Saturday, May 29, 2010
Grilled Black Forest Ham and Cheddar Cheese Sandwich with Aioli and Baby Watercress
Yes, I realize that’s a photograph of a grilled ham a cheese sandwich, but sometimes a girl just wants to be taken care of. It’s my 41st birthday today, and I’ve spent much of the last few days nostalgic over a sweet childhood made immediate by home movies my father recently converted from reel-to-reel to DVDs. I’ve been tearfully watching my innocent tiny self and my loving young parents and grandparents on screen, and assessing my life and the choices I’ve made since my 4th birthday. And yesterday, I injured my foot while taking class, and, while waiting for an x-ray, enjoyed the theater of New York's emergency room, the drunk claiming she was a doctor, the prisoner leg-cuffed to her wheelchair. My foot's not broken, but in ten short days I have to run around on stage in Amsterdam, when I perform in Boris Charmatz's 50 Years of Dance, so it needs to heal up quickly. Yeah, I wanted a grilled cheese. And tomato soup. And I wished I was four again so my mother could make it for me.
I might be having a mid-life crisis. Or more like a mid-life what the hell? Turning 40 was no big deal; I was much too involved in party planning and party food cooking and Las Vegas escaping with my then husband to think about what this milestone meant. This year, I’m alone, with few friends in New York, and a swollen foot. And I just finished Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, not the book to choose when one is watching one's own childhood innocence on screen, feeling ambivalent about aging, and then observing all of life’s challenges on one’s face in the mirror. But I look much younger than my years, so perhaps there’s a portrait of me hidden away somewhere expressing all of my life’s regret, worry, questions. Hmm...
On the positive side, I spent a lovely four days visiting my sister with my parents in Portland, Oregon, eating lots of terrific food, walking along the beach at the coast, and even reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend from college. Portland is a food town, and for every meal I ate locally grown, organic, and sustainably raised food accompanied by locally produced wines. Remarkable culinary moments included the crispy sweetbreads with local morels, and a spinach and mâche salad with goat cheese, hazelnuts, and balsamic vinegar-marinated strawberries from Paley’s, nearly all of the brightly flavored tapas at Toro Bravo, discovering the earthy and surprisingly unjunipery Aviation gin, and savoring a delicious variation of a croque monsieur, served as a breakfast sandwich, that was the inspiration for this post. Made with aioli, not béchamel, I added baby watercress for a touch of green, and with a little tomato soup, I think this sandwich might even have foot healing powers. And if not, there's always the gin.
Grilled Black Forest Ham and Cheddar Cheese Sandwich with Aioli and Baby Watercress Recipe
Gather all the ingredients, changing them around to your liking (baby spinach instead of watercress, aged Gouda for cheddar, tempeh instead of ham, etc.). Make the aioli by adding one small, minced clove of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard, and perhaps a touch more lemon juice to the homemade mayonnaise recipe at the bottom of this post. Slather the bread with the aioli, slice the cheese thinly and place on both slices of bread, add one slice of ham, and the greens. Grill in a buttered pan over medium heat until you've got a golden crust, and the cheese is melted through.