Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Grilled Cheese of Another Name

A grilled cheese is a grilled cheese. Right? Orange gelatinous ... but oh so tasty to my budding toddler palette ... Kraft's Velveeta sliced from the two pound cube in the never-needed-to-be-refrigerated box between two slices of butter soaked Wonder Bread melted perfectly in our well-seasoned black cast iron skillet accompanied by Campbell's Tomato Soup made with whole milk, Mmmmm. Nums.

A grilled sandwich is just that: ordinary fillings between two pieces of your bread of choice sizzling in a greased frying pan, served hot and gooey. For special occasions embellished with tomatoes. Or thinly sliced ham. Typical ingredients from the modern 1960s kitchen. Peanut butter with bacon one of our family favorites. Willy, our adventuresome brother, experimented with then exotic fillings often to the wonder of his three sisters ... or utter disgust.

Grilled sandwiches. Treasured deviations from the routine of bologna and Hellman's with slices of sweet pickles. A treat extraordinaire. Producing the most scintillating aroma wafting out the screen door luring us inside - our tummies growling, our mouths watering. We dropped everything at the first gong of the rusty cow bell. The ball being tossed. The kite string. Construction of the imaginary village under the hemlocks on the Spring Drive side of the house. Raced to take our places at the stools at the 'modern' island in the center of our kitchen. Enticed by the familiar scent of melting cheese, butter and tomatoes. Heated golden brown until the bread crisps just so and the cheese oozes yellow onto the skillet. Perfect for dunking. Delicious.

The most gourmet version for Charlie and me well into the aughts? Croque-monsieur served with fresh Dijon mustard in those darling little Quimper pots with the small wooded spoons accompanied by the crispiest of pommes frites at a tiny round café table facing the streetscape of a charming Provençal village. Hands down. Quintessential. Melted perfection belying its Proustian origins in an early 20th century Parisian establishment.

Sometime between the end of the last century and now, the mundane grilled sandwich with its peasant origins sophisticated into a gourmet dining pleasure of many a sandwich lover. Drum roll ... the panini! My two George Foreman grilling machines morphed instantly overnight to create this new twist to an ancient repast marrying a hunk of bread, a piece of cheese and fire.

Take two slices of ciabatta. Stuff them with delicious goodies such as mozzarella, tomatoes, prosciutto, fresh basil, roasted red peppers, and whatever else makes you happy. Brush with extra Virgin olive oil, and press between the hot plates of a counter-top grill for the best Italian style sandwich outside of Italy.

My son the consummate sandwich lover, an incarnation of the Earl who bestowed his very name onto thick slabs of coarse and usually stale food-soaked bread, enraptures at the marvels created lovingly by me, the Mama, upon his brief visits home. Breakfast. Lunch. And dinner. As for me? If on a desert island the one food I would want? I'll happily devour anything wrapped in, grilled in, sandwiched between two fresh slices.

Am off to the kitchen for a scrumptious, yet highly mundane lunch: grilled cheese and a TaB. Join me! Cheers until tomorrow ...


  1. Ummmm....(wiping drool off the keyboard) I think I love you.

  2. Keep your napkin handy. I get all wrapped up in food when I am dieting ;-) That and cooking utensils and appliances. After this column I purchased a cast iron grill and weighted cover. I am incorrigible when I am hungry!