This is a no-brainer post. First of all, who doesn't like grilled cheese? Second, who doesn't love Rachel from A Southern Fairy Tale? Well this post features both, so I'm guaranteed a win. As some of you who read Rachel's blog know, she was here in L.A. back in April as a representative of Kraft Foods (she's like foodie mafia, that Rachel) to attend and cover the 7th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. As I am a devotee and occasional participant of Rachel's Mouthwatering Mondays recipe series, I could not pass up the opportunity to hang with the Queen of all that is "tonguegasmic" and grab some grub and beers while we were at it.
Since this is a recipe post, I won't bog you down with details of the evening. Suffice it to say that it was a blast, and I should have known better than to pour my first beer into a glass at dinner in an attempt to be all proper and stuff, because she just chuckled, took her bottle, swigged it and said something along the lines of "you're dealin' with a Texas gal, here." Cowboy up.
The next morning Fury, d Wife, her friend "Panda" and I headed to LA State Historic Park to check out the Grilled Cheese Invitational. I had heard reports that it was crowded, but really, how crowded could an event that started out as some guy inviting his friends over to his loft apartment in Downtown L.A. seven years ago really be? Um, Batman-movie-opening-night-two-mile-line crowded, that's how. Luckily, Rachel met us out front, gestured a few hand signals, muttered something in hushed tones about "friends of ours" and just like that, we were chomping on grilled cheese sandwiches, guzzling Izze sodas and listening to free-form poetry about the wonders of cheese. It was Woodstock, with less mud and more dairy.
Watching the teams grill up new interpretations of an old favorite was inspiring for an improv cooking enthusiast like me. And the general excitement and buzz were contagious. But as I made my way from booth to booth, I picked up on something else. It started out faint, but as the day wore on, it eventually even overpowered the aroma of sizzling butter and gooey cheese. It was the unmistakable and familiar smell of competition. And it was summoning me.
"I'm SO doing this next year."
So there you have it. I've put it in writing. Whether I follow through or not is yet to be seen, but at least it gives me an excuse to experiment with butter, cheese and fire all year round. And I don't think it is scientifically possible to be against that. Especially when your first experiment involves lobster.
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Clambake Grilled Cheese
Like so many things that I cook, this came about because I was looking for a way to recycle leftovers. We had a craving for lobster the night before so I went and bought two. Problem was, the market only had behemoth 4 pounders, which meant we had a ton of lobster meat left over. Like I always say, when life gives you lobster, make grilled cheese. I call this Clambake Grilled Cheese because it uses lobster and smoked sausages, two key ingredients in a New England Clambake. And it sounds better than Lobster and Sausage Grilled Cheese. Makes 3 sandwiches.
- 4 ounces lobster meat, chopped
- 3/4 to 1 cup shredded Mozzarella
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
- 9 thin slices smoked sausage
- 6 slices French bread
- Old Bay Seasoning (or if you're awesome and she sends you some, Rachel's Simple Seasoning)
- Dried basil, parsley, thyme
In a bowl, combine lobster, Mozzarella and Parmesan. Mix it all up. Throw in a small dollop mayo, to your liking. This is really just to help hold everything together as you grill it. Sprinkle seasoning into the bowl, again, to your liking.
Lay out the six slices of bread, side by side and place the sliced sausage on every other piece. Then put the lobster mixture on the other three slices. Make them into sandwiches.
Melt butter in a skillet and before it gets too hot, sprinkle a little basil, parsley and thyme into the pan and let it sizzle a bit. You want to semi-rehydrate the herbs. With butter! MMM. Throw your sandwich on the butter and herb mixture and lower the heat. I usually do grilled cheese on medium to high heat, but since there's cheese throughout the sandwich and not just on the bread, you need to give this sandwich more time on the grill so that the heat really melts everything, which means you need lower heat so your bread and herbs don't become a blackened smoky mess. Plus, the French bread is a little thick, so you need extra time for the heat to penetrate. As it grills, press down on the sandwich with a spatula to squish it all down (I prefer using my hands, but I know you're not into that). Like a manual panini.
Keep checking the bread (a little peek underneath) to make sure nothing is burning. You want a nice golden brown. I didn't time this, but my guess is with lower heat, you'll be wanting to flip these over in about 3 or 4 minutes.
When you are ready to flip, set the sandwiches aside on a plate. Do the butter melting and herb sizzling once again, then throw your sandwiches back down on the other side this time. Squish and wait accordingly.
When everything is crispy, melty and golden brown, lock your family in the closet and eat all three sandwiches by yourself.
If you enjoyed this recipe, make sure to check out Rachel's Mouthwatering Mondays series. I really hate this series because I check it out every monday morning, when I have nothing but a cup of coffee and a pile of work in front of me. I may have short circuited my laptop drooling on it a couple times. Also, there's this link thing at the bottom where people link their weekly recipe posts as well. Check them out or link your own. It's pretty cool.
One more favor before you go. Rachel's blog has been nominated in the "Tastiest Blog" category in the BlogLuxe Awards. Please go there, select Tastiest Blog and vote for the first one: Monkeys and Princesses: A Southern Fairytale. She's winning right now. Let's keep it that way. You make the Foodie Mafia happy, they make you happy.