Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE SANDWICH; or, Naan


I don't know if you read Sam's comment on the last post?  He is very alarmed.  Upset, even.  Because I neglected to mention THE SANDWICH.  Well, if he had been slightly more patient, he would have soon seen that I was planning to post on naan next.  Naan is the essential ingredient to THE SANDWICH, and it elevates hummus and labneh to a new plane, as well.  The question is, can we make some as delicious as the naan at Bombay House?  I've been trying for years.  Without the tandoori oven, I thought maybe it wasn't possible---but then I discovered a startling secret.  Milk!  And a frying pan!  And now, behold the glory of the naan:


Seriously, this is amazing.  I mean, I like ALL bread.  And I make a lot of different kinds.  But this naan is going to change your life.  It will be the best part of your next Indian meal.  Or of your next sandwich.  You mark my words.

Before we get on to the recipe, let me assure you that I have tried variation after variation trying to get this right.  Many people say to bake it on the pizza stone, as it's the next best thing to a hot tandoori oven.  Others advise using the grill as your high-heat source.  I've tried both (and grilled naan is pretty good)---but neither of those options give you the airy, flaky, bubbly, soft-and-chewy-with-a-few-key-crunchy-bits texture that naan needs.  The stone yields a crispy-crunchy bread that dries out fast, and the grill is fickle and unpredictable.  Sometimes a piece of naan is too thick and gives you a dry spongy bread.  Other times your thin dough droops into the grill grate and gets charred on one side.  Not the perfection we are striving for.  Instead, you're going to pan-fry this dough.  Gently, without oil.  Before frying, you brush each side with a thin coating of milk.  The milk absorbs the first shock of heat from the pan and leaves that crust supple.  But then as it evaporates, it allows the bread to crisp up just slightly, giving you in parts a thin chewy crust almost like that of artisan bread.  Variations in thickness are not only acceptable but desirable---the thicker parts are tender and the thinnest parts have just enough crackle.  You'll love it.

Naan
By the way, please do not call it naan bread.  "Naan" means bread.  And you know how I abjure the use of redundancies like "ATM Machine."  Also, it sounds like you are saying "non-bread" which is just, you know, wrong.

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 c. oil (canola or olive)
2/3 c. plain yogurt
2 beaten eggs
5 c. flour, or enough to make a smooth dough

Mix together ingredients to form a smooth, elastic dough.  Knead well and let rise in large greased bowl until double in size, about 1 hour.

Divide dough into small golf-ball-sized pieces.  Roll each one out into a very thin teardrop shape.  Don't worry about small variations in thickness, since these add interest and deliciousness to the bread.  Brush the top of one piece of rolled-out dough with milk.  Carefully lay dough milk-side down onto a hot frying pan or skillet.  Let cook until small bubbles fill the surface.  When the bubbles have formed, brush the upper side with milk, trying not to deflate the bubbles.  Then flip the bread and cook the uncooked side.  (This will take about 2-4 minutes total on a hot pan.)  Remove naan from pan, place on plate, and brush with melted butter.  Repeat for remaining pieces.  Serve with various curries, for dipping in hummus, or just plain.

And now for THE SANDWICH.  Sam has been head-over-heels (in a manly way, of course) for this ever since we last made it.  After eating three sandwiches, he announced, "For dessert, I would like . . . another sandwich!"  It IS quite delicious.  Delicious and just unexpected enough to be pleasant.  It tastes like it could be an expensive sandwich.  But it is delightfully simple.  To create it, spread naan generously with hummus and labneh; then add turkey, spring mix, sprouts and cucumbers, avacadoes, or whatever vegetables you have on hand.  Eat, but do not go overboard.
Note the doll lying in the background---this is supposed to be one of those pathos-inducing photos, like these

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