiches.
- In a food processor or mini food processor, blend the mayonnaise and sundried tomatoes until mayonnaise is a light reddish color. Chunks of sundried tomato will remain.
- Toast or broil the bread slices. Once toasted, place one slice of fresh mozzarella on each of four slices and place them under the broiler until mozzarella has begun to melt. Meanwhile, spread each of the other four slices with 2 tablespoons each of the sundried tomato mayonnaise. Place two pieces of pancetta over the mayonnaise, then lay 6 pieces of asparagus over the pancetta, including two of the tops, unless you are an asparagus mizer and want to keep all the tops for yourself. Which is not a very nice thing to do at all, now then, is it? Place the four pieces of bread with the just-melted mozzarella on top of the whole pile, smoosh it down slightly, and cut it in two - either on the diagonal or straight down the middle, whatever works for you. Serve the P.A.S.T. forth (see, that's plain old weird), and determine whether anyone in your family thinks it's the very best sandwich they've ever had. Just be sure to remind them not to talk with mouth full, it all sounds like one long word to everyone else when they do that.
Dinner tonight: Fiddlehead crostini and Pasta Carbonara. Estimated cost for two: $8.05. The fiddleheads – edible parts of springtime ferns that are harvested in the wild – were $6/pound at the farmers market. I will use at most 1/4 pound for this appetizer tonight, which is $1.50. The bread will be no more than a quarter of a bakery loaf (I am getting lazy – I haven’t made a yeast bread in weeks – this will change soon, I promise) from a loaf that cost $3.29, so that adds 83-cents to the tally. I set out to buy some locally-made fresh goat cheese, but opted instead for this Chavrie cheese – why, you ask? Because, first, they are following me on Twitter, so when I saw it at Whole Foods, my curiosity was piqued; second, it was only $2.99, and we all know I’m rather parsimonious; third, the packaging intrigued me with its claim that it “spreads like silk”. Now, this could be total b.s. (not B.A.S.T., b.s.), but if it isn’t, $2.99 is a small price to pay to find an economical goat cheese option. I’ll let you know. In any case, I don’t imagine I’ll use more than half of the Chavrie cheese, so that’s $1.50. These fiddleheads are a springtime and springtime only snack, people, so I have to splurge. So the app is $3.83. Splurging, I tell you! The pasta carbonara will consist of 1/2 pound of pasta at $1.99/box of the Whole Foods store brand variety. I’ll use two eggs from our chickens, but if you purchased them, they’d be no more than 52-cents. I’m going to use two pieces of bacon at an estimated cost of 50-cents each, so that’s another dollar. Lest you thought this dish was getting too low-fat, I’ll also use a stick of unsalted butter, which is 70-cents, and a half cup of grated Pecorino-Romano, which I estimate is two ounces (I should really weigh this, no?), and that’s $1.00 at $7.99/pound. That gets us a Grand Total of $4.22 for the calorie-laden pasta dish. Hey, at least we got some greens in there, right? Granted, they’re on goat cheese and bread, but they’re still greens. And, hey, $8.05 isn’t bad for a Saturday night dinner, now then, is it?