Archive for February, 2008

Offline for a while.

26 February, 2008

Not that anyone cares, but…

Too much is going on right now: Homer, teaching, Antares house, other stuff.

No posts until things level out.

Best grilled cheese technique

8 February, 2008

Well, with winter setting in I am finding myself craving more and more comfort foods. And what is more comforting to the average American other than a grilled cheese sandwich, except perhaps a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup?

On one of his DVD episodes, Alton Brown illustrates how to make a grilled cheese (faux panini style) in under four minutes. I’ve got it down to three minutes due to my range’s heat, and I have added my own variations to suit my personal tastes. Regardless of individual flair, though, the skeletal culinary structure remains the same. You will need 2 cast iron 10″ skillets, or one 10″ skillet and one 10″ comal. You can do two sandwiches at one time, perhaps three, and definately one.

Go into the kitchen and put both pans (which should be dry, otherwise they will smoke excessively) on high. While they heat, grab your bread, select and grate some decent cheese, such as some aged or sharp cheddar, or even a combo of brie and Reggiano, or some havarti or mozzarella (if you make grilled cheese with American cheese, well, whatever, and what the heck are you doing on this site, anyway?), pick out some mustard from the fridge and spread a thin coat over one slice of bread with it. Put the cheese onto the other piece. Here is where I go for my own flair. I grind some fresh black pepper over the cheese, I splooge some Rooster sauce (Vietnamese chilli sauce) over the mustard, and lightly butter both sides of the bread. It is not uncommon for me to throw some diced onion or gherkins into the mix, but it depends on my mood. The butter is necessary to prevent the pans from sticking to the bread. Alton Brown uses a spritz of olive oil on the contact surfaces of the pans, but I find I prefer butter spread on the bread better.

OK, your pans are hot and smoking. Your sandwich is assembled. Turn off the heat (and if you have an electric range, move your pans to a different (cool) burner or the counter (use a trivet!). Put the sandwich on one pan, and put the second pan on top of the sandwich to replicate a panini press. Set a timer somewhere (though you won’t need it other than to confirm that I am right). It might take two, or it might take three minutes, but when you hear the melted cheese hit the pan with a sizzle, the cheese is fully melted, and the hot surfaces will have browned the bread by now. It’s ready to eat.

The only downside to this technique is that you end up with a pressed sandwich (you could even use a ridged grill pan to create grill lines on one side. Sometimes, I do not wish to put my bread under the duress of weight. When that is the case, I opt for the heat and flip technique. But if I want a mindless, foolproof sandwich in under 4 minutes, I use two cast iron pans.

Protected: I do not want what I have not got

7 February, 2008

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Airline karma

6 February, 2008

Rant, and not that anyone cares, but:

Well, most of you know I have been on a trip out west to shut down “the estate.” I have returned from this trip with my faith in family and fairness restored, regardless of how things ultimately turn out. I do, however, have a couple of things to share regarding my air travel. By luck of the draw, I had emergency exit seats from CHO to IAD, from IAD to Denver, and from Denver to SNA. Total travel time from CHO to SNA was 12 hours, plus rental car time. On my return trip, from SNA to SFO and from SFO to IAD, I had 3 seats to myself, which meant I could lie down and sleep on the flights, which I did, and I hope I snored loudly to pay back the Italian brats who kept waking me up by tickling my feet and the screaming baby in the row ahead of me. All in all, it was a good flight. I highly recommend bringing shotgun ear muffs and a hat that covers your eyes on all flights.

I never would have thought that the last leg of my flight, which is a mere two hour drive by car, would have been canceled. As a result, I missed my class, pissed off my girlfriend, who was in the area but could not pick me up, and brought a rain of bad luck to her family for twenty-four hours. Still, I am back safe and sound, and nobody got hurt. We also enjoyed a great bottle of wine.

In the future, I will drive to RIC or IAD and leave my car there. I will be able to take direct, non-stop flights, and I will not be stymied by last second flight cancellations. Better to take a car and put it in long term storage than suffer layover after layover for the sake of flying out of the small and seemingly-convenient CHO, which has it own charm–it is small and has free wireless, and you can show up 30 minutes before your flight and still get on it. But the fact is this: CHO to IAD: 2 hour layover; IAD to Denver: 2.5 hour layover. Same on the way back. SNA to SFO: 2 hour layover; SFO to IAD: 1.5 hour layover with canceled flight and consequences. Next time I will drive to the airport and book a nonstop flight. My commute time will be cut from 12 hours to 7 hours.

Rant over.

Requiescat in Pace: Sheldon Brown.

3 February, 2008

Sheldon Brown, bicycle guru and inimitable legend…

…died today.

Thanks, Sheldon, for offering your time and advice to me over the last 10 years. Empathy to the Brown family and Sheldon’s close friends.