Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snow Day Part Duh

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

When I last wrote, I was in the first day of what became known as either Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon, catchy words the Atlanta weather gurus came up with to describe the week. The snow fell for just a day, but the subsequent low temps ensured that the ice remains. The sheets of black ice are what kept schools closed and families snowbound this week. No school, no mail delivery, treacherous roads, empty grocery store shelves. We were thankful for uninterrupted electricity, plenty of firewood, a full pantry and no particular need to leave the house.

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I began this week with a simple tomato soup and I'm ending the week with its equally simple accompaniment: grilled cheese. I could go all fancy-pants here and employ air finger quotes for a "take" on grilled cheese. Maybe 87-grain bread made from my own 87-grain home-milled flour, and cheese made from the milk of my herd of goats. Or not.

The only grilled cheese that matters is the one that Mama makes. My girls will someday have children of their own and when they call me up and ask Mom, how do you make grilled cheese? I will tell them this: Pepperidge Farm thin sliced bread (white or wheat), Kraft white American cheese and butter. The Pepperidge Farm thin sliced yields a crispy exterior; the white American, I swear it tastes different than the orange regular American; and for the butter, we use the Land O'Lakes light butter with canola oil because it doesn't tear the bread. Don't turn up your nose at the Kraft slices, each encased in its thin plastic Snuggi. Chef Linton Hopkins of Atlanta's Holeman and Finch Public House uses only American cheese on his famous 10 o'clock cheeseburgers.

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Writing a recipe for grilled cheese seems a little like telling someone how to wear flip-flops. It's just one of those things that you DO, but here are a few tips to make the process easier. A griddle is a useful thing, mine is able to hold up to six pieces of griddling bread.

Have ready enough bread and cheese for the number of sandwiches you intend to make. Have butter handy. Heat griddle. Butter one side of each slice of bread and place butter side down on griddle. Unwrap cheese slices and place on toasting bread. The secret to successful grilled sandwich making is flipping the sandwich often enough to prevent scorching the exterior but allowing the interior to come to full melting perfection. When it's time to serve, we're a triangle family, but exceptions will be made for those who insist on rectangles or even squares. Occasionally, biscuit cutters are employed to create circles, with the trimmings becoming the cook's treat.

For dessert on this snowbound week - Bellwether Vance's Kumquat Pie. Creamy, tart and refreshing. I have a family of kumquat fans now - thanks, Bell!

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

What is your favorite grilled cheese sandwich? What do you eat at home when you're snowed in or the weather's too bad to venture out?  Let me know in the comments below.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

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