Like many things in life, you need to know the basics to get the finer point of it all.
Meeting Tom for a drink the other week I was a bit shocked when the barkeep looked at me sideways when I asked for a gin and tonic.
“What’s in that?” he asked.
The lesson learnt? Don’t bother drinking at Juniper.
Food is a bit different to booze though. You need it to live. And if you can’t get your head around the basics, how the heck will you make deceptively simple but seriously tasty dishes like a roast chicken?
Now, I figure that most readers haven’t got huge disposable incomes. So let’s start simple. A ham and cheese toasted sandwich. What I actually wanted was a cheese and onion toasted sandwich. But we didn’t have any onions. I’ve learnt to cope with disappointment.
The next thing to note is that you could just use one of those toasty-pie machines. But that would defeat the purpose. What you’re learning is temperature control, and patience.
The other day the other half was at the supermarket, had to settle on this bread. Nothing wrong with it really. Nice loaf. But, cut oddly.
So, what to do. The obvious thing is make toast, or a sandwich. And then I thought, what about a TOASTED SANDWICH! The best of both worlds.
It doesn’t matter if the bread is a bit stale. In fact, this is actually a good way to use up this old stuff. OK, onto the business end of this post.
STEP ONE. Switch on the stovetop, and put a pan on it. Any old pan will do. The thing to note is that you put the pan on really, really low. Stoves keep putting out heat, so eventually your pan will get to the temperature you want. That temperature is low.
STEP TWO: Get everything together. Here I have non-dairy spread. Damn farmers have enough money already. Cheese. Ham. And the bread.
STEP THREE: In this case, cut the bread in half, and put the spread on one side of both halves.
It’s important to make sure you get the spread all the way to the edges. There’s nothing worse than a bit of bread not properly toasted by the pan. It looks ordinary, and is ordinary.
No-one wants ordinary. Ordinary is for takeaways.
And remember, this becomes the outside of the sandwich. The spread makes it golden brown
STEP FOUR: Build the sandwich.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Put the ham on the bread. Then make sure you’ve put enough cheese on there to not make those farmers richer, but enough to bind the sandwich together.
There’s nothing worse than a cheese sandwich that falls to bits. So a tip is to put a little cheese on the underside of the ham. This will bind the whole lot together.
STEP FOUR: Put that bad boy in the pan. The sandwich should sizzle a little, but not too much. If it’s really putting out some smoke you’ve gone too far with the heat. Take the pan off the heat to cool for a bit, and flip the sandwich over to soak up some of the heat.
Now for the tricky bit. You’ll want to check if the sandwich is browned underneath. Just lift the edge of the bread slightly with your fish slice/flipper thing. If it’s golden brown get the flipper all the way under the sandwich and lift it. Also lift the pan, and tilt it slightly. You have to kind of flip the sandwich over while moving the pan towards it.
If you screw that up, leave the kitchen. Never return.
STEP FIVE: Your sandwich should look something like this.
The cheese will be melting slowly. The ham will have warmed, and the whole thing will be extremely delicious.
Wait a little longer while the sandwich browns on the other side, then remove from the heat. This is a good time to put the second toasted sandwich on the heat.
You have prepared a second sandwich while the first one browns, aeh?
STEP SIX: Serve your sandwich. I suggest a condiment of iodised table salt.
There’s an iodine deficiency in NZL soils, so you’ll be needing that.
The best accompanying refreshment is probably a Tui.