29 June 2011

the slender, unpremeditated claim that brings us back

Previously, on The Belfry:

... the Viking and I decided to go walkabout this weekend ...

'Walkabout' is metaphorical; Thurmont is a charming place but not exactly in walking distance from Belfry HQ. Therefore, we took the car.

We were in search of cherries, blackberries, and other summer produce. (We found some). On the way home, we detoured whimsically to Elk Run Vineyards (where I took Monday's photo, and which I would recommend as a destination in its own right to those who like wine).

When taking road trips, I like to pack a picnic lunch. The reasons for bringing a meal include:

  • Opportunities for al fresco dining may be met, and one likes to be prepared;
  • Even in the absence of opportunities for al fresco dining, the food options on the road are likely to be limited to fast food and/or chain restaurants which I prefer to avoid; and
  • Vikings become hungry if you do not feed them, and grumpy very shortly after becoming hungry. Grumpy Vikings are to be avoided at all cost.
The centrepiece of this weekend's expeditionary lunch was a sandwich, the 'shooter's sandwich':

Shooter's Sandwich

Or perhaps beef Wellington AS sandwich. The key ingredients of this thing are bread, beef and mushrooms. Mustard, horseradish, and so on, are embellishments, to be added or ignored at your preference.

In short, it's the perfect thing to feed to my husband to keep him happy on road trips.

Though the shooter's sandwich has been brought back to public attention by the Guardian's discussion last year on 'the world's best sandwich,' (see How to make a shooter's sandwich) the sandwich has been around since the Edwardian era and has been covered by various British cookery writers.

Below, a clip from the first season of 'Two Fat Ladies' (1996) in which Jennifer Paterson prepares a shooter's sandwich in its most elemental form:

Vegetarians may be consoled by the muttachar recipe demonstrated by Clarissa Dickson Wright. Muttachar is not picnic food, but it is also not a meat bomb, as the shooter's sandwich is. And it looks wondrous.

The sandwich I made contained one 8-ounce boneless chuck steak and a basic duxelles mixture made with 4 ounces of mushrooms, about the same quantity of shallots, and generous sprinklings of salt, pepper, and thyme. The loaf was approximately 9 inches around and was bought for the purpose; I am daft, but not quite daft enough to make bread specially for picnic sandwiches. These quantities made 4 servings.

I want to point out that a shooter's sandwich is a multiple-serving dish. While hunting up links for this post, I came across several web sites and blogs that talked about the shooter's sandwich as though it were something to eat at one go. This is not the case. Most people wouldn't eat a whole one in one sitting any more than they'd eat an entire party sub at once. Some people probably do, as some people probably eat entire pans of lasagna for a meal, but that is not the expectation.

My tiny brush with fame: Clarissa Dickson Wright runs (or ran?) a bookshop in Edinburgh called the Cooks Book Shop. One afternoon (in 1996 or 1997) I was down from St Andrews on a 'dear gods I must get out of this dinky wee town' mission and wandered into said bookshop. Clarissa was probably there; I am quite certain that Jennifer was there, chatting with someone. I, a non-telly-watching heathen, had no idea who either of them were at the time, browsed the shelves a few moments, saw nothing that cried out to me, and moved along. It was only later that I figured out who they were, and felt vaguely foolish.

(I know, I know -- how could I possibly walk into a shop full of cookbooks and not want to buy any of them? It's like sending me into a garden centre or a wool shop and having me come back empty-handed. I can only guess, by way of explanation, that I was cooking my way through French Provincial Cooking at the time, and, perhaps, my brain was sufficiently full).

Amy Clampitt

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