Evolution of a Sandwich
Sometimes the best comfort foods are in fact extremely uncomplicated. While I do enjoy complex, interwoven flavours in a meal, I also appreciate minimalism. When I considered September’s Canadian Food Experience Project challenge to write about a cherished Canadian recipe, I had difficulty thinking of one. The reason was not because I don’t have a large repertoire and memory bank full of delicious meals to draw on, but because I couldn’t pinpoint one that was convincingly Canadian. This is in part due to the fact that I did not grow up in a typically Canadian family and so when I think of meals that I have cherished most, my thoughts turn to the traditional Hungarian dinners prepared by my Grandmother.
As I searched the past, I pieced together a few precious memories from my childhood, along with some of my favourite adult foods, to create this month’s CFEP post.
My cherished meal is something quite humble: grilled cheese. Growing up, grilled cheese sandwiches made with good quality, aged cheddar were a lunchtime staple. My mother would cut my sandwiches into little, crustless, bite sized pieces we affectionately called “soldiers”. Continuing to sift through childhood memories, I also recalled my family’s Christmas morning breakfast tradition of peameal bacon sandwiches, one which we maintain to this day.
Though I grew out of crustless soldiers, I never grew out of grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, when I began a new job 9 months ago and learned of their occasional grilled cheese staff lunches, I knew I was in the right place. And, as I have evolved tastes for mature, flavourful and healthy ingredients over the years, I have found complimentary ingredients to highlight the foundational elements I grew up on.
I am not gifted at writing out the recipes I create, and grilled cheese is something anyone can make. So, since there are really no rules as to how you should make your own grilled cheese sandwich, I’m not sharing recipes, but rather two of my favourite grilled cheese formulations. This post certainly doesn’t showcase my cooking ability, but it draws on cherished memories and unites ingredients in a way that makes both my belly and soul happy.
Here are two perfectly decadent grilled cheese sandwiches that I’ve enjoyed creating and eating. You can really add as much or as little of the ingredients as you like, or get creative and modify as you wish! These are further elevated if you can find all or most of the ingredients locally or homemade and grown.
Note: I always use real butter on the outside (sometimes the inside, too) of my grilled cheese sandwiches. Also, I place my vegetable and meat ingredients between layers of cheese so that the sandwich stays together. It’s also a great excuse to add more cheese.
Rainy Saturday Afternoon Grilled Cheese Sandwich
• Locally baked artisan sourdough bread, such as Art Is In Boulangerie’s roasted garlic and rosemary sourdough. (http://www.artisinbakery.com/menu/breads)
• Applewood smoked cheddar cheese
• Caramelized onions
• Peameal bacon (cured ham, rolled in cornmeal), thinly sliced and pan-fried. (Note: DO NOT overcook or the meat will become dry. It takes very little time, perhaps 2 minutes per side, to cook thinly sliced peameal bacon through). I admit this part is not so healthy unless you can find a naturally cured and preservative-free version.
Summertime Backyard Picnic Grilled Cheese Sandwich
• Olive bread (such as ACE Bakery’s)
• Homemade basil pesto
• Havarti cheese (not low fat)
• Tomato, thinly sliced
• Baby spinach
The above rendition uses roasted garlic sourdough and is accompanied by a trio of greens salad (spinach, chard and kale) with my pesto turned into a vinaigrette.
The Canadian Food Experience Project is Valerie Lugonja’s call to Canadian Foodies and Bloggers alike to unite on the 7th day of each month and creatively discover and share Canada’s unique culinary voice. You can read more about this exciting project here.