I recently had a flavor epiphany. Bread and butter pickle with Marash pepper flakes[i] and cream cheese is a magical combination and a boon to sandwich lovers everywhere.
As with many Turkish and middle eastern foods the name is the place the peppers are grown. Pepper flakes from the southern coast of Turkey[ii] are prized for their sweet smokiness, medium but lingering heat and a moistness that allows them to meld with other ingredients quicker and more seamlessly than other peppers. Unlike your ubiquitous bottle of “red pepper flakes” the drying process used in these towns seems to imbibe more flavor and leaves more moisture because they sun dry them during the day and then wrap them up in fabric at night[iii], leading to a fabulous product with concentrated flavors. I would love to go to Kahramanmaraş or Sanliurfa and thank them for their contribution to peppers (and so much else)[iv] but unfortunately the war in Syria makes that travel plan a no go for the time being[v].
But back to the pickle and pepper pairing. I’ve been keeping an eye out for applications to test my theory that this simple flavor combination will soon be the best thing to happen to my sandwich eating since Green Mountain Farms started making that cream cheese with Greek Yogurt[vi]. Then I had a curry flavored veggie pattie with said cream cheese, pickles and peppers. It was the most amazing accidental crossover both a burger with condiments AND curried potato and lentils with chutney.
Then, while listening to the “Carrots” episode of the Spilled Milk Podcast, I realized how I could codify my combo to share with others: a slaw-like carrot salad to top cold-cut turkey or leftover roast chicken. The carrots add texture while playing into the sweetness of bread and butter pickles AND adding a bright note to the smokiness of the peppers, you could add red cabbage for more veggie power and color it would go with the watercress and sprouts. Two things I always like to have on hand for a good ‘witch. The process: just grate some carrots slice/dice bread and butter pickles lightly salt to draw some liquid out of the carrots, sprinkle in a tablespoon of rice vinegar and add a heaping amount of of the peppers then stir all together. Spread one side of your bread with cream cheese, top with the slaw and then layer in whatever protein your heart desires.
If you are looking for more of a project, a spicier slaw or perhaps you just love making your own pickles I highly recommend making Ed Lee’s “Bourbon-Pickled Jalapenos” from Smoke and Pickles[vii] and substituting them instead of store bought pickles. The bourbon and honey in his recipe result in a very similar flavor to traditional bread-and-butter but with an added depth and complexity of flavor. Grab some radish/watercress/arugula[viii] and herbs[ix] then stuff your slaw and green things into a French roll with leftover roast chicken or pork [x] and voila: you are now a Banh Mi master, congratulations!
[i] http://www.tulumba.com/storeItem.asp?ic=FB456076MD777 this is the exact brand and kind I get and I recommend making the effort to find them. The unique taste is definitely worth the time and a 1/2 lb bottle costs around $6.
[ii] And as far as I can tell also Syria, Lebannon and probably every other hot dry plain that close to the Mediterranean.
[iii] This is according to Wikipedia, but given the result I believe that this is a one sentence version of what happens.
[iv] That area of southern turkey is known as the origin of many of the most popular mezze dishes, lamb kibbeh anyone!?, as well as some great biblical era historical sites.
[v] Marash & Urfa peppers are also great substitutes for Aleppo until Syria stabilizes.
[vii] I also recommend trying all of the rest of the recipes in this cookbook as well and taking the time to savor his stories while your pickles are developing in the fridge.
[viii] At the very least some pepper, but I prefer using greens to add peppery flavor in sandwich. I feel that the flavor is fresher and more evenly distributed that way. Besides, as stated in the first sentence, when I’m making a sandwich it is because I am VERY hungry RIGHT NOW. As a result I add every and anything possible to cram in the maximum number of nutrients and calories.
[ix] All of the green herbs would be best, but any mixture of mint, cilantro, basil, parsley, and chives will add that Vietnamese aromatics flair.
[x] Any lightly seasoned protein will work.