The things that you can do with bread and cheese.
What I will write will sound like blasphemy to many, but I say to you, it is not blasphemy, but a new covenant between God and our taste buds. “What is this new covenant” you ask? In this new covenant, we put away our skillets and non-stick frying pans and cook the way all bachelors were meant to cook: with a toaster oven. Toaster ovens are versatile and very forgiving. Treasure them and treat them well.
The basic principle of comfort food is that it should be comforting to your palate, comforting to your stomach and comfortable to make. Slaving over a stove is not my idea of comfort. So, to paraphrase George Orwell, stoves bad toaster-ovens good. Toaster ovens can produce
Depending on the surrounding conditions, one may have to trade off comfort in preparation with comfort in taste. This means that there are times when it is appropriate to use processed, sliced cheese. This, again may seem like blasphemy to you, but part of the good news I am spreading is about how to mitigate the processed, plastic taste.
1. The key to making sliced cheese taste edible is partly a matter of what bread you use and what brand of cheese you buy. Some sliced cheeses taste like regurgitated chalk. Others are even edible straight from the wrapper. I use Bon Apetit. It is very reasonably priced, it tastes okay and it is made with non-animal rennet.
2. What bread do you use? Don’t bother with fancy sour-doughs if you are using sliced cheese. Of the standard kinds of sliced bread that you can buy, don’t use white bread either. Go for a wholemeal or a soft-meal type. As you can see blow, I use Sunshine soft grained wholemeal. It is soft enough to eat without toasting, it absorbs margarine well, and it does a decent job of masking the plastic taste of sliced cheese while at the same time providing a bit of contrast to enhance the cheesiness. I’ve found that white bread does not go well with sliced cheese especially when it comes to the artificial after taste.
Making any kind of grilled cheese sandwich in a toaster oven is a 6 stage process. In what follows, I will describe the 6 stage process in detail for the basic grilled cheese sandwich (with sliced cheese) and then briefly describe what changes to make when making variants.
The basic grilled cheese sandwich
Stage 1: Spreading the bread
1.1 Take 2 slices of bread and on each slice, spread butter/margarine on only 1 side. As far as you can spread evenly and do not leave any square centimetre of bread unspread.
Stage 2: Heating the bread
2.1 Remove the tray from the toaster oven. You will heat your bread directly on the oven grill.
2.2 Place your bread on the grill buttered side up and turn the toaster oven on.
2.3 Bread, spread with butter or margarine goes through a series of stages when it is heated. Initially, the margarine looks opaque on the bread. After some time, te margarine starts to melt there seems to be a semi-transparent layer on the bread. Continue heating the bread and the margarine soaks in. At this point, the surface of the bread is the softest and the most moist. Now is the best time to move to stage 3. If you continue to heat the bread, the surface will become less moist. and gradually harden. Eventually, the bread will dry up and start to brown. Usually, by this time it is too late to move to stage 3. Any sandwich you have will taste terrible. Take out the bread and have dry toast. This is your punishment for leaving the bread in there too long.
3. Placing the cheese
3.1 Take a slice of cheese, and place it on the buttered slice of bread at the center. If you are not used to working with toaster ovens, take one slice out, carefully place the cheese in the center. Ensure that there are no folds in th cheese. Place the slice of bread back in the oven. The oven need not be switched off during this stage. But you can do so if it will make you feel more comfortable.
4. Melting the cheese
4.1 Sliced cheese initially looks like a flat rectangular sheet with sharp edges. When the cheese melts, initially, the edges of the slice will start to become rounded and the whole slice may take on a slightly molten look. Very quickly, the cheese will completely melt. You know it has completely melted when the cheese looks that it has sunk into the bread. The edges are much fuzzier. Quickly move to stage 5 at this point. If you continue to wait, the cheese will start to expand until it balloons out. Now, it is too late. The cheese has already dried up. The cheese will start burning soon and the sandwich will taste like salted chalk. And it will be all your fault.
5. Closing the sandwich
5.1 Take the other slice of bread and place it buttered side down onto the cheese.
6.1 At this point the sandwich may be at varying degrees of crispiness, depending on how punctual you have been at moving to each subsequent stage. Because you have not spread anything on the outer surfaces of the sandwich, the bread is liable to brown very quickly. Keep the sandwich in the toaster oven until it has reached the level of brown-ness that you desire. I have found that a light-medium brown works best for me. When done, take out and serve. You have a sandwich which is crispy on the outside and juicy and cheesy on the inside.
Our aim is to obtain a cheese sandwich which is juicy inside and crispy outside. We don’t want something too soggy or too dry. That is why it is essential that the inner surfaces be buttered, the cheese be done just right and the bread be done just right as well. It is also essential that all the ingredients be at hand and our actions prompt and efficient. Fortunately, the Toaster Oven is a forgiving God and you have some margin of error.
