Toasted Ham, Brie, and Apple Sandwich

by brookefiore

 Do you use reusable grocery bags?

 While you may be doing the planet a favor, if you’re not washing them in between uses you might be doing harm to your own health. Back in April I read an article published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that changed the way I grocery shop. The article was about a study the Academy performed in conjunction with ConAgra Food’s Home Food Safety program that found that only 1 in 6 Americans frequently washes their reusable grocery bags. However, washing these bags is not enough. It is also recommended to use separate bags for ready-to-eat foods and raw meats. Another food safety best practice is to wrap those raw meats in plastic before placing them in your tote bags.

Here are some of my bags after going for a spin in the washing machine. Why go through all that hassle you might argue. Or isn’t it enough that I can remember to bring the bags with me to the store? No, it isn’t enough if you want to keep you and your family healthy while also helping out good ole Planet Earth. You can find the article here to read registered dietitian and academy spokesperson Ruth Frechman’s other tips on storing and washing your grocery bags.

Another personal reason I encourage my family to use reusable grocery totes – and why I try to use them for other shopping trips too – is that my parent’s kitty Paul has this obsession with plastic. Above you can see Paul reacting to a plastic bag. Any plastic bag is not safe in our household. I am beginning to believe he has Pica, an appetite for nonfood sources such as plastic. He even underwent emergency surgery once for eating a combination of dental floss and you guessed it, a plastic bag. So for me, I would rather worry about ridding my bags of the germs and helping out the environment than putting Paul’s well-being in jeopardy.

 Therefore, I have these reusable produce bags too.

On my last trip to target I also picked up these nifty little dishwasher safe sandwich and snack bags. I think I just have a thing for reusable bags come to think of it. I also think these would make a great gift idea – I can think of one my fellow interns in particular…Jamie :) In her attempts to be eco-friendly (I think) Jamie would reuse Ziploc baggies and oftentimes I would see her storing two snacks in the same bag. This is all fun and games until your wheat thins start to taste like carrots.

So what was in my reusable grocery bags this afternoon? Thickly sliced deli ham in its own juices, brie cheese and some ciabatta rolls.

This apple was in our produce drawer and it was bigger than my hand! This was part of the inspiration for my grocery purchases. Recently, I picked up the Cook Fresh edition of Fine Cooking magazine and found a recipe I just had to try. I’m not much of sandwich person, actually it’s more that I am not much of a homemade sandwich person. This probably stems from too many years of packed school lunches of plain turkey, cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches. However, I love to order an occasional sandwich from  the Mystic Market. Why was this? Because they are like fancy sandwiches, full of flavor. Well, today I felt like a sandwich so I decided to take a shot at getting fancy at home!

Here are the apples slices and ham browning up on the stovetop in just a wee little bit of unsalted butter. The recipe calls for a thinly slice ham steak, cut on the diagonal, that is in its own “natural juices.” For convenience, I stopped at the deli counter and asked for thickly sliced ham that was packed in its natural juices. I usually shy away from deli meat, with its funky shape and high sodium content. But like I said today I was taking risks, being fancy. The original recipe also suggests using a Granny Smith apple which I would be all for with its tart, robust flavor. But I wanted to use that massive apple that was taking up all the room in the chiller drawer!

After heating the ham through and browning the apple slices, I removed the pan from the heat and tossed the ham and apples with some fresh thyme, honey, and dijon mustard. Meanwhile my ciabatta roll was getting toasty in the oven with some brie. While this isn’t exactly a “bring to work” type of sandwich its it warm and delicious and can be pulled together on a weekend with fairly little effort. Another bonus, you can use up some of those apples that are ready for the picking at an orchard near you! The recipe serves 4, clearly I tweaked it to fit my lunch for 1. I will share the original recipe.

Toasted Ham, Brie, and Apple Sandwiches

Serves 4

1 large baguette cut into 4 pieces

7 oz. brie,  most of the rind trimmed off

2 TBSP unsalted butter

1 1/2 medium Granny Smith apples cut into 1/4 inch thick wedges

3/4 lb ham steak, thinly sliced on the diagonal

2 TBSP Dijon Mustard

1 TBSP honey

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 425 F. Split the baguettes pieces lengthwise, open them up like a book and top one side with sliced brie. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heave skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and cook, tossing every minute or so until they start to soften and brown in places, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ham and cook, tossing gently until heated through. Remove pan from heat and toss with mustard, honey, and thyme until apples and ham are evenly coated. Using tongs distribute the ham mixture into the warm pieces of baguette, secure with 2 toothpicks, cut in half, and serve.

As you can see, I tailored this recipe a bit for practicality reasons. I think this recipe would also be fun for a small luncheon.