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June 19, 2006

Refining a Recipe

Dominic Armato
It's funny... I almost didn't post that last recipe because I knew it was a late night makeshift work in progress version that was going to change a lot before I was happy with it :-)

But spurred on by a couple of questions/comments, I figured it might be fun to turn my error analysis and adjustment into a public process, and then repost the recipe as the final, refined version that I envision. To that end, here are the items I want to address when I get around to v2, hopefully sometime later this week:

"The tomato dip needs work..."
As originally envisioned, I thought of it as a nicely herbed tomato soup that was cooked much thicker than usual so that it worked better as a dip. What I had on hand was a good jar of Italian tomato sauce and some pecorino, so I decided to roll with that rather than fight it. The biggest difference is that this dip was fairly coarse, like... surprise... a pasta sauce. If I did it again, I'd probably combine the tomato puree with some chicken stock and herbs (Basil's a gimme. Thyme and bay leaf might be nice. Depends on my mood.), cook for a while, then strain through a chinois to get it as smooth as possible and continue reducing until I had a nice, thick sauce. A very restrained hit of cream might not be bad, but I wouldn't use much if I did.

"I'd use different cheeses for the filling..."
For Iron Chef, I'd do some funky blend because... well... it's Iron Chef :-) As a day-to-day recipe, I'm a champion of muenster when it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches. It lays down a nice, mellow, melty baseline, but generally speaking, I'd probably still punch it up a bit with something else. Some gruyere or emmentaler might be nice. Some melty sheep's milk cheese with a little tartness would be nice, too... I'd have to think about what kind would be best.

"I want the sandwich to be a lot more stick-like..."
The whole fun of the original idea was the dipping bit, which was lost with this version. I'm thinking slicing the bread thinner, going lighter on the filling and toasting BOTH sides of the bread would do the trick. As for the bread itself, what we had on hand was 12 grain sandwich bread. Don't get me wrong, I loves me some grains, but it was a little too much roughage for a grilled cheese. The result was an "I have 12 whole grains / I'm slathered in butter" sandwich with MPD. Any thinner sandwich bread would do. Or maybe I'd get a good crusty loaf of sourdough and make sandwich slices out of the middle.

"The whole enterprise is just crying out for some crispy sizzled sausage..."
It really, really is. I think I'd brown the sausage first, remove it from the pan, use the sausage drippings to caramelize the onions and then mix the sausage back in when building the sandwich. And since it's all in the same pan, that sausage goo would work its way into the bread as well. Mmmmmm, sausage. Mabye a Merguez sausage? I don't see Italian working very well. I think chorizo could do well with a light hand, but it'd be easy to overdo it. Or maybe andouille with thyme and bay leaf in the tomato dip. That'd be tasty.

All in all, based on these notes, I think Spanish looks like a good direction to take it. I'll pick out a complementary Spanish cheese, find some good Spanish sausage, refine the technique on the dip and the bread consistency, and get back to you all in a week or so :-)


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