Pressed Brick Sandwich and…The Disappearing Ham

Around a decade ago and before my youngest child was born, I used to host Christmas Dinner for everyone in Carl’s family.  And I didn’t mind.  It was something I loved to do and not least because it spared me from going to his parents’ house and (I say in the nicest possible way), suffering his mother’s cooking (lovely though she is, she and cooking just don’t get along).

Layer upon layer upon layer

Layer upon layer upon layer

One year the weather in the lead-up to Christmas Day was as hot as Hades and when you combine hot, sweaty days and sleepless nights with an overloaded schedule and relatives who are well-meaning but infuriating, tempers fray.

Ciabatta smothered in black olive tapenade

Ciabatta smothered in black olive tapenade

To avoid any potential homicides I told Carl’s family to stay away and do nothing to help.  ‘Just turn up on Christmas Day; that’s all I ask’.  But no, no, no, that wouldn’t do and my mother-in-law kept insisting that Carl’s brother wanted to contribute.  ‘How can he help?’ she asked.  And I wanted to say, ‘He can’t help because he’s useless’, but I thought that might have been a tad mean.

Layered in roasted capsicum strips and crumbled goat's cheese

Layered in roasted capsicum strips and crumbled goat’s cheese

Her persistent cries of, ‘He wants to help’, started to wear me down and I was thinking I was actually a very unkind and unreasonable person and perhaps a control-freak as well as a sinner for thinking such mean thoughts about Carl’s family.

The artichoke hearts are added and the half the dressing is drizzled

The artichoke hearts are added and the half the dressing is drizzled

Because Carl’s brother is actually very lovely and I get on with him extremely well and he would drop everything to rush around and babysit Archie and Arabella and he always remembered their birthdays and bought them thoughtful and generous gifts, and he has the patience of Job and is a lot of fun to be around, etc.  (Have I said enough nice things to get on with the story?)

Layering the prosciutto

Layering the prosciutto

So, weakened by my MILs persistent begging and the sad look on her face that screamed, ‘You’re a monster’, I backed down.  I said, ‘Okay, okay; if you insist.  Here’s how he can help.  I’ve ordered a ham but it’s from the other side of town because I wanted it free-range and organic.  Do you think he could go and pick it up for me on Christmas Eve and drop it back here?’

‘Of course, honey-one.  He would love to.  He wants to help’.

Here we go!

The ham, prosciutto and salami layers have been added, the herbs have been scattered and the dressing drizzled

The ham, prosciutto and salami layers have been added, the herbs have been scattered and the dressing drizzled

So, very early on Christmas Eve, Carl’s brother phoned for the address of the far-flung organic butcher and I gave him all the info he needed.  He told me he was super-organised and had an esky packed with ice in the boot of his car ready to collect the Christmas ham and prevent it from spoiling.  All good so far.

I got on with my last minute grocery shopping and present buying then came home and started preparing the turkey and wrapping presents and setting the table and icing the Christmas cake and telling the kids if they don’t stop fighting there’s no way Santa will be visiting.  ‘He’ll just fly right over the house and keep going’, I screamed.

I was lucky to find a few spare bricks lingering around the house

I was lucky to find a few spare bricks lingering around the house

At about 5pm and after I’d finished making an onion relish and a fig-jam glaze for my organic ham, it occurred to me that there was no ham.  And Mr Reliable didn’t have a mobile phone and was therefore not contactable.  A quick call to the in-laws let me know they hadn’t seen or heard from him either.  ‘But don’t worry, honey-one, he’s very reliable’.

Midnight:  No ham.

Christmas Day dawned:  No ham.  I did wonder if under the cover of darkness he had dropped it off at the front door but no, no ham delivery.

Perfect lunchtime fare

Perfect lunchtime fare

Everyone was scheduled to arrive at 3pm allowing time for exchanging gifts, some appetisers then an early dinner because the young and the old like to eat before the sun sets.

At around lunchtime I phoned the in-laws.  ‘Have you seen my ham and Merry Christmas’.

‘Oh yes, honey-one.  Yes we have.  He has it in an esky’.

‘Yes, but I need it’.

‘But he was going to bring it at three when we come for the meal’.

‘I need to prepare it before everyone arrives’.

‘Honey, my husband can slice it for you.  He won’t mind.  He does very good thin slices’.

