Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cheddar Turkey Melt with Grilled Tomato and Crispy Onion Straws

     Gourmet Turkey Melt!
     First there was the almighty Patty Melt made with a hamburger patty.  Then the diet food trend of the 1960's and the mid 1970's health food swept the nation.  Tuna Melt Sandwiches became the number one grilled sandwich at nearly every American diner restaurant.  It was just a matter of time before the Turkey Melt became a healthy option too.
     I have done some fancy diner cooking during my career.  Trendy upscale diner cuisine was a popular trend a few years ago.  Diners that served nice presentations of gourmet comfort food became a hit with customers that demanded a high quality meal that was moderately priced.

     When working in a diner, an employee soon realizes that there are several things to overcome.  Diner customers are usually notoriously cheap tippers and members of the waitstaff are not exactly Ritz Carlton material.  American diners are famous for loud rude waitresses, but that is part of the charm.
     The "Greasy Spoon" reputation of old fashioned diner restaurants is a big hurdle to overcome.  Upscale gourmet diner restaurants that serve trendy modern comfort food have changed the reputation for the better.  Las Vegas has several modern diners that serve some fairly sophisticated comfort cuisine for a reasonable price.  Las Vegas even has a 1950's style "red booth" diner with a singing waitstaff that performs 1950's rock and roll shows while serving food.  The food at Roxy's Diner inside the Stratosphere Casino is some of the best in town and the atmosphere simply cannot be beat.
     The first time that I had a sandwich with crispy fried onion straws on it was at a 24 hour diner in Vegas.  Honestly, I did not even bother to look at the menu.  I just sat down and ordered a French Dip Sandwich with french fries, because I know that sandwich is on every diner menu from coast to coast.  To my surprise, there were delicious crispy fried onions on the French Dip.  It was one of the tastiest French Dip Sandwiches that I have ever had!  The crispy fried onions brought that French Dip up to an entirely new level that bordered upon being gourmet!

     After the nice Crispy Fried Onion French Dip Experience, I fiddled around with adding crispy fried onions to other classic diner style sandwiches.  Patty Melts are great with crispy onions instead of grilled onions.  Naturally I figured that a Turkey Melt would be nice with crispy onions too.
     Grilled tomato slices are a popular option for garnishing a Turkey Melt.  Some chefs say that grilled tomato slices are required for this sandwich.  The tomato definitely lightens the feel of a grilled Turkey Melt on the tummy and this increases the healthy appeal.
     Crispy Onions (Onion Straws): 
     This recipe yields more than enough onion straws for 3 or 4 sandwiches.  
     Onion straws, haystack onions and crispy onions are all the same thing.  
     Crispy onions are very easy to make, but it is easy to overcook and burn the crispy onions.  Only small amounts of crispy onions should be fried at a time to prevent dangerous hot oil foaming.    
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Cut 1 large vidalia onion into paper thin sliced rings.  (The onion rings must be less than 1/16" thick.)
     Step 3:  Place the thin onion slices in a mixing bowl and separate them into rings.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Let the onions sweat from the salt for about 5 minutes.
     Step 4:  Add enough flour to coat the onion rings.  (About 1 1/4 cups.)
     Toss the thin onion rings and flour together, so the onions are evenly coated.
     Step 5:  Place the coated onions in a medium mesh strainer over a mixing bowl.
     Gently shake the strainer to remove the excess flour.
     Step 6:  Deep fry small batches of the coated onions at a time to prevent excessive oil foaming.
     Poke the crispy onions with a fryer net as they fry, to prevent the crispy onions from sticking together.
     Fry till the onions are a crispy golden color.  (This only takes a minute or two.)
     Step 7:  Use a fryer net to remove the crispy onions from the hot oil.  Place them on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the crispy onions warm on a stove top.
     *The frying oil can be saved if the heat is turned off immediately after the frying is done.  The oil must be filtered.  The only problem is that anything that you fry in the used oil will taste like onions!
     Cheddar Turkey Melt with Grilled Tomato and Crispy Onion Straws:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     Step 1:  Heat a griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Brush 2 pieces of whole grain bread with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the bread on the griddle.
     Place a few thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese on the bread.
     Step 2:  Place 1 teaspoon of melted unsalted butter on an empty spot on the griddle.
     Place 4 ounces of very thin sliced deli style roast turkey breast in the hot pan.
     Grill the sliced turkey, till it becomes hot.
     Place the grilled turkey on the cheese on one of the slices of bread.
     Step 3:  Quickly grill 2 thin tomato slices on the griddle.
     Place the grilled tomatoes on top of the turkey.
     Step 4:  Place a small mound of the crispy frieds on the turkey and tomato side of the sandwich.
     Step 5:  When the bread is toasted golden brown, place the 2 sandwich halves together.
     Use a spatula to set the sandwich on a cutting board.
     Slice the sandwich in half and set it on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with pickles or fruit.
     *The sandwich in the photos was served with Persian pickled wild cucumber, Persian pickled turnips, dates and roasted red bell pepper strips. 

     A gourmet grilled Turkey Melt definitely is a tasty lunch item!

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