The Italians have panini, the Australians have jaffles, in England we have toasties, and now it turns out there is an American equivalent: the hobo pie.
It’s a simple idea. Take a sandwich and toast it. Nothing so very remarkable about that. But if, instead of a crappy Hamilton Beach toaster oven you utilize a cast iron sandwich clamp, and instead of an HB electric filament the sandwich is toasted on the hot coals of an open campfire, what initially may seem like an exercise in culinary banality becomes transformed into a small slice of food heaven (assuming, of course, that heaven is sliceable — as it assuredly must be given the propensity of pie to transport the human soul to a condition of celestial rapture).
Getting the correct raw materials is, as always, essential. You will need a pie iron. This is an inexpensive cast iron sandwich clamp on the end of two long sticks that bears more than a passing resemblance to certain medieval Spanish torture devices. Next you will need some bread. It is absolutely paramount that the bread is of the bleached and tasteless variety. Don’t get all fancy and start using stuff that has been baked. You need the white stretchy kind that has been steamed free of all nutrients. Finally you will need some sort of filling, and this is where it gets fun.
I’m told that the canned apple pie filling will create a hobo pie that is similar in texture and taste to those apple pies you get in McDonald’s. I can neither confirm nor deny the validity of this claim. I can, however, report that a filling of pasta sauce and Mozzarella will produce the finest calzone you have ever set your lips around. Add some sausage and basil and instantaneous ecstasy is unavoidable. For the morning hobo I recommend a filling of prefried bacon, scrambled eggs, and some slices of American cheese, served with a pool of ketchup on the side. For the dessert hobo, how about a filling of broken crumbs of Graham Crackers, marshmallows and chocolate? Or banana slices interleaved with white chocolate? The truth of the matter is that more or less anything will be good in these delectable parcels of gooey splendor; the challenge is to find the filling that most adequately satisfies your palate at a given moment.
The real genius of the hobo pie, however, is in the wonderful alchemy that converts the base metal of the bread into wonderful nuggets of pure gold. The word “toast” here is wildly misleading, nor does the “pie” of hobo pie adequately signify this particular crust. Quite what happens when the metal of the pie iron meets the hot coals of the campfire I could not possibly conjecture, but it is an extraordinary, magical change of state that transforms the insipid bread into a crispy pocket of divine manna. It is the sort of conversion that encourages a reevaluation of the existence of the Infinite. Perhaps that whole water-into-wine myth has something to it after all.