Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From Meme and Me

There's something special about this sandwich. My Meme used to make me one of these every time I  visited her. As soon as I'd walk in, she'd ask that magic question that never even needed an answer. "You hungry darlin'?" she'd say, and without waiting for a response, she'd rumble through the fridge and bring out her iconic ingredients: cheese, white bread, butter, and a tomato.

I know I didn't really mention it but when I went to visit Tallahassee last week, I also went to see my Grandma who has Alzheimer's and is living in an assisted living facility down there.

During college, I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents; from Sunday meals to running errands around town. But after my Poppy died during my sophomore year, I sort of became of my Meme's caretaker. It got hard after he passed. They had been married for almost 60 years, and it seemed as if her mind couldn't really deal with it. She began to forget things and the doctor told us that she was displaying early signs of Dementia. At first we laughed about her using sugar instead of salt in her tomato gravy and rice, but it got to the point where she needed some serious help and unfortunately, I was planning on moving to New York for grad school that same summer. The decision to leave was really hard, but luckily, I had my amazing uncle there to help as much as he could. After I left, the inevitable happened, the disease got a hold of her and was she diagnosed with Alz.

I'm not going to put on a front and say it was lovely and wonderful seeing her last week because it wasn't. It was really, really, really freaking hard. I mean, luckily, she still remembers all of us, but it's not the same. She's not really there and she knows it. It's tough seeing her like that. And because of it, I wanted to make a post to celebrate my Meme by commemorating her amazing hospitality and love. This little snack was something that she'd whip up, pop in the oven, and then forget about it for the next few minutes while she caught up with me. It was also perfect for times when I brought over my starving college friends, because she could fill a whole baking sheet and not have to tend to the frying pan like with traditional grilled cheese sandwiches. Honestly, she's the best, you'd love her...even when she gets a little sassy...and she does get a little sassy.

As I mentioned before, those iconic ingredients are:


- 2 slices of lite boule or some white bread
- 1/2 cup of shredded fontina
- 1 giant beefsteak tomato slice
- 1 tbsp of herbed butter
  (combine 1 tbsp salted butter with 1/2 tsp herbs
   de provence)

My entire family is obsessed with butter. I'm not kidding, not even a little bit.  I once saw teeth marks in a tub of I Can't Believe it's Not Butter. Who does that?? I still think it was my Dad but he'll never fess up.  But yeah, my mom always bought that kind because if we had the good stuff in our fridge, it would be devoured, along with every single piece of bread or cracker in the house. But before I gross you out any longer...

To begin, go ahead and butter your bread with some delicious herbed butter. Feel free to mix up with anything you'd like; garlic or thyme-infused butter would work wonderfully.

During the next step, you'll want to preheat your oven to 450°. Then put the bread, butter side down, onto a baking sheet. Then sprinkle it with fontina cheese. My Meme always used government cheese cheddar but I just did cheddar in last week's post so I wanted to switch it up. 

Next, you'll want a nice thick slice of tomato to lay down right in the middle of the sandwich. Sometimes Meme would salt and pepper it, but I never knew when to do that so I left it out. Whenever I tried , it would always come out too salty. I guess she just had some sort of magic touch.

When it's all built, go ahead and place the baking sheet on the middle rack for about six and a half minutes. This will give you ample time to pour someone a sweet tea and bring them a cookie.*

*Hospitality lesson 101: Always bring someone a sweet tea and a cookie. It will instantly make them happy they came over.

And then when it's all bubbly and golden, take it out and fold the two pieces together to make a sandwich. 

Give it a second to rest because if you cut it right away, the tomato will slip out and burn your chin.  I'm speaking from experience, of course.

I know that Meme will probably never see this because I don't think she even knows what the internet is, but at least I can share it with all of you. I know Alz can be hard, but it's best to treasure the good times and this sandwich definitely helps me do that. It reminds me of being a little kid and sitting in her kitchen while she helped me with ALL of my problems. As I ate this after I shot it, I got a little teary eyed because I wish I could have been eating it with her. I know she probably feels the same way.

And if you're feeling generous, the Alzheimer's Assocation is a wonderful not-for-profit group that would love your help to keep fighting the memory loss battle. And for those of you who are struggling with the same thing, stay strong and keep loving! Hopefully there will be a cure soon.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Osceola

Bye bye Brooklyn! I'm heading back to the good ole Sunshine State tomorrow to get real sloppy have a nice little vacay. I'll be seeing family, tailgating at the Doak, eating lots of Southern food, and reliving my college days; the good ones at least. Let's not get into detail about the long nights that helped me become "Champion" the drinker.

FSU did teach me a lot though. I mean, sure, I got my bachelors, and learned a ton about psychology and aging. But I also learned about the more important things in life; like how to hold my liquor and how to trick people into thinking that I actually cared about football. Which I did... sort of... at least the tailgating part. But most importantly, I learned how throw the most trashy eloquent dinner parties at four in the morning. And ya know what? I think this just might be where I developed a knack for weird grilled cheese combinations and cooking methods. I'd make due with what I had, because believe me, you didn't want me driving to Club Publix in the wee hours of the morning.

