An important friend died two weeks ago. He had a firework-filled life and some seriously tumultuous times too. Tonight I had a long phone conversation with his funny, tender-hearted baby brother and we covered a lot of ground. Towards the end of the conversation I brought up the rough patch – seemingly arduous, grueling and lengthy – in his brother’s life. “I don’t think about him that way,” he said.
If you don’t think of it, it ceases to exist, doesn’t it? The bad parts evaporate. Gotta get me some of that.
MS was the culprit that killed him. Even if we don’t think of it, it exists. Could we make some sandwiches to put that beast to rest? With Chili Russian on ’em for extra strength.
The Ad-Rock Pang
Yield: 4 servings
1 pound good-quality Jewish deli-style pastrami
4 (6-inch) baguettes, split lengthwise and toasted
2 medium Kirby cucumbers, thinly sliced lengthwise on a bias into 6 planks
8 cilantro sprigs
8 dill sprigs
Wise Potato Chips, cream soda, dill pickle spear for serving (optional)
1 ¼ cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 ½ cups sugar (plus more if needed)
2 tablespoons kosher salt (plus more if needed)
4 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 4 cups)
Chili Russian Dressing:
1 ½ teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup dill pickles, very finely chopped
⅓ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sambal oelek chili sauce, plus more if needed
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the pickled carrots: In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegars, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the carrots and stir to combine. Let the carrots sit in the vinegar mixture for at least 20 minutes before using. Taste them — they should be balanced, not very salty, and slightly more sour than sweet. If the flavor needs to be adjusted, add a little more sugar, salt or a splash of water to lessen the intensity of the vinegar. Transfer the carrots and brine to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
2. Make the chili Russian dressing: Toast the caraway seeds in a small skillet set over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until the seeds smell toasty and fragrant, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a spice mill or coffee grinder and pulse them a few times until they are roughly pulverized. Place the ground caraway in a small bowl and add the mayonnaise, pickles, ketchup, sambal oelek, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
3. Assemble the Ad-Rock Pang: Wrap the pastrami in a paper towel and microwave on high in 20-second increments until it is warmed through (or steam the pastrami on the stovetop until it is warmed through). Spread the chili Russian dressing inside of each baguette, evenly coating both the top and bottom sides. Divide the pastrami among the bottom halves of each baguette. To the top half, add a few cucumber slices followed by 2 cilantro sprigs and 2 dill sprigs. Add the pickled carrots on top, sandwich the two halves together and serve with potato chips, a cream soda and a pickle (if desired).