Sometimes, you just want something easy – some sort of comfort food. Usually for me during the hockey season, comfort food consists of the kind that comes out of a tap. During the off-season, however, I usually have a bit more time and free cash to go for something more special. Special and gourmet doesn’t have to cost a ton of money, though. A little extra, sure, but it’s worth it.
I suggest for your stay at home meals – that Saturday afternoon where you don’t really feel like going out and getting lunch, but you’d still like to have something more adult than ramen noodles (not that there’s anything wrong with those) – you get better quality ingredients. They’re better for you, better tasting, and keep you full for longer, so there’s less of a chance of overeating. It’s easy to be lazy and grab two pieces of white bread, some butter for the outside, a piece of bologna, and some American cheese. And yeah, a toasted bologna and cheese sandwich isn’t bad, especially as a late-night snack. But this isn’t a snack. This is lunch or; with the addition of some french fries, a salad, or some veggies, this is dinner.
Fancy toasted cheese sandwiches are the new gastro-trend now that fancy hamburgers and ritzy hot dogs seem to be played out. It’s super easy to mimic these $7 or $8 dollar sandwiches at home for a fraction of the cost.
I suggest going somewhere like Trader Joe’s for your ingredients. They’re all very high-quality, and they’re cheaper than other places like Whole Foods or Fresh Market. A weekend shopping trip there left me with some rosemary ham, herb-crusted goat cheese, and some low-fat Havarti. Toss in a sourdough loaf, and oh look! Sammiches. The cost of all of those items together was around $10, and the total output is probably six toasted cheese sandwiches.
I suggest doing this in a seasoned cast-iron skillet. They get hotter than the non-stick pans, and they form a better crust, too. Prepare the bread in the usual toasted cheese manner. Butter one side of a piece of sourdough, and on the other non-buttered piece, layer a slice of Havarti, some ham (no more than two slices, or else the cheese won’t heat all of the way through), spread some goat cheese, and place another sice of Havarti on top. Cap off with buttered bread, buttered side out of course, and lay that side down first in a very hot cast-iron skillet. It should sizzle when you place the bread in. If not, it’ll get more soggy than crispy. Butter the top of the sandwich, and press. Flip every minute to minute and a half to get an even toast, and to keep an eye on the crispness of the bread.
Another way you can do this is put it in a panini press or a George Forman grill. If you don’t have either of those, and don’t mind a little clean-up, you can use two cast iron skillets. Get the bottom of each very, very hot on a burner. Flip one skillet over, place the sandwich on the bottom, and put the other one on top. If the weight of the skillet itself isn’t enough to press the sandwich, get a very heavy can of something – or a brick – and place it into the top skillet. Wait about 30 seconds to a minute, and you have an oozy piece of goodness that looks something like this: