Larrupin

Uncommonly Good

April is Grilled Cheese Month

I love a grilled cheese sandwich.

Grilled CheeseThe most random ingredients can be stacked up between cheese and bread, placed on an iron skillet for a few minutes and taste magnifico!

My most recent grilled cheese was: French bread smeared with honey mustard, topped with Gruyère, Cajun turkey, bread and butter pickles, then more Cajun turkey, more Gruyère and topped with another slice of bread with more honey mustard.  That was a couple of days ago.

A couple of weeks ago I made this ham and cheese. I used Dijon mustard, Gruyère, ham, and dill sandwich sliced pickles. Pickles provide an unexpected pop of flavor to the traditional grilled cheese. The cheese isn’t oozing out of this one, but it’s melted just enough to hold everything together.

Instead of smearing this with butter—which I totally love—I poured a significant puddle of olive oil on the hot griddle. I plopped the sandwich in the middle of the oil and quickly flipped it to soak the other side before leaving it alone to grill.

Grilled Ham and Gruyere with Dill Pickles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 12″ square iron griddle makes it easy to cut the sandwich while it’s still on the heat so I can see how melty the cheese is. If I let the heat get too high (darn electric stove!) and it’s browning faster than it’s melting, I’ll turn it frequently so I can keep it on the heat longer. I’ll also cover it with a large lid propped on the side of the griddle. An over sized lid will hold the heat in but also let the steam escape so the bread will continue to crisp.

Larrupin!

Grilled Cheese

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April 7, 2011 Posted by | Sandwich | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Leftovers Lasagna, NOT Leftover Lasagna—yet

Lasagna and Breadsticks

Leftovers Lasagna and Cheesy Parmesan Breadsticks

I thought my brother was coming to town over the weekend so I offered to help mom out by fixing lasagna for a family dinner/football watch party on Saturday night. I offered because I had a package of ground beef and two packages of Italian sausage I needed to freeze or use.

I’m still out of a job so my mom wouldn’t have let me cook if I was going to have to buy anything.

I cooked up the meat the same day, bagged it up and put it in the fridge.

Turns out my brother got sick and had to cancel, but fortunately I found out before I’d committed to using the entire three plus pounds of meat. I split the meat into three freezer bags and put it in the freezer.

Game night rolls around so I pulled one bag out of the freezer and made a quick batch of spaghetti for Dillon and I to eat during the game. It was really good! The dinner, and the game! We won!

I have a tendency to make too much pasta for the sauce I’ve prepared so this time I went on the conservative side and ended up with just the right amount for dinner, but then had leftover meat sauce when we finished.

I was still in the mood for lasagna so on Sunday I whipped this up with the leftovers… thus the title.

Following my plan to use only what I had on hand I pulled out an opened tub of cottage cheese for the cheese layer. I added an egg, a scoop of sour cream (just because I like it) and mixed it up. I also had some slices of provolone and Farmers cheese handy.

Lasagna

Leftovers Lasagna: Layered and Read to Bake

Instead of boiling the lasagna noodles, I tried a tip I saw on TV recently. I soaked the noodles in a casserole dish filled with hot water. I used hot water from the tap and let the noodles soak while I mixed the cheese and got everything ready to layer. It worked like a charm.

Since I wasn’t making a full size lasagna, I put this together in a loaf pan. I was able to use scissors to cut the noodles to the right length and size. The noodles were a tiny bit crispy, but if I’d let them soak 5–10 minutes longer, or poured boiling water over them they would have been perfect. At any rate it removed one gigantic step from the process.

So I layered it and put it in the oven and went to work on my cheesy Parmesan breadsticks.

Cheese Parmesan Breadsticks: Before

Cheese Parmesan Breadsticks: Before

I popped open a can of Pillsbury Breadsticks and dried the casserole I used to soak the lasagna.

Pillsbury Original Breadsticks

Pillsbury Original Breadsticks

I swirled a splatter of olive oil in the bottom of the dish. I wanted to use melted butter, but opted for a healthier fat. I separated the breadsticks and coated them with oil. I left them flat and sprinkled my own blend of seasoning over the top and then turned the breadsticks and seasoned the other side. Next I grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses over that. I twisted the sticks as directed added more cheese and then put the dish in the oven next to the lasagna.

About 12 minutes later the breadsticks were golden brown.

Cheesy Parmesan Breadsticks: After

Cheesy Parmesan Breadsticks: After

Mmmmm!

Leftovers Lasagna: After

Leftovers Lasagna: After

Very impatiently, I tried to wait the suggested 5-10 minutes to let the juices set a bit before cutting it, but I still dipped it out pretty juicy. No matter. It tasted great!

Now I have leftover Leftovers Lasagna to warm up for lunch or dinner the few days.

Larrupin.

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Casserole | , , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Croutons and More

Croutons add a nice crunch to many salads, but I just can’t bring myself to buy a box of croutons at the store. I mean, it’s just toasted bread!
When I first investigated making my own, the recipes told me to cut my bread into cubes and fry it in a skillet of oil. Too much trouble, and too much oil! Over the past few years I’ve come up with my own technique that works for me—and for anyone else who’s enjoyed one of my salads.

I start with French bread, the soft American kind from a grocery store works. Cut what you need into slices about 3/4 inch thick.
Arrange on a foil lined baking sheet. I use my toaster oven.
Coat with extra virgin olive oil—I use a spritzer bottle—and sprinkle with your favorite herbs. The seasoning could be as simple as plain garlic powder. I use my own mix of Janz Seasoning Blend.
Oil and season both sides of the bread before putting them in the oven.

Cooking temperatures vary for toaster ovens because the food is so close to the heat source, but for my current toaster oven, I usually turn the heat to just above 300° for croutons. A lower heat will yield dryer toast, but it takes longer.

When I can smell the croutons I’ll check on them. When the top is hard to touch and starting to turn gold I’ll turn them over so both sides will toast evenly. Leave them as long as it takes for the bread to dry all the way through. Break a piece to determine dryness. If it snaps apart, it’s dry, but if it’s still soft and tears instead of breaks, then it’s not a crouton yet.

If the bread browns faster than it dries through, turn the heat down and leave it in a very low oven, as low as 200° if you have time. Eventually turn the oven off and leave the toast there to cool off slowly.

When the toast is totally cool—probably the next day—store it in a plastic bag. If you bag it before it’s cooled to room temperature, the heat will continue to dissipate and the inside of the bag will sweat which softens up the toast you just spent all that time drying out. So don’t be impatient to bag this up.

When I’m making a salad I’ll take a couple of pieces of this seasoned, dried French toast and break it into bite-size pieces over the top of my salad. If I break it into crouton-sized pieces when I bag it, I found the pieces get smaller and smaller and there are lots of crumbs. Which leads to another use for this seasoned bread. Bread crumbs.

This technique creates some very tasty bread crumbs when you need them. Depending on what you’re using them for, you can break them into small chunky pieces, pound them into crumbs, or put them in a food processor to make some really fine bread crumbs. Store any leftovers in the freezer for future use. I used these bread crumbs, along with my traditional cornbread in my turkey dressing last year, and it was a big hit! My mom even wanted the recipe—and she’s the one who taught me how to make dressing!

Once you turn the toast over, you can top it with a variety of ingredients for a snack or appetizer. It makes a really tasty cheese bread, just top with your favorite cheese and turn the oven to broil until the cheese melts.
This is also how I made the bruschetta I mentioned a few days ago. It’s also tasty to break it into somewhat larger chunks and dip into a marinara sauce for a different kind of snack.

I haven’t priced store-bought croutons recently, but I get a lot more bang for my buck buying a loaf of French bread and making my own crouton toast than I would ever get out of a box.

May 28, 2008 Posted by | Salad, Soup | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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