A Banh Mi-Inspired Sandwich from a Leftover Charcuterie Board
I love throwing parties. Entertaining and feeding friends is one of my favorite activities, but deciding what to serve can be tough from a food waste perspective. On the one hand, you want to make sure you have enough food for everyone, and that it looks abundant and festive. On the other hand, the more food you make, the more you need to use up. (Hopefully, if you're on this site, you're not just wasting leftovers from parties!)
Having just thrown a small party over the long weekend, a few upcoming posts will be about using up the various ingredients and leftovers from the event. Some of the biggest offenders - the dishes that require the most creativity - are the cheese, crudites and charcuterie platters. They're stuffed full of different ingredients, from olives to meats to veggies to condiments - so they look beautiful, but can leave you with a lot of uneaten bits and pieces that all need to be treated differently. Example A: the photo at the right of just one of the leftover cheese & charcuterie platters.
It's a good exercise in one of the central premises of reducing food waste: instead of thinking about what you want to eat, think about what you can make with what you have. Sometimes you're lucky enough that the stars align - when you're craving the refreshing and acidic yet hearty, meaty crunch of a banh mi, and happen to have leftover sliced vegetables, country pate, salami, fresh mint, and pickles. Sometimes the food waste gods are good.
The making of this sandwich was freewheeling and spur-of-the-moment and totally delicious. Andrea Nguyen, author of The Banh Mi handbook, writes about how many people have very specific ideas on banh mi, but that 'Viet food is constantly evolving. What's key is keeping true to its foundation and roots.' As you've probably realized by now, I'm also not particularly concerned with specificity or authenticity. In my opinion, it doesn't matter what the exact ingredients are as long as it's balanced and Nguyen agrees: 'In the realm of banh mi, this is what you want to focus on: Using a moderate amount of protein, light bread, some heat (black pepper or fresh chile), fat (mayo or butter), salt or Maggi, and maybe vegetables (tangy crunch pickles, refreshing cucumber, pungent herbs).'
Our charcuterie board happened to include pate, a classic banh mi ingredient, but funny enough, I decided I wanted banh mi before I even remembered we had any. I used sliced salami leftover from the party in place of the more traditional roasted pork, but you could also use any other protein for a delicious sandwich. Grilled chicken, seared shrimp, or an egg omelette would all be delicious alternatives. I thinly sliced the carrots, cornichons and radishes from the board, made some quick pickles, pulled some already pickled jalapenos out of the fridge and tore up some mint leaves.
In an ideal world, I'd also have had a good baguette, but white sandwich bread did the trick. And I missed having a sandwich overflowing with cilantro, but you can't ask for everything when it comes to making delicious meals out of what you have. It's all about creative thinking and letting go of conceptions of perfection or authenticity. Focus on what cooking what you've got and making it taste fantastic and you'll be happy!
The Rough Recipe
Here are the basic ingredients - scale amounts up or down depending on how many people you're feeding.
Here's what you'll need:
- Thinly sliced or shredded veggies, such as carrots, radishes, cucumbers, scallions, and jalapenos, but feel free to try others if you have them around
- A length of Vietnamese or French baguette (or, in a pinch, whatever bread you have around like rolls or sandwich bread)
- Leftover charcuterie, such as pate and salami, or your protein of choice
- Mayonnaise - the classic banh mi condiment
- Sriracha - optional but highly recommended
- Any pickles you might already have in the fridge
If you don't already have pickles, make some Right-This-Minute Pickles out of your sliced vegetables and let them marinate while you assemble the sandwiches.
The assembly is pretty simple - just adjust amounts according to your preferences and ingredient amounts. Smear mayonnaise generously on the bread, then pile on the protein of choice and top with sliced veggies. I stacked pate and salami together and then added the radishes and cucumbers that had been on another party platter. I stuffed in pickled jalapenos and carrots from the fridge, tucked in some torn mint leaves, and ended with a drizzle of sriracha.