Tag Archives: foccacia

Taking it Back: The Grilled Cheese

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Grilled cheese is on most people’s Top 10 comfort food list. What is more cozy than grilled cheese, I ask you? It’s just not a cozy night without that toasted cheese sandwich.

I’m here to tell you that, while a grilled cheddar (or Velveeta, if you dare) on sliced white with gently buttered sides is sublime, you can take it up a notch and make it a very special sandwich that is even company-worthy. With a side of oven fries or a green salad (or both) it can be a glamourous little bistro lunch or dinner for as many as you please.

Around here, we make grilled cheese with leftovers on nights that serious cooking can’t be mustered. I know many of  you are leftovers-averse, but pitching the rest of dinner is so wasteful and expensive. Why not take those leftovers and make something new out of it? Odds are you won’t even know it was Sunday’s roast of you make a killer sandwich out of it. Enter the Adult Grilled Cheese. There are a few rules to follow, but the mix and match of fillings is yours to create and play with.

The ‘rules’ are simply the stacking and layering of the sandwich, to ensure that each bite is cheesy and that the whole business sticks together. I generally stick to this basic theory:

Starting with your bottom slice of bread:

  • Butter the outside of the bread
  • Mustard of your choice on  the inside of the bread
  • Top with grated cheese of your choice (we use lots of extra sharp cheddar or jalapeno jack)
  • Top with meat of choice, if using
  • Another smattering of cheese (just a pinch or two)
  • Top with vegetation (usually caramelized onions, leftover baked apples, pepper jam, sauteed red peppers, pickled jalapenos or banana peppers or pepperonicinis)
  • Top with more cheese
  • Top with second slice of bread, buttered on the outside and with either mayo or mustard (or both) smeared on the inside

Yes, this is a loaded sandwich. Each layer, however, is a very thin layer, so it doesn’t get all Dagwood on you. Sometimes when there are many layers, I’ll build them in the pan I’m cooking them in, to avoid explosion when transferring from the board to the pan. Also, during cooking, I smash the sandwich on the flip, either with the back of my spatula or, if I’m making two or more sandwiches, with a foil sheet placed over the top of the flipped sammie and a well-placed heavy pan on top, and then pressed with my hand. Voila, instant panini press.

Some regular combinations of grilled cheeses in our house (again, usually made from left overs) are as follows:

  • Sliced sourdough with horseradish mustard, pork loin, baked apples, and caramelized onions, with cheddar cheese (this one is also good with pork roast or deli ham)
  • Sliced rye with pastrami, well drained sauerkraut and swiss with a slathering of thousand island (instead of the mayo/mustard)
  • Sliced sourdough with tri tip or roast beef, blue cheese, mayo, horseradish mustard, arugula and balsamic onions
  • Sliced cinnamon swirl bread with ham, brie and spicy pepper jam (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)
  • Foccacia with mayo and dijon, shredded chicken, bacon, pepper jack and pepperoncinis
  • Sliced cinnamon bread with peanut butter, jelly and banana
  • Sliced cinnamon bread with nutella, peanut butter, chocolate chips and banana, with a dusting of powdered sugar (oh yes, I have)

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Leftovers are the ultimate grilled sandwich! Is it lunchtime yet?

My own

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Well, ask and you shall receive is what they tell you. I suddenly find myself with a LOT more time on my hands. Time to finish unpacking, time to get the house organized, time to sew and crochet and get my garden started, as I’ve been dreaming about for months now.

It’s going to give me ample time to study for my bookkeeping class and get my resume reworked because heaven knows I’m going to need it coming up here soon. Finding oneself suddenly unemployed can be a terrifying vision, but I’m choosing to find the silver lining in all of this. I can finally RELAX and not be so goddamn stressed out all of the time. Even Nick told me to defrag for a bit before leaping back in to working. I’m going to make my move back in to employment very thoughtfully, because I find that increasingly I’d like to just be happy at work, doing whatever it is that I choose to do, even if it’s for less money than I was previously making. And what I choose to do could be anything right now. I’m not going to limit myself to anything at this point. Life’s too short.

Defrag I can do, even if it’s just for a bit. I can lay in bed and listen to the rain tippy tapping on the window with a cup of tea, and write to you about my new-found freedom. I can sit in a cafe and people watch while I work on my homework (OK who am I kidding, I won’t work on my homework). I can do yoga for a bit just because the mood strikes me and because, well, whatever else I’m doing can usually wait since I’m on my own time, my own deadline, my own schedule. My. Own. Schedule.

Today the cat and I are making limoncello out of the Meyer lemons from my tree, a pot of soup for dinner, a loaf of focaccia to dip in said soup, a streamlined grocery list, and some cookies for the cookie jar (because I have an empty jar that is just begging for some cookies. And a cookie scoop that was a Christmas gift that needs a maiden voyage). I cut out a pattern for a robe about, oh, six months ago that has been sitting in a pile with the instructions ever since, so I think I’ll work on that. I have some new dress patterns that I bought at a pattern sale to read and outline (and one of my 2012 Bucket List items is to sew a fitted dress and wear it proudly). I might take a short drive to the Salvation Army store  up the road if I need to get out of the house, as it’s my favorite place to poke around and even if I find a treasure that I can’t live without, it will only set me back a couple of bucks. I justify this trip because I have some things to donate anyway, and there’s no harm in stopping in for a while. I’ll only take my driver’s license and $5 so I can’t spend any more than that.

But about that bread. There’s something about warm soft focaccia, dipped in good olive oil or a bowl of soup, that makes my heart sing. Fresh bread, almost any kind, is one of my favorite things, and this week it’s all about me, Summer of George style.

Focaccia
From Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home

1 package of quick rise yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (110*F)
2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 teaspoons table salt
3-3 1/2 cups of unbleached bread flour (or regular old flour, which is what I used and it worked out just fine)
Coarse salt for sprinkling

In a large bowl of the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Stir in the oil and the salt. Slowly stir in 3 cups of flour to make a soft dough.

Knead by hand or with a stand mixer, adding flour as necessary. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, or knead by stand mixer with dough hook on low speed until the dough is no longer sticky and pulls cleanly from the bowl sides, 6-7 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides (I cheated and used the same mixer bowl – no one was looking). Cover the bowl with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 45-60 minutes.

Oil and 11×17 inch heavy baking sheet. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead slightly. Place on prepared baking sheet and let rest for 5 minutes. Using your fingers, stretch out the dough so that it evenly covers the pan bottom. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Using your fingertips, make a pattern of dimples at 2 inch intervals over the entire surface of the dough. Brush the surface with oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.