The Art of the Sandwich: A better sliceSwiss from the local grocery isn’t the only slice that can top off that sandwich. Simon Lehrer, cheesemonger at The Wine Merchant in Clayton, urges you not to pass up artisan cheeses. Often overlooked at the sandwich counter, they can be the perfect complement to your essentials between the bread.
Softer cheeses such as Brie or Camembert can be used in lieu of butter inside your next sandwich, thanks to their super-spreadable consistency. The egg-like texture and soft, rich flavor of fromage d’affinois – similar to a triple-cream Brie in both texture and flavor but produced much faster – also makes for a great mayonnaise substitute.
The line of ash running through Morbier originally delineated the morning and evening curds in this semisoft cow’s milk cheese; today, the line is added only for tradition, though the cheese still melts beautifully and remains rich, creamy and slightly bitter. “They’re young in age and great for a hot sandwich – anything that has a good dark meat and a big robust flavor, from roasted beef to pork or even turkey.”
Sometimes found melted atop a bowl of French onion soup, Comté also has a place in the sandwich world. “You can get it anywhere in age from three months to three years, and while it’s softer and more malleable when it ages less, it gets nuttier and firmer as it gets older.” Sub it for its cousin, Gruyère, on a classic croque monsieur, or try pairing it with pork for a Cuban sandwich that cuts the meat with just the right amount of sharp nuttiness.
Red Dragon is a sharp, firmer cheese with origins in Wales, where it’s called Y Fenni when sold in a pale yellow wax instead of its signature red coating. “It has a base of Cheddar but has mustard seed and ale blended into it, so it adds a nice spiciness to whatever you put it on,” whether it be pork, chicken or even just two slices of sourdough bread.
Other aged cheeses such as Piave vecchio and Castelmagno, both from Italy, produce an intense sharpness that often garners comparison to Parmigiano-Reggiano. Lehrer recommended pairing their nutty sharpness with other big flavors, such as fresh summer tomatoes.