I wouldn’t pay ten dollars (okay, maybe five ) to eat a soggy sandwich for lunch when at work, but drop me in an economy seat on an airplane and I’ll happily swipe my credit card so that I can stuff my face with something that tastes like a cardboard box.
You can get away with this type of self-punishing behavior if you’re traveling solo. An exotic escape with your girlfriend? You need to step up your game. Remember, it’s thirty hours of straight sitting and eating before you touch down in the Seychelles. Why not have a gourmet picnic at cruising altitude?
First, let’s run down what we’re working with on board:
Free in the air:
Here are Delta’s most basic offerings:
To eat: peanuts, pretzels, Biscoff cookies
To drink: soft drinks, coffee, juice and water
Not free in coach:
Wine: Merlot and Chardonnay
Spirits: Whiskey, Bourbon, Rum, Tequila, Vodka, Gin, Scotch
Beer: Various light pilsners and lagers
Note on packing: I played it TSA safe and excluded liquids from these recipes. I also trust that you are resourceful and will be able to find utensils on board. How you stow these meals is a personal choice. Both menus can be packed in butcher paper and then in zip lock bags. The lamb probably travels best in tupperware, but you can wrap it in foil and then in a zip lock. I prefer butcher and wax paper over Saran wrap and tupperware. My suggestion is to wrap cheese individually and meats together in order to avoid a mushy mess.
Better Than Coach Charcuterie:
Cured and smoked meats
Home made pickles
Whole Grain Rye Bread
Herbs and Fresh lime slices.
I designed this menu to be flexible and adaptable. Pack it in its entirety or pick and choose what you like. Make a sandwich or just enjoy each morsel on its own. The cheeses, meats and herbs were selected to complement and enhance the free stuff you get on board. Gin and tonic? Drop in some fresh rosemary. Pack of nuts and dried fruit? Unfurl your Gorgonzola and chocolate bar.
I also kept in mind that when you are stuck inside a steel and plastic tube filled with recycled air for hours at a time we crave tastes that are prominent, natural and most of all, comforting; salty, sweet and sour.
Five Cheeses and Why
I knew that cheese would be a big part of this meal so I called up an expert, Sophie Slesinger of Saxelby Cheese in New York City. We spoke about which cheeses would travel right and taste the best with nuts, dried fruit and cheap wine at high altitude. Her first recommendation was to look for aged varieties because of their low moisture content. We both agreed that cheeses with grassy or in her words “barn yard notes” deliver the best antidote to the sterile setting of your tray table.
1) Cabot Clothbound Cheddar: Durable, bright citrus flavor. Pairs well with meat as well as honey, nuts and fruit.
2) Brie style: Good on the free Biscoff cookie and with dried fruit.
3) Pecorino: Italian sheep’s milk cheese. Hearty and sharp flavor to invigorate your tired palate.
4) Gorgonzola: When paired with dark chocolate this Italian blue cheese is at a level of decadence that might trump the paradise beach resort that awaits you.
5) Parmigiano Reggiano: “The King of Cheeses”. You can go to war with this. Real Parm lasts forever and is makes anything taste great. I travel everywhere with a whack of this wonder of nature.
Bread: Mesternacher pumpernickel whole rye. Recently I have fallen in love with this sturdy dark bread. It is fortified with grains and leaves you with a slight caramel taste. It packs well and carries anything you put on top of it.
Meats: Toscana salami, smoked ham and pâté. Any decent peppery salami will do. Avoid standard supermarket ham since it is loaded with water. Also, don’t count out a good pâté. It spreads well on a cracker and can last the journey
Herbs and lime: You might get some weird looks from Mr. One Million Miles consultant guy in the seat next to you, but rosemary, mint and lime offer you the refreshing notes that will elevate your gin and tonic, rum drink and bourbon mixer above that bleak “Just get me loaded.” expectation found at the bottom of your plastic cup to a more celebratiory “I’m flying in style, thank you very much.”
Salad: Rosemary and Dill “Dry Pickle”.”
Michael Kale, manager of The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg, reminded me that you can quick pickle a kirby cucumber in 15 minutes. I played around with his suggestion and arrived at this flash brining technique for a non-vinegar “dry pickle”.
Rosemary Dill “Dry Pickle”
This uses a classic sugar, salt and herb curing mix, just like a grav lox recipe. The result is crunchy, salty and savory. It’s not like your favorite Deli Sour, but it’s still good and you made it in between the time you called your cabbie and when he began to honk outside by the curb. This preparation also keeps the pickled cucumber in one piece making it easier to pack.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Brine time: At least 15 minutes
1 Kirby cucumber
2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
½ cup of dill minced
1 tablespoon of minced rosemary
1) Slice cucumber ¾ of the way through at slight angles.
2) Mix salt and herbs in a bowl.
3) Stuff salt and herb mix into crevasses of cucumber.
1) Wrap cucumber tightly with plastic and put in fridge for 15 minutes or more.
2) Remove from wrap and drain off liquid and excess salt.
3) Wrap again in butcher paper and twist ends.
Note: The longer you leave it wrapped in salt the more it sweats and cures.
“Top Gun” Lamb Handles
I know this is unconventional, but Maverick didn’t follow no rules, okay Iceman?
I love lamb. It tastes good cold and its an elegant dish even if you are eating it off the bone. The tiny bottles of airline Merlot will be a great pairing. You will be the envy of your row. No utensils necessary. Accompany your meat medallions with the dark bread and that soft brie or some mustard.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Rack of dressed lamb
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of ground pepper
1) Oil rack of lamb.
2) Chop up rosemary and mix with salt and pepper.
3) At medium heat on skillet sear for 10 minutes each side.
4) Set oven at 350. Roast for 15 minutes fat side up.
Food images courtesy of Ben Pomeroy
Read more from Ben at BK + MTL Kitchens.
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