Cliff Sandwiches

When I posted my ham and cheese stuffed french toast, reader Jacky commented that it was a Monte Cristo sandwich that is sometimes served with powdered sugar. Reader and Pinoy blogger Richard, on the other hand, commented that there were other variations of the recipe. He wrote: “Almost close or maybe cousins to this is an army navy sandwich. think of a clubhose sandwich then LIBERALLY pour melted cheese (gravy consistency) on everything on site…OR famous cliff sandwich of defunct Plaza Restaurant…again think of a clubhouse sandwich BUT this time using eggwash and bread crumbs deep fried till golden brown.” Within minutes, I was rummaging in the kitchen to find out if I had everything I needed to make cliff sandwiches. I was going to make them for dinner last night. I realized, too late, that I had no breadcrumbs. We had macaroni and chicken soup and chicken salad sandwiches instead.

Bright and early this morning, I went on a cooking spree. First, I made some bread crumbs from some day-old bread. Then, I baked some pandan macaroons. After that, I started with the cliff sandwiches.

If you want to make your bread crumbs, like I had to, just place a few slices of bread in a not-too-hot oven (75oC is fine) for about 10-15 minutes to dry them. Cool the bread and break them into small pieces. Place in a blender or food processor and process them into bread crumbs. The pulse method works best. Alternatively, place a slice of toasted bread on a chopping board or any hard surface and roll a rolling pin over it. When you have about a cup and a half of bread crumbs, you’re ready to make your cliff sandwiches.

Heat the oil. The temperature should be before it starts to smoke. Sorry, I don’t use kitchen thermometers. You can test the temperature by dropping a small piece of bread into the hot oil. If the bread browns too fast, the oil is too hot. Make three club sandwiches: Spread 1/4 c. of chicken salad on a slice of bread. Cover with another slice of bread. Lay a piece of ham on the second slice. Cover with another slice of bread. Lay a slice (or more) of cheese and top with another slice of bread. Secure each corner of the sandwich with a wooden toothpick. Repeat for the remaining ingredients.

Holding a clubhouse sandwich securely in your hands, roll all sides in the beaten eggs. Then dredge all sides in bread crumbs. With kitchen tongs, lower the sandwich in hot oil. The sandwich will not sink so you will need to turn it over after a few seconds to brown the other side. The frying part should not take more than a few seconds since you don’t want the oil to reach the insides of the sandwich; you just want to brown the outside. As soon as lightly browned, carefully lift the sandwich from the hot oil with kitchen tongs and drain on lots of paper towels.

Do the same thing with the remaining clubhouse sandwiches. Using a bread knife, cut each cliff sandwich into four triangles. Remove the toothpicks and serve warm. Tips: Avoid used oil. The taste of whatever it was that had been fried in the used oil will be absorbed by the bread. Furthermore, oil usually turns dark after fish or meat has been fried in it. The darker the oil, the darker the sandwich will be. Please do not use lard. Butter might be more flavorful but it burns faster. Besides, 5 cups of butter for frying is a little too expensive.