I have just finished a stretch of very long, difficult workdays. By the time I left the office on Tuesday, I had already logged nearly 30 hours since Sunday, so when I walked in the door yesterday evening, I was beat. I had planned menus for this week knowing that my schedule was going to be unpredictable, and hoping that I would still have the energy to cook, but it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Monday night I had Mike meet me at Moto; he offered to handle dinner on Tuesday, but since I had no idea what time I was going to be home, I told him not to bother, that we’d figure something out when I got in.
We don’t have great dining or takeout options in our immediate area; there’s a Popeye’s and a Dunkin’ Donuts, a crappy pizza place, a few ethnic options which are okay but who close up shop pretty early. Mike had picked up a gorgeous piece of fresh fish on his way home, but I was too mentally tired to decide how to prepare it and to come up with anything to go with it (that fish is on deck for tonight, though). And while we always have a variety of pastas and good things to sauce them with on hand, I didn’t want anything quite that heavy.
I was about ready to just give up and go to bed hungry when I remembered that big batch of chicken stock Mike made on Sunday. We had that, we had a big can of whole fire-roasted tomatoes, we had good bread and we always have a variety of cheeses in the fridge… the answer was right there: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. It’s one of the ultimate comfort food combinations, and it was exactly what I needed.
Mike directed me to the sofa with a cocktail and I walked him through preparing the soup: first you saute a couple of garlic cloves in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, add the tomatoes along with their juices and two cups of stock, cover and allow it to simmer away. After five minutes or so, break up the tomatoes with a potato masher, taste and season with salt, pepper and a tablespoon or two of chopped fresh herbs (we used thyme, but basil or parsley are also good), and allow the soup to continue to simmer, uncovered, while you work on the sandwiches.
My favorite grilled cheese is made with a good wholegrain rye, grainy mustard, and 2 or 3 different cheeses (one of which is always a cheddar; also, during tomato season, a slice or two of fresh, ripe tomato is an excellent addition). Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan until bubbling, spread mustard on two slices of bread and lay them in mustard-side up. Layer the thinly sliced cheeses on top of each slice of bread (we used a mixture of Bobolink cave-aged cheddar, Cato Corner Brigid’s Abbey, and Harpersfield Ommegang from Brovetto Dairy). Top each sandwich with the second slice of bread, press and allow to cook until golden on the first side, then gently flip and brown on the second side, adding another tablespoon of butter if needed.
Stir 1/4 cup of heavy cream into the soup off the heat, and ladle it into bowls. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve alongside. Pour a glass of your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and savor.