Things are better toasted. This is a fact. A panini press, an old school Breville sandwich toaster or even a pan topped with another pan can make the humble cheese sandwich into the stuff of dreams. Hell, I'd toast myself if I could.
For as far back as I can remember I have loved the toastie. My first memories of the wondrous thing were at a department store in my home town of Canterbury. It was called Perrins (I think) they had a café, and my brother and I could be bribed into a peaceful day of shopping with the promise of a toasted lunch. They were always perfectly cooked; strings of melted cheese hung from the inside (and your mouth) after each bite, the bread was golden brown and crisp on the outside with that strange crispy, bread crust border that can only be achieved with a sandwich toaster. It came with a simple side salad of cucumber and cress that seemed to work wonders with the richness of the toastie. I wept when that place closed down, well until my eldest brother bought his well-worn Breville back from university that summer. Happy days ensued.
The versatility of the toasted sandwich can prompt some great conversations; it always unearths some really strange combinations. I’ll admit I’m not always convinced on some of them (banana, bacon and peanut butter anyone?) I’m more of a fan of the classics- you can’t beat a good old ham and cheese toastie, especially if there is a nice bowl of homemade tomato soup on the side. I like to dunk. In the US they’re great at this, to be fair it’s called a grilled cheese sandwich, but it usually comes with tomato soup and it’s always amazing. Perfect lunch.
So, here's my gripe. Badly toasted products. I'll happily eat a cheese sarnie, should the mood take me. I will not however happily eat a cold in the middle, under melted, half-hearted offering. There is something about half warm half cold cheese that I just don’t trust. The texture in a bite of the un-melted next to the melted- Just. Not. Good. It's also totally unnecessary, anyone can get a toasted sandwich right, it’s hardly rocket science.
The worst offender from the lazy toasters came recently. Was I hungover? Yes. Was I at a train station? Yes. Did I have access to toasted goods? Yes. I won't name names, the Mother has taught me better, but it ended up in the bin on the high-speed train quicker than that bad boy goes. Which is pretty quick. I hate to waste food but this really went beyond my lowest expectation. The solution is so simple, just leave it in longer, I would have been happy to wait.
Why not get your Breville out this week and have a go, it’s sure to bring back happy memories or at the very least, a happy lunch. Here’s the recipe for my take on the ultimate toastie. The beauty of this is you can chuck in whatever takes your fancy, or is in the fridge. Just make sure if you use sliced tomato, don’t let it anywhere near the bread…you have been warned.
My A,B&C toastie (Avocado, bacon & cheese)
Makes 1 Takes 20 minutes
2 big slices good white bread, I used sourdough (you need to pick a squareish variety if using a Breville style machine)
knob garlic butter
a good handful of grated melting cheese, use Monterey jack, cheddar, Gruyère, mozzarella, or a mixture of all of them.
3-4 slices grilled back bacon or thick ham
thinly sliced red onion
1 small really ripe avocado, sliced
lime juice, fresh coriander (optional)
1 Thinly spread both sides of each piece of bread with the garlic butter and lay side by side on a board. Season the inside with ground black pepper. Divide the cheese between the two. Keeping it closest to the bread will help it melt nicely. Top one with the bacon or ham, then the avocado, season it with some salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime and a little fresh coriander if you have any kicking around. Top with the red onion.
2 Carefully place the cheese-topped slice on top and press down well to seal. Poke back any stray cheese into the sandwich. Cook in a sandwich toaster or panini press until golden, crisp and melted. If the cheese hasn’t melted and your outside is as brown as you would like wrap in foil and pop in a warm oven for a few mins, also a good technique if you’re making a few and want them to stay warm.
3 If you don’t have a gadget heat a non- stick frying pan to medium/hot, pop the sandwich in and using another heavy pan press down cook until golden and then repeat with the other side. Eat.