You know how every once in a while you just get a hankering for something? For several days, Mr. Twistie had been speaking wistfully of grilled cheese sandwiches. I’m not sure why. I’ve known the man for nearly thirty years and been married to him for nearly seventeen, and in all that time, I think I’d seen him eat a sum total of roughly four grilled cheese sandwiches.
Still, who am I to talk? I’m the one who suddenly needed cocoanut in my life desperately after more or less four decades of being contented when it was offered me, and utterly unconcerned when it wasn’t. Sometimes, as I said, you just get a hankering. I further believe that the best way to handle that hankering (unless it’s obviously and dramatically A Very Bad Idea, such as a sudden desire to eat lug nuts and wash them down with a Big Gulp of battery acid) is to just eat what you want and have done with it. My cocoanut Jones was easily taken care of with a slice of the Pina Colada cake I made last week for a friends’ birthday.
If Mr. Twistie wanted grilled cheese, who was I to say no?
As it happens, I was meandering along in my cookbooks looking for something fun to make as my recipe of the week when I found that Nigella Lawson had provided me with the answer in her fabulous and handy book Nigella Bites.
Flipping through the TV Dinners section of the book, I found a grilled cheese sandwich entitled Mozzarella in Carrozza that seemed just what I was looking for. Lawson describes it as ‘… somewhere between French toast and grilled cheese.’ Just what I needed! Read on after the cut to learn more.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
6 slices white bread, crusts removed (I never keep soft white bread in the house and decided I’d rather try this with the loaf of oat bread with nuts and seeds in it that I already had hanging around. Not only did I already have it, I thought the flavor would add a punch to the mozzarella, which it did.)
1 fist-sized ball mozzarella, cut into approx. 1/4″ slices, then strips
1/2 Cup whole milk
3 heaping Tblsp all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
olive oil (not extra virgin) for frying
Make sandwiches out of the bread and mozzarella, leaving a little margin around the edges unfilled with cheese, and press the edges together with your fingers to help seal (this is where my choice of bread was not as happy as it was the flavor department, because it just didn’t seal well, and Nigella even points out that smushability of the edges is one of the reasons she suggests soft white bread in the first place). Pour the milk into one soup bowl, the flour into another, and beat the egg with salt and pepper in another. Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dunk the sandwiches briefly, one by one, into the milk, then dredge in the flour, then dip in the egg. Fry in hot oil on each side until crisp and golden and remove to paper towel. Cut in half and apply to face.
How was it? I loved the melty mozzarella, but frankly it was a bit messy doing the three-bowl-dredge bit. the edges of my sandwiches didn’t smush properly, making things a bit sloppy in that department as well. That’s the downside. On the upside, the subtle flavor of mozzarella combined with its inherent meltiness makes for a darn satisfying grilled cheese sandwich. Mr. Twistie seemed more than contented, and that was, after all, the point of the experiment. My final conclusion: this is not a dish for company, but it can make a delicious option for when you just need some comfort food taken to eleven.
Of course, being me, I took it to twelve. I added a fun condiment. See, in the very same book there was a Masala Omelette with Green Cilantro Chutney. I don’t happen to be much of an omelette fan. Scrambles yes, omelettes no. Why? I’m not really sure. Just the vagaries of human taste, I guess. Still, I kept looking at that chutney.
You see, one of our favorite restaurants is the local Indian one. The food is fabulous, and one of our favorite treats is the delicious cilantro chutney they serve with the papadums. It’s a touch spicy, but at the same time it’s cool and… and… look, it’s fantastic stuff and I had no clue how it’s made. The more I looked at Lawson’s recipe, the more I thought it might be fairly close to what we have at India Palace. Now that I’ve made it, I think it’s quite close and could easily be tinkered with until it’s nearly identical. I also thought it might be kind of fun and tasty as an accompaniment to those mozzarella sandwiches. Here’s how it works:
Green Cilantro Chutney
1 – 5 jalapeno peppers, according to taste, seeded and roughly chopped
1″ piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped (I used a little more because we’re both freaky on ginger and didn’t bother peeling because the skin is perfectly edible and doesn’t bother us at all)
4 garlic cloves (again, I went a little on the heavy side here because vampires are not welcome at Casa Twistie)
1/3 Cup creamed cocoanut or cocoanut milk to taste (I used the milk, which I happened to have on hand after making the Pina Colada cake, and found myself adding a tidge more when the chutney wasn’t quite as smooth as I personally prefer)
1 large bunch of cilantro
4 sprigs of mint
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of sugar (I often leave it out if a recipe calls for just a pinch of sugar, and I started to do that here, but found that this particular pinch really does make a difference. Remember kids, taste often and critically in the kitchen.)
the juice of 3 limes (This was my biggest substitution. When I got back from the grocery store, I found that I had forgotten to buy the limes, leaving me with one grapefruit in the house as my entire store of citrus juice. Then I re-read Lawson’s introduction and found that she had used the limes as a substitute for the original vinegar in the recipe. Having a bottle of really good cider vinegar on hand, I went with it, and was perfectly pleased with the results, though I’ll try to remember my limes next time)
Put the jalapenos, ginger, garlic, and cocoanut into a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the cilantro and mint and pulse again until the herbs blend. Add the salt and pinch of sugar, then, with the motor running, pour the juice of two and a half limes down the funnel, processing again to mix thoroughly. Taste to see if you want the juice of the remaining half lime.
After your meal, put whatever remains into a jar and refrigerate it for up to a month. It will solidify, but this is easily corrected by leaving it at room temperature.
How was it with the sandwiches? Phenomenal! There was something about this combination that I found both exotic and deeply comfortable. Would it get me thrown off of Top Chef? Who cares! Mr. Twistie and I shared our sandwiches and a big green salad happily. We both enjoyed the meal. It was tasty, and that’s the final point of good food.
The next time you want something special, consider combining two comfortable things you think might bring out something good in one another. You might be just as pleasantly surprised as Mr. Twistie was.