The other night, when my in-laws were in town, I thought I’d make dinner a little different from normal. Everybody loves an ice cream sundae bar, I thought, so why not a grilled cheese bar? It helps that the guests, including my mother in law and my friends K and J, are united by a deep and abiding love of melted cheese. (K and J have a raclette machine at home, a little machine custom-designed for broiling cheese, and I can’t recommend it enough). I put my old George Foreman grill on the sideboard (on top of a sheet pan to collect the grease, which in turn was on top of an insulating placemat). And then I provided the following:
a basket of sliced bread–rye, sour, country white
three kinds of grated cheese: gruyere, goat’s cheddar, and delicious dutch cumin cheese
two kinds of ham: smoked pink ham, and Jamon serrano
two kinds of mustard: whole grain, and dijon
pickled onions, cornichons, cherry tomatoes and olives
and a big green herb salad
There was a little shuffling about when the machine was free (I had a burner going on the stove, but it was clear the machine produced the best combination of browning and pressing, and so people waited for the Foreman to clear up.) Clearly this is a good excuse to buy a high-end panini press. Nevertheless, everyone got into their task, and produced several great melty-cheese combinations.
I went for dark rye with caramelized onions, mustard and cumin cheese, but also nibbled some of my son’s gruyere and butter only sandwich–it was pretty perfect itself.
And for dessert? K and J brought a ricotta and rhubarb pie from the excellent columbia city bakery–cheesecake in disguise.