And that's where this off the wall way to cook GC's comes into play. One night long ago (ok, so like four years ago when I was a junior at FSU), I had some french bread that had a lot of holes in it. When I cooked up the sammie's, the cheese started to ooze out and even though I was freaking out (because I thought I ruined the sandwiches), I went with it. I guess you could call that liquid courage. This accident turned into a delicious disaster - give the bread the holes so that the cheese can melt out and you can have the best crust of all time. So yeah, you're going to poke holes all in the grilled cheese. GET EXCITED! 

So here's what you'll need to get a little sloppy...


- 1 brioche bun
- 2 tbsp Tillamook medium cheddar - shredded
- 2 pats of salted butter
- a couple potato chips - I used McClure's pickle
  chips because they're my favorite thing EVER
- 1.5 tbsp sloppy joe mix at room temperature
**not pictured - a straw **

If you're new to reading this blog, then you probably haven't heard me rave about Tillamook very much. They're basically one of my favorite cheese companies OF ALL TIME. Thanks to them my friend and I were flown out to LA and got to be a part of the Grilled Cheese Invitational. BEST TIME EVER.

Ok, enough of the cap-locks - you get I'm excited about this, right? So, basically if you ever need some bomb a** cheddar you better do yourself a favor and use Tillamook. It's kind of hard to find on the East Coast but luckily some Trader Joe's and Whole Foods carry it. So yeah, get it and shred it up. The finer it's shred, the better it'll melt.

So to begin, you're going to want to use one of my tricks that I sometimes do here on GCS. When you're trying to use a bun, you'll want to cut it so that the two bready sides can function as the outside toasted pieces. I know that makes absolutely no sense, but basically you'll want to use the sides that are not the butt so that you get that nice toasty texture.

I had a super huge brioche bun so I chopped off the top and discarded it (ok, so i gobbled it up), and used the middle and bottom pieces. Flip the bottom piece so that the butt will be the side that you build the sandwich on.


Righty-o, so now that you've got your bread sliced, you'll want to pack on a hunk of shredded cheese. I made this at like nine in the morning and I ended up eating like half of the cheddar I cut, so I kept having to shred more. That's totally fine - it's actually exactly what Tillamook wants; their customers eating whole blocks of cheese at nine in the morning.

Now pile on that sloppy mix - EXTRA SLOPPY.  I know how you'z kids like 'em extra sloppy.  **Now someone yell "Lady you're scaring us!"**

Now for the chippies. I have always put chips on Sloppy Joe's. I don't know why or how it started, but it's something that I have to do. The crunchy texture just makes the sandwich so much better. Try it.

And if you haven't had McClure's pickle chips, get yourself some. We sell them at my work, Depanneur, and let me tell you what - mmmmhmmmm. That's it. That's all I can say about them. Oh wait I guess I can share what my roommate said about them - "they kind of taste like salt and vinegar mixed with sour cream and onion and pickles." She's a genius, that one. 

So pile on a few or smash 'em on. It really doesn't matter. They'll get crushed anyway.

Now, stack on the rest of the cheese.

And the top piece of bread.

Then you'll want to butter both sides of your bread and turn your burner to a low heat.  Once your sandwich is in the griddle, go ahead and take your straw and poke holes all over it. This will create little tunnels that'll let your cheese flow out like molten lactose. As your liquid gold starts to ooze out, it'll create a cheesy crust that sort of tastes like a Cheez-It BUT BETTER.

 Make sure to do the hole-poking thoroughly on each side so that you get a nice-even cheesy crust.


Since it's cooking on such a low heat, it'll take like 7 minutes to cook on each side. Because brioche burns so quickly and since you want your cheese to be able to travel through the holes, it's very important that you give it ample time to cook. Don't try to rush it. Relax, drink a beer. Unless it's nine in the morning, and in that case, drink a bloody mary or something.

This is what it should look like if your cheese was able to melt out through the holes. If it didn't, simply just smack some shredded cheese on the outside and grill it so that it cooks it real quick. It'll work the same way but the hole method is much more fun. It made me feel like a scientist! A grilled cheese scientist!

After that, you'll want to take it off the stove-top, let it set for a minute, and then serve it while it still looks all pretty and delicious like the one below.

So I guess that does it for today. I'm sure I'll have some interesting things to tweet about while I'm tailgating at the FSU vs. Oklahoma game.  While I'm there, I'll also be working on three more neat ways to cook GC's that are kind of hard to do in NYC. So yeah, have a fun week everybody!