‘It’s not about slicing it.  I’m glazing it and baking it in the bar-be-cue and that will take about an hour and a half.  Where is he?’

‘Well he didn’t stay the night.  He dropped in on some old friends and then decided to sleep over and then this morning he came with us to church and then the dear boy was so tired he had a sleep and he just asked if it would be okay to go down to the beach for a few hours and we said yes of course because it’s such a lovely day.  We didn’t know you needed the ham’.

I swear there’s a deliberate plot to tip me over the edge?’

At 3pm the doorbell rang and there were the in-laws minus Mr Reliable and his esky.  ‘Where is he?’

‘Now honey; don’t get upset.  He’s only just come back from the beach so he’s having a shower and then he’ll be here in a little while.  He said we should start without him’.

It’s like a red rag to a bull.  ‘Did you think to bring the ham?’  The in-laws exchange looks of shame while they think of a reason to have left it behind.

‘He has it in his car.’

‘It’s in his car?  It’s been in his car all this time?  He hasn’t thought to bring it inside?’

‘Honey, let’s just thank the Lord for giving us such a beautiful day.  How are you honey?  Have you had a chance to rest?  Did you get down to the beach?’  At this point I just had to walk away.  Walk away before someone got slapped.

It's a very pretty sandwich

It’s a very pretty sandwich

The ham arrived.  It arrived in the esky at about 4.45pm and too late to serve with the meal.  Despite assurances that cold ham is just as nice and my reply of, ‘Should I just throw out the glaze then?’ and added assurances that my FIL can do ‘very nice thin slices’, I put the ham into the fridge for another day.

When you do get to enjoy a baked glazed ham on Christmas Day, there is almost always some left over.  Recently I saw a Pressed Brick Sandwich on my friend Lizzy’s blog, That Skinny Chick Can Bake.  I thought this would make an excellent Boxing Day sandwich.

Ciabatta pressed brick sandwich

Ciabatta pressed brick sandwich

Pressed Brick Sandwich

Serves:  6-8 (Lizzy said it serves  10 – no wonder she calls herself the ‘skinny chick’)

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Hands down, this has to be the most expensive sandwich ever.  That’s my experience because I had to go out and buy every single item apart from the dressing ingredients.  However, I think this sandwich can be made much less expensively if you make this when you have lots of little bits and pieces you need to use up – like a Christmas ham that never appeared.

  • 1 ciabatta loaf
  • 1/2 cup black olive tapenade
  • 2 red capsicum, roasted, skins removed then cut into strips
  • 100g goat’s cheese, crumbled
  • 200g marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 100g sliced Provolone cheese
  • 200g thinly sliced leg ham
  • 150g Prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 150g salami – I used hot Sopressa
  • a couple of handfuls of loosely packed herbs.  I used basil and parsley


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbspn balsamic vinegar – I used the balsamic given to me by Tania
  • 1 1/2 tspns dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Horizontally slice the ciabatta and scoop out the bready interior.  I saved the bread and will dry it out and turn it into breadcrumbs).  Spread the bottom half with the tapenade.  Layer the capsicum over the top then scatter with crumbled goat’s cheese.  Arrange artichoke hearts over the goat’s cheese.  Drizzle with half of the dressing.  Arrange Provolone cheese slices along the length of the loaf, then do the same with the ham, the Prosciutto and the salami.  Top with the herbs then drizzle remaining dressing.

Wrap in cling film then weight down the loaf with bricks (or similar) for at least an hour.

For the Dressing:

Combine olive oil with vinegar and mustard and whisk to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from Lizzy’s Pressed Brick Sandwich.   Thanks Lizzy for the best sandwich ever!

Best sandwich ever

Best sandwich ever

If you liked this post, you’re welcome to share it.


  1. Yum, looks like a lovely sandwich. Christmas is a hoot for me, when I have the family over I end up with two vegetarians who eat fish, a meat eater that does not eat any seafood, another who eats meats but does not like chicken and is allergic to shellfish. Challenging to put a menu together that works taking ino account Master C who would be perfectly happy with a sausage sandwich. When you break it down there is not much we all enjoy. I must admit I do like a glazed ham at Christmas, can feel your pain!