Why would you want to go for sliced cheese instead of grated cheese? There may be days when grating the cheese is just too much effort. You don’t want to wait for the cheese to thaw. Sometimes your grilled cheese sandwich craving is not that strong. Sliced cheese is enough to satisfy you. God is great and recognises all sorts of exigencies. For every kind of cheese sandwich need, He provides.
For those with sensitive palates, the standard cheese sandwich with sliced cheese may still taste too artificial. For such people, in order to get mask the after taste, I recommend light seasoning be added in stage 1 to just one slice of bread on top of the butter/margarine.
a. Garlic granules
b. Masterfood’s Cajun seasoning (whether or not it really tastes Cajun, in adds a decent after taste)
c. Crushed pepper
d. Oregano, Basil, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (Also by Masterfood’s. Though McCormick’s will do just as well)
e. Some combination of a, c and/or d
Or alternatively, if you want something less subtle, on one side of the sandwich, instead of spreading butter or other fat of your choice, you can spread a mint and coriander chutney or a tomato chutney
Of course, there are times when sliced cheese is not enough. We want the real thing. In such cases, thank God and His Invisible Hand* that sliced cheese is not the only kind of cheese. Make the following changes
1.2′ Prepare the cheese. i.e. transfer from the freezer to the fridge to slow thaw it out. Grate the cheese. You will likely need at most as much cheese as you can hold in the palm of one hand. A note on the choice of cheese: If you are going to us any kind of pesto sauce or chutney, don’t use mild cheeses like mozzarella, mild cheddar, Monterey Jack or Leicester Cheese. go for medium or strong cheeses like Scottish Mature Cheddar.
3.1′ Take the primary slice out of the toaster oven and spread the cheese on to the bread the same way you would do for pizzas, casseroles and macaroni and cheese. Cover as much of the bread as you want. Do not be too sparse. Do not put too much cheese either. If you put too much, not all of it will melt before the other slice of bread dries up. 2 layers of grated cheese should be sufficient.
4.1′ When you initially place the cheese, individual strips of grated cheese are clearly defined and separate from each other. Their edges are sharp. As the cheese melts, it will look like individual strips have been welded together. Wait for it to melt until it is one uniform mass of cheese, the individual strips having completely melted into one another.
The most awesome sandwich
If you are going to take the time to use grated cheese, then you might as well also use olives and dill chips. The most awesome cheese sandwich that I have made has a sun-dried tomato pesto, with garlic granules and some basil instead of margarine for the primary slice of bread. I use grated Scottish mature cheddar. I haven’t really experimented with different types of bread as often as I would like because I don’t make my super awesome sandwiches often enough to justify buying a whole loaf of gourmet bread. What are the changes to be made to the ritual?
1.1″ Take 2 slices of bread and on each slice, spread butter/margarine on only 1 side. Take one of the slices and spread the sun-dried tomato pesto on top of the margarine. This is your primary slice. Sprinkle garlic granules and basil flakes on top of pesto side of the primary slice.
1.2″ Grate Socttish mature cheddar about a handful. Prepare 3 olives sliced into 3 each such that you get 9 slices. Prepare 4 dill chips. Make sure to drain the vinegar and olive oil from the dill chips and the olives. No one like a wet spot whether it is in your bed or your bread.
3.1″ Take the primary slice out of the toaster oven. Arrange th olives evenly in 3 rows and 3 columns. This creates 4 quadrants. Place one dill chip in each quadrant. Then spread the cheese on to the bread the same way you would do for pizzas, casseroles and macaroni and cheese. Cover as much of the bread as you want. Do not be too sparse. Do not put too much cheese either. If you put too much, not all of it will melt before the other slice of bread dries up. 2 layers of grated cheese should be sufficient.
Chilli and onions. No pesto, no other condiments.
Making the super awesome sandwich takes a lot of effort. If you want something less tiring, you can use flat breads like pocket-less pita breads or mini pizza crusts.
1.1”’ spread margarine along the edge of the flat bread. This will produce a thin crispy glaze. If you want to go for the white pizza taste, use margarine for the rest of the flatbread. If you want to go for something more pizza flavoured, spread the tomato pesto all the way from the center to inner edge of the margarine. You should have one large circle of tomato pesto surrounded by a ring of margarine.
1.2”’ Place all the ingredients, cheese, olives, dill chips in whichever order one wants. I haven’t noticed any difference in taste. I usually place the cheese last so that the other ingredients don’t fall out. Season with Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Basil, Garlic and Crushed pepper. Do not exceed the inner ring of tomato pesto. if you are using a margarine base, just leave a ring of crust.
2.1”’ Place in toaster oven and heat until cheese completely melts and crust has formed a nice golden brown glaze. Fold in half if you want a calzone.
*Of course I worship the Market; I’m a libertarian. What did you expect? Besides, the Market creates value where there was none (creation ex-nihilo via positive sum interactions). It knows all and transcends the capabilities of our individual minds (information aggregation), It provides us our daily bread and helps those who help themselves. It redeems our personal sins by transforming private vice into public virtue.