Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New England-Style Grilled Cheese, with Home-Made Honey Viniagrette Salad, and Tomato Soup

Since the weather is cold and clammy due to the Nor'easter, I decided to make one of my favorite "rainy night" meals--grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I also decided to do my weekly chicken baking at the same time since I would be using the oven for the grilled cheese.  What I mean by "weekly chicken baking" is, that each week, I buy the "club pack" size of chicken at Wegman's (usually around 12 boneless, skinless, chicken cutlets) and I cook up 8 of them in the oven with some herbs and spices, let them cool and either shred them or cut them up into smaller pieces and put them in Ziploc bags in the fridge.  This way, I have cooked chicken already on hand for busy nights when I have school--I can just take a handful, add taco seasoning, or sloppy joe seasoning, to make a quick meal. 

I also take the chicken and use it as a topping for various types of salad that I bring to school in my Bento box (that's the subject of my next post, btw!).  For instance, for a "Tex-Mex" salad, I sprinkle the chicken with cumin and lime juice and top my salad with the chicken, rinsed black beans, diced purple onion, and a little sprinkle of cilantro.  For the dressing, I mix sour cream with some of my salsa, and add a few drops of hot sauce.  Voila, instant Tex-Mex.  For my sides in my Tex-Mex box, I put some more black beans, mixed with a little lime juice, and some of the purple onions.  In the bottom box, I put some salsa and bring some chips in a baggie.  I make myself a rice ball and sprinkle it with cumin for a snack.

That's just a teaser, I'll post the rest of my Bento box salad ideas in the next post.  :)  Back to the grilled cheese!  Now, being a New Englander, the only way I make grilled cheese is with either white American sliced cheese or sharp cheddar sliced cheese.  I'm not a cheese racist in the least, the white American just melts better and tastes creamier in my opinion.  And, it's a long-standing tradition handed down from my grandparents, so it works for me.

Here's how I do grilled cheese.  There are three of us in the family, but Jeremy doesn't like tomato soup so I make him two grilled cheeses instead. 

New England-Style Grilled Cheese
8 slices of whole-grain "white" bread
4 slices (or more if you like it really cheesy, like the boy) of white-American cheese
"real" Mayonnaise, for spreading (now, for those of you who are going "eww," relax, it will turn out great, trust me.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place a pizza stone or cookie sheet on the middle rack.  Spread each slice of bread with the mayonnaise on one side.  Open the oven, pull out the middle rack.  Place 4 slices of the mayonnaised bread, mayo facing down, evenly spaced apart.  Place a slice of cheese on each piece of bread, then top with the 4 remaining slices of bread, mayo side facing up.  Close the oven and let the sandwiches bake until the down facing side is golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, depending on your oven.  Flip the sandwiches over, then bake for a further 5-7 minutes, or until also golden brown.  Let sandwiches cool slightly, then slice them diagonally and serve with the tomato soup.  Now, this is where you'll notice the difference between using softened butter and mayo.  The egg in the mayo causes the bread to crust up really well, so the sandwich is nice and crunchy and the oil leaves a nice shine on the bread.  I accidentally stumbled across this when I forgot we were out of butter when I was making grilled cheese and didn't want to use oil.  I saw the jar of mayo on the counter, and had a lightbulb moment. 

Tomato Soup

1 can of Campell's Condensed Tomato Soup

Open can of soup and empty into a saucepan, add a can of.... who am I kidding?  If you don't know how to make tomato soup, I am so, so sorry.

Finally, on to the salad.  I wanted to serve a protein with my meal as I knew Hubs would be starving when he got home from work so I decided to take four of the chicken cutlets left over from my club pack and flatten them out and roll a couple of salami slices up in them to make mini-pinwheels as a garnish for our salad.  (Here's the thing with me that my Hubs and son sometimes find really anal about me, my insistence on the fact that there must be a protein and a vegetable or fruit with every meal).   I also love making my own salad dressings and viniagarettes, it's a lot cheaper and there are no preservatives.

Honey-Mustard Viniagarette Chicken Salad with mini-Chicken Pinwheels  

4 boneless, skinless chicken thigh cutlets
6-8 slices of Genoa salami (from the deli counter)
Penzey's Shallot Pepper seasoning (or, just use a lot of pepper)  (
Onion powder
Garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

Get out a cutting board.   Open each cutlet out onto the board, evenly spaced apart.  Cover the cutlets with a sheet of waxed paper, making sure the cutlets are completely covered.  Press the waxed paper firmly into the chicken.  Take a meat mallet (I actually use my old wooden rolling pin that the handle fell out it, hold it vertically and use it that way as a mallet.  I find it's faster as it covers more surface area) and pound out thinly to a 1/4" thickness.  Take off the waxed paper, and cover each cutlet with one or two slices of salami until surface of the cutlets is completely covered with salami.  Starting at one of the short ends of the cutlet, tightly roll up each cutlet, securing with toothpicks if needed (I didn't).  Place rolled cutlets, seam side down on a greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle each roll with the spices and salt and pepper.  Place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven and bake until chicken reaches 160 degrees with a meat thermometer, or until juices run clear.  Let chicken cool cocompletely, then slice into 1/4" wide slices, starting from one of the short ends.  Add more salt and pepper to the sides of the pinwheels if desired.  Place the chicken over a bed of lettuce, spring mix, or other desired salad greens.  Drizzle the salad, especially the chicken pinwheels, with the honey-mustard vinaigrette.  Recipe follows.

Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette  Also makes a great marinade for chicken wings or baked chicken breast/thighs.

1/3 C. red wine vinegar
1/3 C. vegetable (or olive if you want a stronger tasting oil) oil
1 tsp. McCormick Italian seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Colman's English mustard (I LOVE this stuff, Jamie Oliver turned me on to it) or, any other yellow mustard and add a little extra vinegar to counteract that Colman's has a high vinegar content than regular yellow mustard.
1/4 C. honey
1 TBSP of sugar, or a little less to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of your spices with the mustard and let stand for 5 minutes, so the dried herbs can reconstitute.  Next, add the honey and combine.  Add the vinegar and whisk in the oil so it emulsifies.  Or, you can just do what I do, which works like a charm every time for oil & vinegar dressing--mix the honey/mustard/spice mixture into a clean jar with a lid, then add the vinegar and oil to the jar.  Screw on the lid and shake until dressing emulsifies.  This used to be the boy's job as a younger kid before supper.  He loved shaking the jar up and down.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad, especially the chicken or store refrigerated to use later as a marinade.

Here's a photo of the finished meal.  Toddy thought my plating looked professional looking.  Enjoy!

New England-Style Grilled Cheese, with Home-Made Honey Viniagrette Salad, and Tomato Soup


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