  2. Oh lordy, what a gong show! 🙂 You must’ve been stressed out of your head. The sandwich looks fantastic though. 🙂

  3. Oh, my goodness. That is quite the story. I understand your just wanting everyone to “stay out of the kitchen.”

  4. seems so delicious and amazing serving and photographs. Thanks and Love, nia

  5. Now that’s infuriating! I would have gone out and bought another (organic or not)! Fortunately my relatives don’t offer to help, call me a control freak but I do like to have control over my dinner parties.
    I saw something like this on Charles’ post (Five Euro Food) a year or do ago and was very impressed! I’m definitely making this for the next party we’re invited to.

  6. oh Charlie, you had me on the edge of my seat!! How frustrating! I kept yelling at my laptop ‘where is the bloody ham!!’ ‘Just bring the ham’ ‘The HAM DAMN IT!!

  7. What an epic! I would have been beside myself too and not thinking very charitable thoughts. I’d love this served up for Boxing Day – I saw your instagram photo and wondered what was going on!

  8. hahaha, oh Charlie, I totally understand your controlling ways in the kitchen. I’m not a fan of having others help in any way! I’m sure your meal was delicious even without the ham 😉

  9. People think I am a control freak in the kitchen, but I just don’t like anyone in there with me. My MIL is also not blessed with cookery talent, and one Christmas she insisted on doing something, anything. I asked her to bring 2 kgs of prawns, which she did. She gave them to me just as I was plating up, uncooked, and off. Seriously. They where black.

  10. First of all, do your in laws read your blog? I’m just thinking about future Christmases and Easters. I feel you, totally. I don’t like anyone in my kitchen and helping, well, they never really help do they? Lucky for me, I don’t have any in laws and mu own family just likes to eat, they don’t like to help in any manner.

    I love these kind of sandwiches, I’ve made the pan bagnat with tuna before and it was the most popular thing at my luncheon, so I know this one is fabulous too.


  11. This reminds me of my favourite baguette sandwich that I’d get from our local bakery lunch place growing up – baguette with roasted capsicum, artichokes, and salami. Adding olives and goat cheese is genius and arrrghhhhh hungry now.

  12. I am so thrilled you made this sandwich, Charlie!!! Perfect to go long with the ham story 🙂

    I am currently in an RV transporting my elderly parents (one discharged straight from the hospital and the other from a memory unit) 800 miles to Denver so they can be in a facility together near my sister. Fun, eh? I’ll catch up with you in a week or so 🙂 I may need a while to recover my sanity!!!

  13. Oh, that story is both so, so funny and so, so painful! Poor you. I would have been livid. But I’ve learned over the years to always so No to offers like this. If someone persists, let them bring wine – one can never have enough. Great looking sandwiches!

  14. You are the one with the patience of Job. What a story! I laughed, but also cringed when I realized what was going to happen. But the sandwich looks terrific!!

  15. I would have flipped out, I’m positive! Even if I didn’t need the ham for the meal, I would have lost it over the inconsideration. I have a few similar stories from the “I just want to help” file. My sister-in-law can’t cook. And she has no idea about how to bring cohesiveness to a meal. She will show up at the last minute with something that needs to bake in my oven, to which, out of being “not a B*** ” I take my meal out of the oven to make room for hers. It’s become a family joke, and through the years I now expect it, but I never understand it. On the other hand…good use of the ham! I love the dressing and herbs you added. I love a panini sandwich…this is a must on my menu. Thanks for the laugh, too!

  16. How delicious does that look! Oh dear, they sound a bit like my in laws. Well meaning but failing to understand deadlines 😛

  17. I was empathizing so much with you as I was reading the accoutn that I wanted to scream at your MIL and your BIL and let them know that they’d NEVER be counted on to do anything for a family get together in the future. But that would be mean and not in the Christmas spirit at all.

    In a calmer frame of mind, I would realize that the stress came from being someone with high standards about food. To people like your MIL, it’s not a big deal. (SIGH!)

    The cost of the sandwich is worth it based on how good it looks and sounds.

