I know, what’s so special about a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup? Anyone can make that. It’s kid food.
Well, yeah. Kid food, perhaps. But it’s comforting, isn’t it? Kid food? Something your mom might have served up on a winter afternoon, after you spent the morning playing in the snow until your cheeks were red and your fingers were wet and numb inside your mittens after throwing snowballs at your friends, and you were cold to the core, but you still groaned when your mom called "Time for Lunch!" because kids are hardy individuals, able to play happily in frigid cold and scorching sun. And despite your reluctance to stop playing, there was something very warm and cozy about a melty sandwich and a bowl of soup, steam rising above the rim. Warmed up your body and your soul at the same time, didn’t it?
Yeah, but okay, we’re talking ostensibly about Valentine’s Day here, and grilled cheese may be many things, but "romantic" doesn’t leap to mind as one of them. Okay, the tomato soup is red…but other than that…
To be honest, I’m not thinking of romance, per se, with these foods I’m writing about. Not romance in the heart-shaped-box-of-chocolates and the dozen-long-stemmed-way-over-priced-roses way. That’s not really romantic to me; it’s too…too enforced.
This is much simpler. Much more basic. And it’s not just on Feb 14th – it’s whenever. It’s an "I love you, by the way" for your spouse, your kids – even yourself. It’s a small gift. But aren’t big things supposed to come in small packages, or whatever that saying is? So there can be a whole lotta love in a simple little meal.
So here, for your entertainment, is how I make a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for my husband. If the way to his heart is through his stomach…then my heart is a frying pan and a can opener. Kind of.
Okay, here’s what you do:
Assemble the sandwich ingredients: white bread, American cheese slices, yellow mustard of some kind, and some butter.
And for the soup:
– and an equal amount of milk.
Open the can of soup and place the contents of the can and an equal amount of milk (see? I told you) in a pan on the stove.
Whisk them together and heat on medium low, so you don’t scorch the pan.
Stir the soup periodically while you make the sandwich.
Meanwhile…melt a good chunk of butter in a nonstick frying pan:
While the butter melts, assemble your sandwich.
Place one slice of bread face-up on a plate.
(The mustard is optional. So is the vaguely heart-shaped squiggle you see above.)
Next – the cheese. Like I said – American cheese slices. Two or three, to taste.
And finally, the top slice of bread. (Additional mustard is optional. I usually only apply one coating of mustard to Bill’s sandwich.) Note – it is EXTREMELY important that both slices of bread are "facing" the same way. Aesthetics are important – remember, we eat with our eyes first.
By this time, your butter should be nicely melted in your pan. If it cooked too long and burned, wipe the pan out and start over.
Carefully lay the sandwich in the center of the pan and press down to help mush all the layers together a bit. It will taste better if you do that. Really.
Now let it cook there for a bit, with your heat on medium to medium-high (depending on how heartbreakingly hungry your loved one is). After a couple of minutes, take a peek to see how the face-down side is doing.
Hmmm…getting there, but not ready just yet.
Let it cook another minute or two and check again. When that side is nice and golden brown, remove the sandwich from the pan and get another chunk of butter.
Toss that in the pan to melt and turn the heat down a little, as the pan is pretty darn hot at this point and you don’t want to burn the butter. Once the new application of butter has melted, flip the sandwich over – being careful to not let the layers slip apart in the process. If they do, carefully and quickly slide everything back in place. Be careful not to burn your fingers in the process.
One technique I use for the second side is to drop the flame to low and put a lid over the sandwich. This keeps the heat circulating all around the sandwich and keeps the other side from browning too quickly (or burning).
When the other side of the sandwich has turned a lovely golden brown, and the cheese is melty, remove the sandwich from a pan and put it on a plate.
Now get a knife (the butter knife works fine for this, or you can get something sharper if you are more comfortable with that) and slice the sandwich as desired. My husband likes his sandwiches cut on the diagonal, like so:
Be sure to cut all the way through the sandwich so there is no pulling and tearing of the bread.
Arrange the slices attractively on the plate.
By now the soup should be ready – bubbling gently around the edges and some motion in the center. You don’t want a full boil, because the milk can scorch.
Ladle some soup into a bowl, and voila – a warm and cozy meal for someone you feel warm and cozy about.
At the time of the shooting of the photos for this post, I was actually making lunch for my kids. Neither one likes mustard in their sandwich (nor do I) so I ate the sandwich you saw earlier just so it wouldn’t go to waste. I’d made one without mustard for the kids to share, but Julia demanded HER OWN SANDWICH, so I made that after taking the pictures. I brought it to her in the dining room where she waited with her soup, and I asked if I could have a bite (since it was without mustard and I knew it would taste SO much better) – and she said, and I quote – "NO! It’s MINE!" (my parents and sister will have a good laugh about that. It’s payback. Spooky how that happens.)
Anyway, since I couldn’t have any food, I sat there and took pictures of her eating it. Clearly she is in gustatory heaven.
Dunking her sandwich in the soup. Just like Daddy does.