Sunday, January 10, 2010

Food: Frances Grilled Cheese (Too Simple To Be A Recipe recipe)

Tiny glass salt shaker, fallen over, with salt spilling out.
When the bell rang for lunch Frances sat down next to her friend Albert.  "What do you have today? said Frances.  "I have a cream cheese-cucumber-and-tomato sandwich on rye bread," said Albert.  "And a pickle to go with it.  And a hard-boiled egg and a little cardboard shaker of salt to go with that.  And a thermos bottle of milk.  And a bunch of grapes and a tangerine.  And a cup custard with a spoon to eat it with. What do you have?"
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban
One of my favorite books when I was small was Bread and Jam for Frances. Frances is a little-girl badger who declines to eat anything but bread and jam. Her mother provides lovely meals; Frances wants her bread and jam. Her friend Albert brings elaborate lunches to school, and offers to share. Frances still wants her bread and jam. Eventually, Frances comes to appreciate her own grand school lunch, complete with a vase of flowers. I loved the ending, and went on refusing to eat anything but peanut butter and jelly. (And fried chicken.)

So what does this have to do with grilled cheese? Well, when I make this sandwich, I like to add a number of added touches to the plate - a peeled tangerine for each person, and a few cucumber spears, and a few okra pickles, and a few marinated artichoke hearts, and some olives and grapes if we have them, or even a hard-boiled egg - and call the whole thing "Frances lunch".

So, on to the sandwich. I could just say "make normal grilled cheese, but use seedy bread and add chives to the cheese and sesame oil and salt to the butter". But, as I recently mentioned, I'm not concise. So:

Ingredients, per sandwich:
  • Two slices of white bread, preferably one with a nice seedy crust. My preference is Beckman's Three Seed Sourdough.
  • Cheddar cheese, preferably a good one that's a bit sharp, sliced barely thicker than those prewrapped cheese slices, enough for two slices thickness per sandwich.
  • Lots of butter.
  • Sesame oil.
  • Chives, dried or fresh thin-sliced.
  • Assemble the sandwiches, with bread, cheese, and a sprinkling of chives on the cheese.
  • Melt a nice generous base of butter in the bottom of a frying pan, on medium-low heat, high enough to make the butter very gently foam. Mix in a modest amount of sesame oil - somewhere between a couple of drops and a teaspoon, depending on taste. Sprinkle some salt into the foaming oil/butter.
  • Drop the sandwiches on the oil and butter and fry slowly until the bottom goes from butter-soaked to a gently crisp crust. The slow frying is essential for a proper break-through crust and for getting the cheese thoroughly melted all the way through.
  • Flip the sandwich and fry the other side, adding more butter if necessary. You need a nice generous pool to get that evil crisp crust. 
  • Flip the sandwich out and quarter it into triangles or cut it into fingers. Yes, you can just leave it in plain halves, but that reduces the silly.
  • Put it on a nice plate with whatever sour or bitter or salty or fresh or fruity bites you can find in the kitchen. And a cloth napkin. And maybe an itty bitty vase of flowers. And if you have any of those tiny individual salt and pepper shakers, that would make the whole thing complete.
  • Eat, keeping a napkin handy for buttery fingers.

No comments:

Post a Comment