  18. Awww I was both laughing and grimacing my friend! Poor you!
    But on a nicer note, this sandwich looks perfect. Actually 😀


  19. Pity there was no ham for xmas, but at least it was consumed for another day? Hope you kept the glaze. Love the look of this pressed sandwich. The layers are gorgeousssssssss! And what great ingredients you’ve put in as well 😉

  20. Gorgeous sandwich indeed! The flavours would all sing together beautifully and composing it like that would stop it falling apart all over you. Yummo.
    Never delegate Charlie, never ever- it never works out! I only give out duplicate jobs, like bring some cream or extra berries, things that will always comes in handy but aren’t integral to the event. My side of the family doesn’t celebrate Christmas art all and my in laws celebrate by boozing as early in the morning as possible, so we tend to have our own food that I don’t have to share with anyone- bliss!
    PS. I would have slapped him, or her, or both 🙂

  21. You tell such a funny story, I was like Lisa hanging on my seat waiting for that ham to appear. How utterly frustrating, however well-meaning the original intention. But if the ham was to appear in this beauty of a sandwich I think it might have been worth the wait!

  22. Next time he asks if he can help, ask him to pick up toothpicks. 🙂 The sandwich looks delicious, Charlie!

  23. That looks gorgeous Charlie – it reminds me a bit of a shooter’s sandwich, but with a much more awesome name, lol! 😀

  24. I could feel my blood rising with each sentence! I have had some similar experiences – they are very infuriating. But what a great sandwich – love the brick idea.

  25. I love this pressed sandwich recipe! I read the Martha Stewart Living article on it in one of my back issues.

  26. I must be a controlled freak too as I prefer to work alone in the kitchen when I am having a get together. Helpers can come in at the end to clean up.
    Great looking sandwich, love all the ingredients you used.

  27. G’day and please forgive me for laughing WITH you Charlie today, true!
    Your story was SO animated and can IMAGINE the whole frustrating scenario too!
    Your ham (Plan B) came out great!
    Perhaps you have started a new family tradition and perhaps NOT getting the ham on time was fate! 🙂 Cheers! Joanne

  28. Oh god Charlie I think I would have lost it. At least you got to enjoy ham after Christmas! I love the look of this sandwich. I’ll be saving this one away for leftovers. I usually do a ham when we put up the tree on December 1 so I know what we’ll be having the next day!

  29. Love your stories, as always. And love this sandwich. I need to find some bricks now! But seriously, there isn’t much a good sandwich can’t solve. Thank you for sharing!

  30. What an ordeal! as you say, sometimes it’s better not to be ‘helped’.

  31. Oh honey-one, you were hard-done by. I would have been ropable if I’d ordered a ham for a holiday dinner and someone went off to the beach and left it in the car on a hot day. I loved Liz’s sandwich too. I haven’t made it yet. 🙂

  32. I would have been a mess if I had been you, totally stressed out. Oh, by the way, that sandwich looks am-A-zing! I could eat sandwiches every day of the year.

  33. That is one hum dinger of a sandwich!!!! Love it and I would rather have this layered sandwich any day. Don’t you just love family around the holidays- always chaos!

  34. I would have killed him.

  35. Haaaaahahhahahahahahaha. Just like Graham. That’s an incredible story – I would have been apoplectic and potentially at the point of throwing a tantrum. Lucky I like cold ham 😉

  36. Charlie this infuriated me. I could have killed them and I wasn’t even there. BTW I had to go back up to the top of the post to make sure it was not a post I had been storing away with a subject like boxing day LOL. Love this sandwich just looking at it makes me hungry

  37. I would have blown a gasket and I salute you for keeping your calm so well. Should you host again, put him in charge of bringing the liquor. If he fouls up again, just step back and let your thirsty guests handle it for you. 😉
    The main reason I roast a ham or turkey is for the sandwiches. You use a brick, I’ve got sandwich maker but the results are the same: a great sandwich with a bit of a crunch. I love ’em and I’m sure I’d love this one you’ve made.

  38. This is why I’m convinced there’s nothing wrong with being a control freak (like me)! I love a sandwich with lots of layers like this. It looks perfectly pressed!

  39. *Laughs* Sometimes offers to help really are far less help than hindrance – what a run around that ham had!

  40. oh my! your stories are always so entertaining! these sambos look pretty amazing!

  41. this is the breakfast at its finest – all the deliciousness.

  42. We’ve had many a Christmas dinner like that, I can assure you, where my aunt and uncle swore they were coming at a certain time with the meat….and then didn’t show up until 8pm. So…yeah. FRUSTRATING.

  43. Have a great weekend!

  44. That sandwich looks fabulous, but wow, your inlaws sound quite clueless. Your restraint is admirable.

  45. There’s a reason we’re control freaks.

    Your sandwich looks amazing. If I was a slice of ham, I love to find myself rubbing shoulders with some goat’s cheese and artichokes and the rest of the gang.

