The “Lin Special” Sandwich

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In honor of my mother, who passed away last month, I’d like to share one of her recipes, a sandwich she called “The Lin Special.” Unlike most of her culinary masterpieces, this sandwich was a humble creation, thrown together with stuff she had on hand. Some of the greatest sandwiches are deceptively simple (think grilled cheese, BLT, tuna melt). This one contains only five ingredients: white bread, ham, mozzarella cheese, tomato, and onion.

Of course, the mozzarella poses a problem for us lactose-intolerant folks. Which is why I haven’t had a “Lin Special” in years. Fortunately, there are now lactose-free (and dairy-free) cheese alternatives that approximate the mild flavor and stretchy texture of mozzarella.

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The one I chose for this sandwich was Go Veggie Lactose-Free Mozzarella Style Shreds. Because it contains casein (milk protein), it’s not suitable for people with dairy allergies, but works fine if you’re just lactose-intolerant.

The flavor of this “cheese” is nothing to write home about, but then, mozzarella is kind of bland by nature. It’s more of a backdrop than a star player. Go Veggie, like most fake cheeses, looks strange when it melts (see photo below), but has the proper mouth-feel and stretchiness. It would do nicely on a pizza.

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There’s no wrong way to make this sandwich. I prefer it with lots of onion and heavily toasted bread, but you can make it to your liking. If you’re not into white bread, sourdough is a good alternative.

When I used to work at the Letterman show in New York, I would go downstairs to the Hello Deli, run by the now-famous Rupert Jee, and ask him to make this sandwich for me. I kept hoping he’d add the “Lin Special” to the menu, as several of my co-workers had sandwiches named after them. Alas, it never happened.

Well, for those of you who never got a chance to try the “Lin Special,” here is my mom’s recipe. Enjoy. She would want you to.

The “Lin Special” Sandwich Recipe

2 slices white bread
4 slices ham
4 slices tomato
handful of thinly sliced red onion
handful of lactose-free (or dairy-free) shredded mozzarella

Layer the bread slices with ham, tomato, onion, and mozzarella. Place both slices, face up, on the middle rack of a toaster oven. Toast until the “cheese” is melted and the bread is lightly browned. Remove from the toaster oven and put the slices together. Cut the sandwich into triangles, if desired.

Breyer’s Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream

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Breyer’s has always been one of my favorite ice cream brands, after Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s respectively. For a mass-produced ice cream, Breyer’s is a consistent winner. It’s also one of the first brands to come out with a lactose-free ice cream. Several years ago, before I stopped eating dairy completely, I tried their lactose-free vanilla and was impressed.

Well, now they’ve got dairy-free ice creams. And one of those is Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream, made with almond milk and real Oreo cookies, not some Hydrox shit. I love Oreos and I love vanilla ice cream, so naturally I love cookies ‘n’ cream.

In one of my previous blog posts, I reviewed Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies, which also has an almond-milk based vanilla with Oreo-like cookies. Ben & Jerry’s nailed it. But they also threw in crunchy peanut butter swirls. This creates a wonderfully complex flavor, but sometimes you want something simpler.

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Breyer’s Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream tastes just like real ice cream, except that its texture is lighter and less dense. I always enjoyed the heavy creaminess of, say, Haagen-Dazs, but when you’re lactose-intolerant, you have to recalibrate your standards.

Breyer’s texture, though fluffy, is perfectly smooth — except for the generous chunks of Oreo cookie, of course. The Oreos aren’t soggy, a feat of food science that amazes me. And the base doesn’t taste like almonds at all. It actually tastes like a giant Oreo filling with bits of cookie mixed in.

If you love Oreos, this is pure heaven.

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Incidentally, these Oreos that I garnished my ice cream with are limited edition Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha Oreos. The filling tastes like Dunkin’ Donuts’ famous coffee. As the Today Show website put it when announcing this new flavor (yes, this is the kind of “news” they report on): “A Dunkin’ Donuts-flavored Oreo: It just makes sense.”

Just to digress a little more, it may be relevant to my readers that Oreo cookies are, in fact, vegan. My friend Jill pointed this out to a vegan friend of hers who replied, “That’s because they don’t have any real food in them.”

Real food or no, Oreos and ice cream are a classic combo that us dairy-free folks can now enjoy, thanks to Breyer’s. Give it a try and let me know what you think.