The Most Famous Sandwich

by Cate on July 27, 2006

Heard of Margaux Sky? You might not recognize her name, but you’ve probably heard her story.

The story isn’t new. Oprah Winfrey was in the San Luis Obispo, California area two years ago to meet with Tim Bennett, the president of Oprah’s Harpo Productions, and Margaux’s brother-in-law. Tim ordered in a bunch of sandwiches, salads and Double Chocolate Fudge Cake to have during their meeting, including Margaux’s Curried Chicken Salad. Oprah took one bite of the sandwich, made on homemade white pepper-jack bread, and said it was the best sandwich she had ever had. Tim told her to enjoy the sanwich, because the restaurant it came from, Art Cafe and Bakery owned by Margaux, was closing the next day.

After working long, hard hours for 2-1/2 years, doing everything from sweeping the floors to making the homemade bread, Margaux was beyond exhausted and decided she couldn’t do it anymore. She was poised to sign the papers to sell the place the next morning at 9 am. An hour before, Margaux got a call from Oprah herself, saying that she wanted to help, if Margaux wanted to stay. “I thought, anybody this good can’t be closed down,” Oprah says. “So I sent Margaux a check, and now she’s back in business and cooking like crazy!”

A few weeks later, Oprah and Margaux met for the very first time at the cafe. Oprah hadn’t even met Margaux or seen the cafe before sending her check. “It’s a mistake women make all the time – trying to do everything,” Oprah told her. “You need a support system.”

With Oprah’s check, Margaux hired two sandwich chefs and two people to clean. By doing so, Margaux now had the time to focus on coming up with the creative recipes she has become known for.

And why am I telling you all this now, two years after Oprah first bit into the now-famous Curried Chicken Sandwich? Because Margaux has recently released her first book, Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: America’s Best Sandwiches. If the cover picture, and the Oprah story, is any indication, we’re in for a real treat. I haven’t bought a new cookbooks in ages, and couldn’t restrain myself. ;)

OK, onto tonight’s dinner. The Neighbors came over and I whipped up a lightning fast meal, making one tried-and-true (Columbia Restaurant’s 1905 Salad) and a new recipe (Spinach Pesto Pasta). Both are very quick to make, and dinner was done in under 30 minutes; can’t beat that, especially on a weeknight. Even better, both recipes are incredibly healthy. The pasta recipe has a bag of spinach and only a few tablespoons of olive oil. Better still, people won’t notice they’re eating spinach. You know how anti-green-veggie crusaders are … I didn’t tell The Neighbor Husband that it was spinach until he was halfway through his first helping (I know better!), and he went back for a second helping. Nicholas wolfed down a bowl of it before going to bed and immediately asked for more. The only change I’d make with the recipe next time would be to roast the tomatoes instead. Other than that, it’s a perfect meal for harried weekdays, and ideal when you want to sneak the veggies into your kids’ (and adults’!) bellies!

Lastly, we taste-tested Breyers new Bubble Yum ice cream that I mentioned on Monday – hey, somebody has to do it! The Neighbors also got to try the Fried Ice Cream flavor for the first time. They both reported they liked the Fried Ice Cream one better (with my additions) and were put off by the bubblegum pieces in the Bubble Yum flavor ice cream. I liked it, but I’ve had Baskin Robbins’ flavor before, so I was used to having a big wad of gum in my mouth when the bowl was done. Ice cream research – heh. There are worse ways to spend an evening. ;) This weekend kicks off “birthday week” in our house, so it will be onto wine research.

Until tomorrow…

A year ago today… Salsa Stoup and Guacamole Smash.

Spinach Pesto Pasta
Recipe courtesy of For Me magazine

In a food processor, blend 5 oz. bagged spinach (I used the whole bag, 6 oz.) and 1/3 cup each walnuts and grated Parmesan cheese with 2 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Toss with cooked pasta, sliced ham and cherry tomatoes.

Columbia Restaurant’s Original “1905” Salad
Courtesy Columbia Restaurant From Every Day with Rachael Ray
November-December 2005 issue
Four Servings
Columbia Restaurant in the Tampa area’s historic Ybor City no doubt qualifies as mass production: 1,700 seats in 15 dining rooms that together span a full city block, making it the biggest Spanish restaurant in the world–including, you know, Spain. At least 1,000 people show up daily, and on weekends the place is bursting. The “1905” salad is a citywide obsession.

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
2 ripe tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup thin strips of Swiss cheese (2 ounces) (we used shredded)
1/2 cup thin strips of ham (2 ounces)
1/4 cup pitted green Spanish olives
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons grated pecorino Romano cheese

In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, tomatoes, Swiss cheese, ham and olives. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, oregano and Worcestershire sauce. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, continually beating to form an emulsion. Stir in the vinegar and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Add the pecorino, toss and serve.

Margaux’s Curried Chicken Sandwich
Created by Margaux Sky
From the November, 2004 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
Makes 6 servings

20 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1/2 lemon
3 pounds medium chicken tenders
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1/2 cup honey
1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 teaspoons lemon pepper
1/8 teaspoons salt
Butter for spreading
1 loaf challah or other rich egg bread, cut into 12 thick slices
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 bag (about 5 ounces) mesclun salad greens
Red grapes and assorted berries for garnish

In a large saucepan over high heat, add peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, lemon and 14 cups water; cover and bring to a boil. Add chicken and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, 7 to 10 minutes, or until cooked through; drain. Once cool, quarter each tender crosswise.

In a large bowl, combine mustard, honey, curry powder, lemon pepper and salt; stir in chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.

Butter both sides of bread slices. In a heated nonstick skillet over medium-high flame, cook bread in batches 3 to 5 minutes or until browned, turning once.

Combine carrots and almonds with chicken mixture. Divide chicken curry among 6 bread slices. Top with tomatoes, mesclun and remaining bread slices. Serve with fruit.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire July 27, 2006 at 3:09 am

I’ve been wondering about the salsa stoup. Even though you weren’t overwhelmed by the recipe, I think I’ll still have to try it. I’m all about light soups. Hope birthday week starts off in a fantastic way!

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Madeline July 27, 2006 at 3:21 am

I skipped past that salad recipe in the magazine, but if it is one of your tried and true recipes, I might have to try it!

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wheresmymind July 27, 2006 at 1:31 pm

Well…Oprah would be an expert on sandwich consumption. hehe

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Alanna July 27, 2006 at 6:55 pm

I’ve had this in my to-try list forever!

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Ivonne July 27, 2006 at 9:02 pm

I just bought that book, Cate and I’m in love with it! Great review.

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lobstersquad July 28, 2006 at 8:07 am

I love that sandwich story! I want the book, I want them to make a movie, but for now, I´ll make the sandwich.

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SmileyCarrie July 29, 2006 at 3:15 am

Mmmm that pasta pesto salad looks phenomenal!!!
Can’t wait to try that one!

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Anonymous August 15, 2007 at 9:50 pm

The Art Cafe is still in the same place, open and still very quaint. It is worth the trip to go to San Luis Obispo, Ca. to eat a wonderful Sandwich. Oprah and many other stars frequent the place according to locals.

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