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brave Little Toaster

I've always had big dreams for my toaster. Well sort of. I know it might sound strange, but ever since I saw The Brave Little Toaster when I was like five, I've had a soft spot for old appliances and a weird habit of calling my toaster slot-head. Remember the suicide-nightmare scene when Toaster is depressed because Master ditched him and dreams about falling into a bathtub to her (his? I could never tell) death? Horrifying, right? 

Well yeah, I guess you can say it sort of stuck with me. Maybe that's why I can't seem to toss the jenky old toaster that was given to me when I moved to New York two years ago. I mean, it probably cost like ten bucks at CVS but I've put like thirty bucks into revamping it so it's not going anywhere. Yes, I've just announced that I've given my toaster a facelift a few times. Yes, I'm weird and spray paint my kitchen appliances so they look cute. Yes, you should too, it's so easy and Montana Gold spray paint works perfectly.  

But I digress. This is about grilled cheese making! So let me tell you about this grilled cheese that's made with my slot-head a toaster.

Here's whatchaaaa need...


- 2 slices of muenster cheese
- 2 slices of white bread
- four thinly shaved pieces of speck
- 1 tbsp of good and evil pickles
  (or any sweet and spicy pickles)
- 1 toaster

Now before you begin - please take these necessary precautions and pay attention to these slightly horrifying important parts.


Basically just pop a piece of bread in there to see if you have any hotspots. These are areas that burn quicker than the rest of your bread. If you have a new toaster, you probably won't have this issue. But if you've got them you need to be aware and take extra steps before you start to toast the cheesed up pieces. Of course, my crappy old toaster had one really bad hotspot; in the back of the top slot which caused instant burnt toast once it was flipped on its side. I'll tell you how I remedied this later on in the post.

Another point that I need to mention is that when I was doing the research for this post, I found that quite a few people had toasters that had these metal gates that sort of gripped the bread while it was being toasted. My hand-me-down vintage toaster is probably about 8 years old, so it doesn't have any fancy metalwork. But some do, and if yours does, this method won't work for ya. SORRY! The heated metal prongs will press into the cheese and start a smoky mess and maybe even start a fire which is not a lawsuit I'd like to deal with. So yeah, give up now if that's what's going on in your kitchen. Come back next week and I'll have a new method just for you!

So when you use the whole "toaster technique" you're going to want to use a super flat slice of cheese.  Using shredded cheese would be an absolute mess and would definitely fill your house with the smell of burnt cheese. No bueno.

So yeah, stick to the sliced stuff and lay one slice on each piece of bread.

Also, now that you're aware of your hot spots and are ready to start to melt some cheese, go ahead and gently press down your toasting lever and watch the magic unfold.

I let mine toast for about two and a half minutes on the "low" setting. And because of my toaster's hot spot, I made sure to rotate my bread half way through so the back wouldn't get all burnt up and cause my house to smell like death. Yes, death. It's awful, but not as awful as burnt hair. That's the worst.

And here's another tricky part, if your toaster is anything like mine, it will projectile-launch your toast four feet across the room when it decides it's "done". This is a serious issue. Cheese burns are no fun and they seriously feel like molten lava if they just so happen to launch out and hit you in the stomach while you're wearing a bikini*.

Make sure to gently pop your toast out, and have a shirt on, please, please, please take my advice and have a shirt on.

*True story, lesson learned. Don't ever cook in a bikini.

Now this is the part when you need to work quickly. After the cheese has melted, take your toast out and start piling on the good stuff.

I threw on some speck, which is like a juniper flavored version of prosciutto. It's super yummy and salty and good, and I actually like it about 300 times more than regular ole' prosciutto.

Then I piled a couple of these delicious sweet and spicy pickles that my friend Bev mailed me from Florida. They're called good and evil pickles and they're made by the wonderful people at Mercier Orchards. Basically it's equal parts whole garlic cloves, sliced jalapenos, and cucumber rounds. They're super spicy but it's not overwhelming because the sweetness masks the burning which in turn, forces you to keep eating them so that you maintain this equilibrium of hot-to-not-so-hot balance.

Am i the only one that experiences this vicious and sometimes fattening cycle? I think that's why I always eat way too much chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants. Sorry, back to the point.

Once your fillings are all in, place the other piece of cheesy toast on top. If you're not afraid of a few hundred calories more, smear some butter all over the toast to make it more grilled cheese-ish. I felt really weird about not putting butter all over this sandwich but I'm going back to Florida for a visit next week and i might have to be in a bathing suit, so i figured I could go without it... even if i felt like a traitor.

Now slice it down the middle and serve immediately!

In conclusion, this is definitely a method that should be used only in desperate situations. To be honest, I'll probably never do the toaster technique again, but at least we all know that it can be done without the tricks of cable television! I mean, it's not that bad, just a little dry and anxiety provoking (totally didn't even think about cleaning out the crumbs before I did a test run which was a bad idea).

And of course, I'll be back next week with a new and exciting grilled cheese cooking method, so stay tuned!