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The Mona Lisa Sandwich [Book Review: Two Dishes]

Posted on 25 January 2010 by Mădălina

I am in love with the idea of this cookbook, mostly because it is something I see my mom and I doing. Linda and Devin are a mother-daughter team who are the masterminds behind Two Dishes.

The cookbook centers around the unique experience these women both have had, both locally, and around the world—from this they each have their own take. Linda is co-founder of ACE bakery enterprise, and Devin is owner of Delica Kitchen in Toronto. Although both mother and daughter come from similar walks of life, the book emphasizes their differences. Linda’s recipes are bold, full of flavor, and uses delicate ingredients. In contrast, Devin focuses her attention on affordable meals, which, still carry flavor. Paring prosciutto and fig on ricotta crostini (page 97) is simply ingenious. Showing two different takes on an occasion—brilliant!

Again though, most of the recipes in this book are way out of my budget. Even student budget aside, most of the recipes featured are out of most peoples budgets. For example, Linda’s Scallops with Leek and Morel Ragout on page 137 calls for 20 to 24 large fresh morel mushrooms. Although I am convinced this is a divine combination, morel mushrooms are neither easy to find, nor are they affordable (1 oz. package of dried morels, $30…ouch!). Devin combats her mother’s recipe by offering an opportunity to create a wonderful dish while on a budget with her take on Grilled Shrimp with Charred Radicchio, Fingerlings and Aioli (page 138)—still too costly for me though.

I am always on board for quality foods, especially sophisticated ingredients, but I tend to leave that up to the professionals. I can’t afford to try a recipe that borders on being more expensive than my cell phone bill!

This book does deserve recognition for its wonderful pictures. Majority of the recipes have full page photographs (photographer, Dough Bradshaw and food stylist, Claire Stubbs) that are absolutely an inspiration.

I’ve come to realize that some books are more of a novelty than practical. Perhaps it is because the authors spend so much time coming up with recipes that are unusual, which inevitably end up navigating them far from being workable. Unfortunately, this, for me, is one of those books. I flip a page, and I get the culinary excitement, but not the urge to try the recipes. Why is that?

I settled on trying the Mona Lisa sandwich, one of Devin’s recipes—an instant favourite.

Mona Lisa Sandwich (by Devin); taken from “Two Dishes,” by Linda Haynes and Devin Connell (p.104)
[Serves 4]

2 Large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 to 8oz/175 to 250 g each)
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg white
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp pesto
5 oz (150g) mozzarella cheese, sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 soft floured Portugese rolls, cut in half
2 large tomatoes, sliced
12 whole fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400′F.

2. Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise and lightly pound to flatten slightly.I found that by cutting the chicken breast lengthwise, and flattening it (which by the way, I covered in plastic wrap and pounded with my cast iron skillet; so easy, and fun) the portions were to large, so I cut them in half again (enough for almost 8 sandwiches)

3. In a shallow bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, lightly whisk the egg white. – I used Italian breadcrumbs, I think they added a little depth to the breaded chicken.

4. Dip each chicken piece into the egg white and then into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs onto all sides. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. – This would taste a lot better pan-fried with a bit of oil and the bread crumbs would create a nicer crust. In the oven, the coating didn’t crisp up as much as I would have preferred.

5. While the chicken is in the oven, combine the mayonnaise and pesto in a small bowl. –YUM!

6. Turn the chicken and top with the cheese. Put the rolls in the oven to toast and return the chicken to the oven to cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, or until the cheese has melted. – My deli accidently gave me swiss cheese instead of mozza, but it still tasted divine. I could even see provolone or peppered havarti as suitable substitutes. My local bakery doesn’t carry Portugese rolls, so I opted for ciabatta bread– still great.

7. Spread the mayonnaise on the bottom half of each roll. top with the chicken, tomato, basil and the top half of the roll. Serve warm. – I like the idea of a warm sandwich, but I think it would taste better if pressed underneath a panini maker. Toasting the ciabatta ahead of time just made the pesto-mayo melt. I think the basil, at least for the amount suggested in the recipe overpowers the other flavors. Instead, I would use a pesto with basil added, and omit the fresh basil leaves.

Recipe taken from “Two Dishes” by Linda Haynes and Devin Connell (McClelland and Stewart: 2009 p.104)

Credit: Haynes, Linda, and Devin Connell. Two Dishes: Mother and Daughter, Two Cooks, Two Lifestyles, Two Takes. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 2009. Print.ISBN: 78-0-7710-3816-7 (0-7710-3816-X)


6 Comments For This Post

  1. cookies and cups Says:

    that sandwich look so delicious!

  2. Nadine Says:

    Adorable idea for a book!

    And now I'm craving that sandwich. :)

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