  46. Wow, that sounds like a pretty unforgettable Christmas:)
    Despite of that, the sandwhich looks fantastic, my mouth is watering just by looking at the pictures.

  47. Hehehe, I think everyone has at least one of those “helpful” family members.

  48. Just reading this makes me stressed!!! How terrible!

    I love my mom’s ham, and love when there are leftovers the next day 🙂

  49. I love the look of the sandwich and I could feel your frustration at your brother-in-law after all your misgivings at agreeing to his helping. I would felt like screaming. You are a great story-teller.

  50. I have always been a sandwich girl, especially hearty unique sandwiches! I am kinda in love with this sandwich, and the pics make me want to reach in and grab one! Yum-O:-) Hugs, Terra

  51. The sandwich looks delicious!! Well, I hope after that frustrating exchange you learned to ask your BIL to bring the alcohol, and lots of it 🙂

  52. that story makes me happy that my in-laws live over the other side of the world – actually when we were there last year I cooked an early christmas dinner at our rental and it was easier than going to theirs – but I am sure that ham would never be forgotten – at least you can laugh about it now (I hope) and still make pretty ham sandwiches without counselling (I hope) 🙂

  53. Charlie, interjecting the photos of the brick-pressed sandwich in progress only added to the suspense. Marvelous story! (Accolades to you for keeping your cool.) There’s nothing like a heartwarming Christmas story to make us look forward to the season… I’m sure some major retailers have already begun the countdown. And you? 😉

  54. WOW, Charlie! I would have gone insane! And this sandwich looks insanely delicious 🙂 Absolutely amazing!

  55. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to people “helping” me in the kitchen, too. I love help but only when it’s really HELPING! haha

  56. I would have been beside myself!!! You stayed so calm in the face of this. Oye!! Well your sandwich looks divine! It’s one I will definitely be trying. 🙂

  57. Oh my gosh even reading this makes me BLOOD BOIL! I really hate people are irresponsible come on they’ve gotta do better than this! It’s ridiculous! But don’t worry I’m sure your in-laws still enjoyed and appreciated you cooking for them 🙂

    And you really have a patience of a saint I don’t think I could’ve held it in!~

  58. I love this type of sandwich too! It has every ingrediënt in it that I love,….You have good taste! Yummmmmmmmmm! Lovely appetizing pics too!

  59. You must have been going nuts! What a test of patience, but good on you for walking away. Sometimes you just have to. And later, laugh. The sandwiches look divine.

  60. This sounds marvelous!! The sandwich, not the awful lost ham story!!!

  61. It is impossible to expect any thing more from people who do not treat good food with the honour it deserves. Thank God for the esky. If that ham spoiled I would have killed someone too.

  62. Oh gosh I couldn’t stop reading and getting worried what’s going to happen (I knew something bad will happen with your tone of voice haha!). Now I know why you had doubts at the first place, from your past experience. LOL. Oh boy. I am not very good at hosting and if this happened to me, I think I’d go crazy. Meanwhile, great looking sandwich!!! I want to eat it right now, about lunch time here. 🙂

  63. What a fantastic sandwich, too bad on the ham though 😉

  64. Haha! I didn’t realise that you actually used bricks. Such a cool idea. A real Manwich x

  65. And breath! Family can be such fun – not.
    Fantastic sandwich Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  66. Oh in-laws!!! They mean well. I think. 🙂 I’m assuming the ham was o.k. in the esky? I saw this sandwich over at Liz’s the other day and pinned, hoping to make it soon. Your sandwich looks SO DELICIOUS that now I know I have to make it!

  67. Dear God!!! hahahahaha!! Your in laws sound sweet….but this would aggravate anyone.

  68. I saw this on Lizzy’s site and loved the look of it then and now. This will be a fun sandwich to make now that football season is here. I’m saving it to try. Sounds easy but looks hard.

  69. I have sworn that I have people trying to push me over the edge. I have had just such things happen to me. If I had a nickle for every time I have wanted to yell:”You want to help me, then DON’T HELP ME”.! They always seem to let me down.I have had parties ruined…at least yours was not.

  70. Oh No… I would have totally lost it!!!! Liz x

  71. This looks crazy good and Love your creative ideas… This looks like a winner.

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