Snow Day

First of all, it’s cold out, so you’re gonna want hot coffee. Specifically, you’re gonna want hot coffee, cinnamon-infused maple syrup, and whipped cream. Homemade whipped cream is best, obviously, but it’s first thing in the morning, I haven’t had any coffee yet, and it’s a snow day: the can will do just fine.

If you don’t have cinnamon-infused maple syrup (a niche item, I’m aware), then brown sugar will do. Dark brown, preferably. You want that good, caramel/molasses flavor. Add some cinnamon if you want, or stir it with a cinnamon-stick garnish if you’re fancy.

Later in the day, you will want to mix up more of the same, this time with a slug of whiskey for good measure. It’s a versatile recipe like that.

(If you look closely at the reflection in the coffee press above, you can see my toasted bagel-half and cream cheese standing by. That’s an everything bagel from the local Hearth Artisan Breads, delivered by our friendly Crescent Ridge Dairy milkman. It is the best everything bagel I’ve ever had, and I’ve lived in a lot of places and eaten a lot of bagels.)

(While we’re on the subject of local purveyors, my coffee of choice is New England roaster Wicked Joe’s Bella Maria.)

The other thing you’re gonna want, later on, is a grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe with soup; maybe with some slices of tomato and/or bacon; maybe all of the above. (Cheddar and green apple? Havarti and pear? Monterey Jack with canned green chilis and red onion and tomato?) (Or, possibly for the sake of your seven-year-old daughter, possibly for the sake of your formerly seven-year-old self, just a stack of good, gooey Kraft Singles.)

The main thing you need to know about making grilled cheese sandwiches perfectly at home is that you’ve got to have the right pan — cast iron, please — and you’ve got to start heating it before you do anything else. Don’t grease it in any way. (Your cast iron is seasoned, right?) Just put your trusty skillet on a very low flame (that’s around a 2 on our gas stove’s burners) and let it wake up gradually to hot while you do everything else.

The everything else is pretty simple. You want bread, butter, the stuff for the sandwich’s middle. (Some people put mayo on the outside of a grilled cheese. I’ve done it, and it does indeed make a nice crispy golden exterior, but it’s all show and no substance; it’s just greasy and tastes of nothing. Your grilled cheese shouldn’t be greasy. It should be, specifically, buttery.)

The butter needs to be soft. If it isn’t, put it in the microwave for anything from 8 – 12 seconds. It doesn’t need to be melted but it needs to glide over your cotton-batting-textured grocery store white bread without pulling or tearing.

Assemble your sandwich: bread, cheese (plenty of cheese, in my opinion, but slightly less in my daughter’s), second bread. Butter the exterior of the top slice of bread. Completely, corner to corner, crust to crust, but not thickly. Pretend you’re applying sunscreen, not spackle. Then pick the sandwich up, turn it over so the butter side is down, and set it in your preheated skillet. Take the second slice of bread (the unbuttered, formerly bottom slice) off the sandwich’s top, and use the time the other bread is sizzling to butter and replace it. Smash it back on there, give it a minute for slowly-melting cheese to glue it in place, flip the sandwich to grill this second side.

You want to grill each side long enough that it’s had a chance to get a real good sizzle going, but not long enough that anything starts to smoke.

The sandwich pictured above is still raw, in my good opinion, but it is almost done in my daughter’s seven-year-old opinion. (She’ll learn, in time. Kids, like cast iron, take seasoning.)

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