Saturday, May 22, 2010

Grilled Cheese Therapy

Every couple has some sort of ongoing, long-standing disagreement. Ours has to do with me thinking that I'm right about the "proper" way to make food. On all seafood matters, I happily defer to my husband who grew up eating so much seafood that I trust he knows what it should taste like.

However, on the slim chance that he's taking a risk and making something in the/my kitchen, I find it almost impossible not to hover about dispensing tidbits of advice or, at the very least, disapproving looks when things seem to be going awry. But there is a phrase he likes to deliver that usually makes me tuck tail and leave.

"Remember the cheese sandwich?"

See, early on in our now decade-long marriage we had a little run-in regarding the proper method to make a cheese sandwich. Funny thing is, I can't remember either one of our methods. But his was appallingly wrong and, of course, being so much more "schooled" in cooking know-how I pointed out how wrong his approach to the cheese sandwich was. His gentle response was that people can do things in different ways and that is okay. Um, okay.

Ten years later, thanks to one of my favorite publications (Cook's Illustrated), I can finally and with confidence be sure that there is a "right" way to make a grilled cheese sandwich.

You know the two main issues plaguing a good sandwich...either the outside is charred black while the inside is still solid, unmelted cheese --or-- the cheese is melted but the outside is a soggy mess. The secret? Read on...

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

2 slices of good quality bread (I was using that Innkeeper's Bread from Costco)
A good handful of grated cheese (Gouda is gooda, but choose something you like)

Heat the skillet to Medium Low. Place a piece of dry (unbuttered) bread in the skillet and top with a good lot of cheese. Warm the bread and cheese, checking to see that the bread is not browning much. Top with the other slice of bread and carefully flip to warm from the other side. The cheese should be starting to melt by now.

While the second side is warming, spread soft butter over the top slice. Turn the heat up to Medium. Flip the sandwich so that the buttered side is down. Cook until it is a nice golden color. Butter the second side and repeat.

Perfect ooey gooey cheese. Perfect toasted, crisp bread. Perfect for this freezing cold and wet spring.

Hey, I can admit when I'm wrong about something. Especially now that I know the real "right" way to do it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scones that will keep you home

One of my all time favorite breakfast items (right now) are delicious fresh-baked scones. I first came across the recipe in Edible Seattle in an interview with the chef at Boat Street Cafe. The interviewer even suggested that these are really the only scones worth eating. That may be a little bit of a stretch having tasted good scones here and there (sorry, Starbucks, but I'm not talking about yours).

Many factors influence a good scone...freshness (for sure), good quality cream, and not overworking the dough to name a few.

I admit that I've had to rework the original recipe. For starters, I cut it in half. Not because I didn't want all those scones but because I found that I couldn't bake the full recipe at once with consistent results. I ended up with a lot of crowding and melting with the full recipe. Secondly, I took out the orange zest because it is just not my most favorite flavor. And lastly, I increased the baking time because I kept getting doughy scones. Perhaps that is because of my particular oven. You'll have to experiment a little to find the perfect combination for yourself.

Cream Scones

2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 c sugar (I fill my 1/4 c just over half full)
1 tsp baking powder
A good pinch of Kosher salt (less if using table salt)
1/4 c dried currants (soak them in water for a bit to rehydrate...or rum is really good, too)
1 1/2 c heavy cream (use a tiny bit less than this, add more if needed)

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk. Drain the currants and add to the flour mixture, combining until evenly distributed. Add the cream to the flour mixture. Bring together with a fork or sometimes I use a pastry cutter. Mix until the flour is moistened and then stop mixing. Over-mixing leads to tough scones. The dough is pretty wet and sticky. That's okay.

Get some flour on your hands, then dump your dough onto the parchment covered baking sheet. Push the dough together and pat into a six inch round. It will be fairly 1.5- 2 inches tall. I use a steak knife to cut the round into 8 pieces (like a pizza). Separate the pieces by at least 2 inches so they don't bake into each other.

Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, brush a little cream onto each top, then sprinkle with some sugar. Bake 15-18 minutes, until they start to look a little golden. They will not get very brown. I tend to need 17-18 minutes in my oven, although the original recipe only called for 10-15 minutes.

You might have to experiment a few times to find the perfect temperature. Also, if you want to double the recipe, I recommend making the first batch, baking, and then making a second batch instead of simply doubling. But that's just my way.

Don't forget to serve with soft butter, honey, or jam. They are great with a cup of English Breakfast tea. To reheat, loosely wrap in foil and warm in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Now y'all can impress at the next brunch. I love these so much that I made my own Mother's Day breakfast. Who needs a hectic coffee shop when you can sit in your pj's at home and eat these?

And a little guilty admission from me...I normally do all my own photography, but this scone image was snagged from another site. However, they look just like the scones I make and I thought you'd like a visual. Please forgive!
julie.jams' items Go to julie.jams' photostream

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