I'm a big sandwich lover - for lunch, dinner, even breakfast (think Egg McMuffin, or for the more elegantly inclined, the scrambled egg on baguette served at La Chatelaine).

I'm a big sandwich lover - for lunch, dinner, even breakfast (think Egg McMuffin, or for the more elegantly inclined, the scrambled egg on baguette served at La Chatelaine). Sandwiches are ideal in any weather and can be equally friendly to vegetarians and meat eaters.

When I lived in San Francisco, I would occasionally take a bus to a seedy part of town to get a Vietnamese sandwich for lunch. For just $2.10 I could enjoy a crispy baguette slathered with butter and layered with chicken, chili peppers, cilantro and carrot relish.

Recently, I decided it was time to recreate the dish at home. It's not complicated. The only part that needs measurement is the carrot salad - and you can even wing that if you want.

Just be aware that this sandwich as written is quite spicy. For children or adults with no tolerance for heat, cut the seeds out of the jalapeno or leave it out altogether.


Caramel Chocolate Bars
Makes 16 bars

Crust:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing pan
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour


Caramel and chocolate layers:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream


To make crust: Arrange rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch baking pan. Line it with a sheet of foil cut 8 inches wide and long enough to extend 3 to 4 inches over 2 sides of the pan. Butter the foil.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add sugar and salt. Beat 1 to 2 minutes to blend well. Beat in the flour.

Gather the dough into a ball and place it in mounds, about a teaspoon each, on the bottom of the pan. With your fingers, press to form a smooth, even layer. Prick the dough with a fork. Bake until just starting to color, about 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Maintain oven temperature.

To make caramel and chocolate layers: Place butter and brown sugar in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Add milk and salt. Whisking constantly, bring mixture to a simmer.

Cook, whisking constantly, without letting mixture come to a boil, until it thickens and becomes a light caramel color, about 10 minutes. (As milk cooks, it will caramelize lightly on the bottom of the pan so you can see some flakes floating in the mixture. That's okay.)
Pour caramel over crust, smoothing into an even layer with a metal spatula or back of a knife. Return pan to oven. Bake 10 minutes.

Transfer pan to rack. Cool to room temperature.

Place chocolate and cream in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then pour over cooled caramel layer. Spread evenly with a metal spatula or table knife. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

Run a sharp knife around inside edges of pan to loosen, then lift out pastry using the foil as an aid. Remove foil. Cut into bars.