On a night like this one, when the temperature hovers right around the freezing point and I have to decide whether or not to get out the warmer lounge wear, I find myself wanting to make a meal to snuggle up with, a dinner that makes me feel warm, fuzzy, and safe. Stored away in my memory is a pocketful of old standby recipes I learned during my childhood (most of which I gathered from my grandmother, but a few were salvageable from my parents) that produce such feelings of security and comfort.
Don’t allow me to ignore the fact that it’s Thursday. This means two things: first, I don’t have to cook meat! Vegetarian meals take less time, in my experience, because I don’t have to keep checking the chicken or beef or fish for its doneness; second, I’ll be honest, towards the end of the week I’ve lost a bit of cooking enthusiasm that, without fail, is restored by Saturday morning by a good night’s sleep and the eliminated stress induced by my alarm clock.
What am I to make, then, that is equal parts easy, meatless, scrumptious, and warm?
Well, what’s more classically American or comfort food-esque than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup?
I distinctly remember my parents pulling white bread, American cheese, and Campbells from the pantry and refrigerator on nights when they came home from their demanding jobs exhausted, knowing my sister and I were still too young to make a decent supper for ourselves. Perhaps not the most nutritious of meals, it is filling and simple to construct. Plus, it’s a crowd pleaser when you’re feeding kids.
In turn, when I was old enough to use a spatula and the stovetop, I made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup quite often for my two younger cousins whom I babysat with increasing frequency. Now that I think about it, my youngest cousin wanted nothing else for lunch the entirety of her second year of life. I still smile whenever I see a child with their hands covered with melted cheese, toast crumbs, and orange soup. Such a sight always makes me think of wide-eyed Kara asking for cheesy bread with the crusts cut off, or mischievous Kyle requesting tomato soup with no tomatoes (that was code for creamy instead of chunky soup). It’s funny how food twines inextricably from family memories.
Now that I am an adult, or so I’m told, I still secretly love this simple meal. I figured it would be fun and delicious to make at least the sandwich a bit more mature. I’m not messing with Campbells, at least not yet. Mr. J would not hear of it.
Grilled Brie, Swiss, & Tomato Sandwich
Step One: Prepare your tomato soup however you usually do. Mkay? Tip: if you're using a condensed canned tomato soup, use milk instead of water, and use half of the amount of liquid called for.
Step Two: Butter one side of your bread slices (Mr. J wanted his potato bread while I used apple oat. Might sound gross, but the combination of savory and sweet was delightful.)
Step Three: Place the slices butter side down on a warm griddle over medium-low heat. You obviously need two slices for each sandwich, so on one slice, place Swiss cheese. On the other slice, put down pieces of brie. I had to cut most of the white mold off the brie before putting it on my bread. It was a sticky, messy job but that mold is sick and I won’t have it on my perfect sandwich.
Step Four: When you can see the edges of the cheese slices beginning to melt, put tomato slices on both pieces of bread. Top with a wee bit of salt and a generous amount of black pepper.
Step Five: Carefully flip one piece atop the other to create your sandwich. Continue grilling until the cheese is completely melted and the bread is a lovely golden brown.
Step Six: Cut the sandwich in half and serve with a bowl of steaming tomato soup. Proceed to melt and feel warm and fuzzy from the inside out.
If this beast isn’t sexy, I don’t know what is.