"The Social Network of the South"
There are sometimes when you want the luxury of a fine meal and sometimes when all that gravitas is just pomp and circumstance. Comfort foods can be more rewarding and satisfying than a beautiful Michelin star entrée on some occasions. The terminology of comfort foods for me harkens me back to my childhood favorites, Mac-n-Cheese, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, and Oreo Cookies. Each individually represent certain phases of my childhood, yet they all signify comfort and satisfaction.
Over the years I have been able to rev up these childhood fave’s of mine to something that any adult and child will enjoy. I often make these dishes for my daughter who is always willing to try anything I make. I know it’s a success when the dish is requested again and again and again by all members of the family. I suggest making any one of these dishes on a day when you just need some comfort, you have some kids to entertain, or you are ready to kick it like the old days! So channel you inner child and live a little.
A sandwich so ubiquitous it certainly deserves some scrutiny. It’s time to turn back the clock and give this superb sandwich the adoration it deserves.
The first ingredient is the bread, your “mushy white bread” just will not do. Make it an adventure and visit your neighborhood bakery to find the very best bread you can. Ideally you are looking for a white variety such as Sourdough or Brioche. You will want the slices to be thicker than standard so you will probably need to buy the loaf whole and slice it at home. Once you bring it home, slice yourself two ½” slices.
Next you will need to take some unsalted room temperature butter and shmear it onto the side you will spread your peanut butter onto. This will enhance your creaminess of the peanut butter. Then onto the peanut butter. I prefer chunky, some prefer creamy – either way, you want a really good, high quality peanut butter. READ THE LABEL! Whatever kind you buy, you want to ensure you are choosing one that is made of mostly peanut butter. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt on top of the peanut butter; it adds a certain savory element that makes your taste buds perk up.
Finally, select a locally made strawberry or raspberry jam. While I can live with preserves, I really think jams are the way to go. They have the best texture and often have the most flavor. The perfect ratio of peanut butter to jam is 2 to 1 – twice as much peanut butter to jam.
When I’m fixing this for my daughter, I take off the crust and pop it into the microwave for about 5-10 seconds. It lends a consistency and velvety texture that is outstanding. Served with a glass of ice cold milk and we have a very happy camper.
What I love about this sandwich is the buttery and crispy exterior offset by the warm, gooey, and just slightly tangy flavor of the melted cheese on the inside. When this combination comes together I just can’t resist, and really who can?
Since you would already have some really good bread from the bakery, you can use the same one for this sandwich. Again, you will want to cut yourself two ½” slices. As far as condiments go, some people like mayo and mustard or nothing at all; I prefer a good quality Dijon mustard. I spread a light amount on both pieces of bread. Cheese is the star of the show and it is the most important factor for this creation. Everyone has their own spin…Havarti, Gruyere, Swiss, American, and Provolone. My all time favorite is just a hearty aged sharp Cheddar. I don’t like it too “stinky” as some put it. But, I do want Cheddar that has been aged for at least 12 months. The benefit of Cheddar is that it melts superbly and brings that classic creamy texture a grilled cheese should provide. Lastly, with a good sharp variety, it is enhanced by the touch of Dijon mustard. Slices of Cheddar work best so that little pieces of shredded cheese don’t fall out into your pan. “Keep the pan nice and neat!”
Heat your non-stick skillet over medium high heat and dollop some salted butter into your pan. You want your butter to melt, but not to start bubbling or turning brown. Once you put your sandwich into the pan, turn the heat down to medium. You are looking for that initial golden hue that will darken as it cooks. While your sandwich is in the pan, spread some more room temperature salted butter onto the piece of bread facing you in the pan. Once you have done this, take a spatula and check the down side of the sandwich. It should be golden and almost caramel colored. Flip your sandwich and the freshly buttered side should just sizzle in the pan. This is now the most crucial part. Diligently watch your sandwich; it will go from just right to plain burned within seconds. Once it is ready, bring the sandwich to a cutting board and slice diagonally with a large knife making 2 triangles. Try an ice cold pilsner beer with it to make you remind yourself that you are an adult, and enjoy!
Chocolate Cookie Sandwich
Yes, this is my take on a timeless classic, the Oreo cookie. While the store bought variety has its own time and place, now that I have made this version, I can safely say it wins out every time. When these are made in my house, we all sit down at the kitchen table with tall glasses of milk and eat our way through an afternoon.
1 2/3 C All-purpose flour
¾ C Sugar
¾ C Cocoa Powder
1½ tsp Kosher Salt
½ tsp Baking Soda
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, Room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl and mix on low speed. Add the butter in 1-2 Tb at a time until mixed in. Slowly increase the speed of your mixer until a dough starts to form. It will look sandy. Divide the dough into two halves. Roll each half in between two sheets of parchment paper until its ¼ - 1/8” thick. Let chill on a baking sheet in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Use a fluted 2” cutter and place the cut cookies onto a buttered cookie sheet pan. Bake the cookies until cooked through about 12-15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before placing onto a cooling rack.
½ C Heavy Whipping Cream
8 oz White Chocolate Chips
Bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Place chocolate in a glass bowl (preferably Pyrex – as long as it is heat proof) then pour boiling cream over chocolate, whisking to combine. Let cool to room temperature.
Spread the filling on to a cookie and sandwich with another cookie.
Store in a Tupperware for up to 4 days, although they probably won’t last that long!