Food should be easy, especially when its just lunch. Rule number one when I make a sandwich: toast the bread. In high school chemistry my one and only proud moment was when I told the class that toast tasted so much better than bread because carbohydrates caramelize like sugar. We had been asked to give an example of a chemical reaction so I wasn’t just being a nerd. Anyways, not only did I make everyone in the class hate me for referencing the Economist science section, but I gave the teacher the tragically wrong impression that I actually knew anything. Things went downhill from there. However the fact remains that things taste better when toasted up a bit. While your bread is evolving in the oven or toaster (or a pan if you are really desperate), get your fillings together. Today I opted for hummus, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and slices of apple. Sounds odd, tastes good.
Another underappreciated option is the grilled cheese sandwich, which is honestly one of the best lunches I can think of. I don’t know why in Scotland people fuss with toastie makers because all you need is a frying pan and you’re golden. Bread and cheese are of course essential, but things can go wherever you want from there. Slice in that tomato you’ve been meaning to get rid of with a spoonful of pesto; stir some sriracha into a bit of mayonnaise and chuck that on one of the slices; thinly slice half a pear and pair it with some mustard. Don’t add all of these things at once, unless you think it would taste nice, in which case, go for it. Avoid lettuce because it will wilt and just taste wrong, but go ahead and have that on the side and you’ve got a complete meal. Done.
If you’re a fake cheese fan, that’s fine. Pre-sliced and weirdly meltable, its probably got things in it that you shouldn’t be ingesting everyday but I love it so don’t be ashamed if you do too. Cheddar is better though, and Gruyère, emmental, and swiss work as well. Go with what you like, it’s the technique that matters anyways. First get your prep out of the way. Grab your pan, preferably of the non-stick-not-too-thin variety. If it cost 5 pounds at Tesco watch your heat because burnt bread is not ideal but will be hard to avoid. Turn on your burner, electric stove, or in my tragic case, a hot plate to a medium high setting and set your pan on top to warm through.
Butter your bread, remembering to place the pieces buttered side down in your now hot pan. Add your fillings and cover with the second bread slice. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat at this point because your cheese won’t melt and the whole thing will have been for nothing. And now wait.
A good grilled cheese deserves about 10 minutes of patience, unless you are using those Kraft singles, in which case they’ll collapse in 3. If you want to feel like you are doing something, grab a spatula and press on the sandwich. Or heat up some tomato soup because they deserve to be together. If you are using a decent cheese, add a few bits to the pan to melt and stick to the edges of the sandwich. Trust me on this one.
Here’s a simple recipe to follow:
- Spicy grilled cheese sandwich with avocado and rocket
- 2 slices wheat bread, buttered
- 1 spoonful mayonnaise
- 1 squeeze sriracha chili sauce (NOT sweet chili. look for a rooster on the bottle)
- 1 small handful rocket
- 1 half avocado
- 50 grams cheddar cheese, sliced
1. Stir together your mayonnaise and sriracha. That’s chili mayonnaise by the way, so next time you see it in a restaurant, don’t be too impressed.
2. Spread one bread slice with the chili mayonnaise. Cover with cheese slices, avocado, and rocket
3. Add the second slice of bread. Toast in a pan for 4 minutes per side over medium high heat, until the cheese melts and your patience runs out.