by ROB GORDON
The Green Grocer is out of town this week, having abandoned her husband and five-year-old daughter for warmer weather and this thing called a “women’s trip.” In the meantime, I am solely responsible for the moral and physical development of our daughter. So this column is for dads in answer to the question: how can I feed my kid(s) for five days so they will have not lost 10 percent of their body weight by the time their mother returns?
First, breakfast: oatmeal. Every day. See October 26 Green Grocer column “Adventure starts with breakfast.” On the third or fourth day, when the kids start complaining, just add brown sugar.
Second, lunch. Easy. See July 29 column, “All I ever really needed to know I learned from my school lunch.”
Dinner is the tricky one. They are tired. You are tired from work and shoveling. Their mother is hiking in a T-shirt and shorts. You need something quick, easy and nutritious. Enter an American classic: the grilled cheese sandwich. It sounds boring — and it could be — but grilled cheese sandwiches are hip these days, sporting ingredients from asparagus and bacon to pickled jalapenos and peach marmalade. Your challenge is to keep it interesting while staying, more or less, in the comfort zone of your children’s taste buds.
I will give you the basics and then offer some twists.
Grilled cheese basics
• Heat skillet or griddle to medium-low heat.
• Slice cheese thinly for quicker melting. (You want cheese ready to go as soon as bread starts cooking.)
• Butter one side of two pieces of bread. Place bread, buttered-side down, on skillet or griddle. Layer with cheese. When cheese is almost completely melted, flip one piece on top of the other and remove from heat.
• The key to a successful sandwich is the right temperature. Too high and you will burn the butter; too low and you won’t get the crisp shell that contrasts so well with the gooey cheese and makes the eating fun. One way to improve your margin of error on the heat is to use ghee, a clarified butter used in Indian cooking. Ghee has a higher flash-point than butter and so can be cooked at a higher temperature without burning. This will give you a crispy bite and a faster melt.
• Experiment with your cheese choices. If I think back on my childhood grilled cheese sandwiches made with white bread and American cheese, they were boring. If you have five days, use five different cheeses. Here are five suggestions: a Gruyère (I was very pleased with Comté Rivoire-Jacquemin), a smoked gouda, a muenster, a cheddar (the sharper, the better), and a Swiss. Or use a combination of these cheeses!
• Experiment, also, with fillings: thinly sliced and sauteed onions, mushrooms, or tomatoes; a layer of spinach; a few slices of bacon or ham.
• If your children don’t like your experimentation, go old school on them and send them to bed without dinner. For breakfast serve them the day-old sandwiches. That will cover their moral development while mom is out of town.
Green Grocer note: don’t do that! Never do that! Instead, make a couple different kinds of the sandwiches, cut them all into quarters, and suggest your child try a variety.