My husband just returned from a few days in Tucson. While there, he texted me with a culinary challenge. He said he had the most awesome sandwich ever, and he wanted me to try and recreate it. I admit I was a bit unsure of the flavor combination when he told me what was in it--salmon, pesto, caramelized onions, and Swiss on rye--but agreed to try. Hmmm....kind of like a patty melt meets a Reuben of the sea? I am here to tell you that it is awesome. Complex. Kinda sweet from the onions, but a kick from the pungent cheese. The pesto is really downplayed and not as strong as you'd expect. My husband grinned ear to ear as he ate this, and sweetly informed me that mine was better than the one he had at the restaurant. I think he was required to say that, but I'll take the compliment regardless. After I made these last night with a salmon fillet that I had roasted, I couldn't help but wonder how a shortcut would be by using the salmon in the pouch that I use for salmon cakes. So, we had it that way tonight (to use up the onions and Swiss) and it really was just as delicious. If you like a stronger pesto flavor, this would be the way to go. I liked the fillet version better and my husband said he preferred the canned salmon. I guess we are a house divided. Wonder which way you will prefer?
-inspired by some random restaurant that served my husband a "salmon melt"
- salmon (either a fillet or a large pouch. I roasted a large fillet from Trader Joe's straight from frozen)
- pesto (I used store-bought)
- 2 onions (yellow or white)
- pinch of sugar
- Swiss cheese, shredded (I used Jarlsburg and grated it myself)
- Rye bread (I used Jewish rye with seeds)
Cook your salmon and cut into pieces so that you can fit them on a slice of the bread (I actually thinly sliced mine lengthwise and then used a couple of those pieces. There's no magic way). Sit tight if you are using a pouch of canned salmon. Meanwhile, thinly slice your onions and saute in a couple tablespoons unsalted butter, stirring frequently, until dark and caramelized. This will take you 20-30 minutes. It is worth your effort. About ten minutes in, sprinkle a bit of sugar (1/2 t. or so) over the onions if you wish. If the onions start to stick and the pan gets too dark, splash a little water in every now and then and scrape up the bits. Again, no magic. You want soft, sweet onions with a caramel-like color. Put them on a plate and set aside (do this a day ahead if you want. Your sandwich will be none-the-wiser). To assemble each sandwich, butter one side of each piece of bread (2 per sandwich of course). Spread the opposite side of the slice with a thin layer of pesto. Layer the bread (butter side down), then a generous sprinkle of cheese, then the salmon, salt/pepper, a layer of onions, more cheese, and the second slice of bread. Now, if you are going the canned salmon route--simply stir a couple of tablespoons (or however much you like) of pesto into the salmon and mash it all together with a fork. Then build your sandwich that way (but do not spread more pesto on the bread), with cheese, salmon/pesto mixture, onions, more cheese. Got it? Cook in a nonstick skillet, pressing down occasionally with your spatula, until golden brown on each side. Cut in half and serve. This is a sandwich with flavors that create conversation. You will be talking about it as you eat. It's unexpected, and really, really good.