This morning, I was listening to the world’s greatest news program, the Takeaway*. A new concept was being discussed: “wiki-cuisine,” a website where anyone can contribute their ideas and suggestions to individual recipes. The website is called Foodista (www.foodista.com). Barnaby Dorfman, founder and CEO of Foodista, was interviewed, and he was rather convincing about the site’s merits, putting a wonderfully egalitarian spin on it.
However, John Hockenberry (a host of the Takeaway and my personal hero) was suspicious of the concept, and I ultimately tend to agree with him. I need at least some sort of perspective on a person before I can be receptive to cooking advice. Plus, food is so personal, and the reasons for our preferences are complex. The Takeaway used a classic example to illustrate this point: grilled cheese sandwiches. The hosts asked each other, their interviewees, and listeners how they liked their grilled cheese prepared. There were some strong opinions out there, and a surprising amount of open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches reported. Hockenberry’s daughter likes to wrap her sandwich in aluminum foil before she puts it in the pan. I am open to many variations of grilled cheese from classic with American to sandwiches with highfalutin cheeses and various accompaniments (fresh herbs, tomato, bacon, smoked ham, etc.) With that being said, I do feel strongly about two things:
1. The bread. You must have good bread to make a grilled cheese sandwich. White, wheat, multigrain, it doesn’t matter, but it must be a decent loaf. If you live in Colorado, watch out for Udi’s Italian Wheat or Mulit-Grain to go on sale, and stash it in the freezer. You’ll be eating delicious sandwiches and toast for a month.
2. It must be grilled! In a hot pan with butter or olive oil, until the sandwich is a luscious golden color. I have nothing against melting cheese on some bread in the toaster and having an open-faced tasty treat. I call this delicious, but I do not call this grilled cheese.
Besides inspiring deep thoughts on grilled cheese sandwiches, the Takeaway also inspired my dinner. We’ve had a few cold, dreary days in Boulder, and school has been particularly overwhelming this week; a warm, melty sandwich seemed like perfect antidote. I decided to branch out a little from the traditional grilled cheese, and made myself a Monte Cristo.
I went for the Monte Cristo in its simplest form. I chose smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, and sharp Dijon mustard for the filling. For bread, I went with multi-grain, more to add a contrasting color than anything else. I hate when food is monochromatic. This is a partial explanation for my obnoxious affinity for flat leaf parsley: a little color goes a long way. So at least the multi-grain provided a warm brown to the pale layers of the filling. My sandwich was light on the turkey, so the Swiss would shine through. After all, the inspiration was a grilled cheese sandwich. Next, I beat an egg with a touch of hot sauce, took the sandwich for a quick dip and put in a hot pan coated in olive oil. As opposed to butter, I felt the richness of the egg batter needed the grassiness of olive oil for the sake of balance. I gleefully ate my sandwich, with a pile of hot peppers on the side. I’m sure that the vodka and my delirium made a contribution, but this meal was all I could have asked for after a long day.
So, there you have a synopsis of my grilled-cheese-motivated cooking jaunt. And now, to pay homage to the inspiration for this post, please inform me of how you like your grilled cheese, if you feel so inclined. As they say on the Takeaway, join the conversation.
*See glossary for more information.
If you want to hear the Takeaway’s story on grilled cheese and Foodista, click here:
If you want to be in on the world’s greatest reporting and commentary, click here and listen daily (you won’t regret it):
Posted On September 24, 2009