Sunday, July 27, 2008

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

The lowly grilled cheese sandwich with Wonderbread and Kraft American cheese that we grew up on has grown up and is ready for prime time! With sourdough, White Mountain, Rye, cheddar, Fontina, Gouda, pickles tomatoes, pears, onion and more, you are only limited by your imagination. Whether I’m making a basic grilled cheese or a more refined Panini I love them all, except for the Brooklyn Style Grilled Cheese. That one has way too much butter, lol.

The basic technique is simple. Butter the outside slices of the bread, heat your skillet until slightly smoking, add about a teaspoon of oil and start grilling. Large slices of freshly baked breads will take about four to five minutes per side. Oh, and try not to overload the cheese so it melts out in the skillet like I did.
If you want to make panini style you can get more elaborate with various meats, cheeses and peppers and buy a panini grill to get the nice grill marks or you could just line the bottom of a smaller cast iron skillet with aluminum foil and place on top of the sandwhiches while grilling.

White Mountain bread, Cheddar, Dill Pickle and Lemon Pepper.

Sourdough, Mozzarella, Parmesan-Reggiano, Provolone and Italian marinated tomatoes. And no the cheese didn’t stick.

Occasionally you will hear about a grilled cheese sandwich that looks like the Mother Mary or Marilyn Monroe that sell for thousands on Ebay. I made one once that had a resemblance to Elvis. I wonder if I can sell it on Ebay?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008


If you did indeed invent the cheeseburger Mr. Lionel Sternberger I salute you! Cheeseburgers are the near perfect food. Besides tasting great they have most of the food groups, meat, vegetables, dairy, grain and beer. Whether you fry them in an iron skillet or grill them on iron grates you will soon be enjoying a delicious piece of Americana, unless it’s the Four Year Old Cheeseburger or the Cheeseburger in a Can.

on the grill

There is a growing trend of placing the toppings on the bottom of the burger. The theory is that the rising heat from the burger will diminish the freshness of the toppings. This might be fine in a fast food restaurant but the burgers I make at home don’t sit around for long so I’m not worried about it. Even Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant is doing it. I don’t put the toppings on the bottom because I use some mayo on the bottom bun to mix with the cheeseburger juices to form a nice sauce, besides it just looks weird.

cheeseburger and fries

I guess you can tell that I like mine with lettuce and tomato….

bacon cheeseburger

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Steak Sandwiches

These steak sandwiches are very tender and flavorful. There’s nothing worse than biting into what you think is going to be a tender steak sandwich then fighting with the meat for a minute before giving up and pulling back while the piece of meat flies out of the sandwich and slaps you in the face with a “HA!” I hate it when that happens so I make sure it never does with this recipe. Even if you don’t use the tender nicely marbled Flat Iron steaks called for in this recipe you can still achieve success by using a good cut of meat, marinating it, cutting it into thin slices and cooking it quickly in batches. The reason I use thin slices is that they cook quickly and evenly and if you are using any flavor ingredients as in stir fry they will cook nicely into the meat. Cook the meat in batches so as not to crowd the pan. If you dump all of the meat in the skillet the moisture from the meat and residual marinade will cause the meat to start to stew and you can’t stew in a few minutes. Stewing is a long slow process used on less tender cuts of meat. I recommend using the ciabatta rolls for this recipe as the soft somewhat chewy ciabatta soaks up the juices nicely and holds up well for a sandwich like this.

Marinate the steaks for at least four hours or overnight. Remove the steaks from the marinade, pat dry and place in the freezer for about ten minutes prior to slicing. This will make the meat easier to cut into thin slices. Caramelize the onions in a cast iron skillet and then add the roasted red peppers to heat through and set aside in a bowl. Wipe your skillet with a paper towel to clean and re-heat until just smoking and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan. Cook the meat for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Brush olive oil on the insides of the ciabatta rolls and grill or broil for a few minutes until golden brown. Spread the Dijon mustard on the rolls; add the steak, onion and peppers and provolone cheese. Place the sandwiches on a cookie sheet and place in a 300F oven for about 5-7 minutes to heat and let the cheese melt. Enjoy!

What you will need.
• Two 1LB Flat Irons Steaks
• two onions sliced
• ½ bottle roasted red peppers drained and patted dry
• 4-6 ciabatta rolls
• Provolone cheese slices
• Olive oil
• Whole grain Dijon mustard
• Coarse Kosher salt
• Fresh ground black pepper
• ½ cup oil
• 2 TBS red wine vinegar
• 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
• Salt and pepper
• 1 TBS Oregano
• 2 cloves garlic minced

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fourth of July Weekend

The Fourth of July weekend, good friends, beef tenderloin on the Big Green Egg, a swimming pool, music and cold beverages is a beautiful thing! Kevin invited me over for beef tenderloin on the Big Green Egg and I was like “Yeah man I’m in!” That BGE is great for everything from slow cooking pulled pork at 235F overnight to cooking fine steaks at 700F so I knew this was going to be great. Plus we had the Tiki God watching over the BGE.

Big Green Egg

The beef tenderloin marinated and ready for the Egg.

Beef Tenerloin

An hour or so and it’s almost ready.

Beef Tenderloin on a Big Green Egg Beef Tenderloin on a Big Green Egg

Dana made some great baked beans kicked up with ground beef and bacon. She also made some awesome dirty rice which I didn’t get a picture of. DOH!

Baked Beans

The beef tenderloin sliced and ready to eat. The tenderloin was perfect! It was flavorful and oh so tender!

Beef Tenderloin

Kevin hands me my plate. I hope there's enough for everybody else.

Beef Tenderloin

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Disaster Strikes

Recently I was cooking some Wild Alaskan Salmon in my 12” Cast Iron skillet when the salmon skin stuck to the skillet! I was freakin’! What a bummer! What did I do wrong? I sulked through finishing the rest of the dinner but then soon forgot my woes when I tasted the salmon. I tasted great and I really enjoyed the meal.

After dinner it was time to tackle the skillet demon. As I approached the dirty skillet I had already formed a plan for cleaning and re-seasoning. I was going to start light and only break out the big guns if I needed too. My light cleaning method for a tough job involves the use of coarse kosher salt and soft bristle brush. If that doesn’t work I’ll move up to hot soapy water and a stiff brush or scouring pad. If that doesn’t work I break out the big guns with work gloves, boots, goggles, ear plugs, a sandblaster and cursing! Luckily a couple of rounds of rinsing and scrubbing with the coarse salt and soft bristle brush did the trick. After I dried the skillet thoroughly I placed it on the stovetop with a medium low heat for a couple of minutes to dry the pan, then I coated it with a thin coating of Crisco and re-seasoned.

Everything looks good with the skillet after the cleaning, re-seasoning and cooking some flat iron streaks in it so I decide to try to fry some eggs in it.
YES! WOOOOOHOOOO! I’m back in business baby!

Now what did I do wrong? I think that using it more often for these blog posts and using it for double duty in the same meal I got a bit complacent in the cleaning process. Sometimes I was rinsing and wiping the skillet then oiling it and moving on to the next meal. I wasn’t heating the skillet after the cleaning to dry it thoroughly before oiling and reusing. This crucial step opens up the pores of the skillet to release moisture and then allow the oil to penetrate before closing again after cooling down. Also I think the skillet wasn’t hot enough when I put the salmon in. Oh well live and learn. I’ll try again and let you know how it turns out.