A Good Book and Some Warming Food

It was a freezing 9 degrees! and snowy when I hosted my book club this week. Undaunted by the weather, our group, almost unrecognizable dressed in their winter gear, arrived on time. I had ready warm tea, steaming espresso, and a small spread of treats to help defrost them!

A basket of paper-thin oatmeal crisps, a plate of cashew brownies (from my Valentine post last week), and a bowl of fresh pineapples and blueberries were set out. However, it was the grilled cheese tartines that were everyone’s favorite.

Created by my friend Deb Snow, owner of The Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland, Massachusetts, they are assembled with grated Gruyère and Grafton cheddar (a Vermont white cheddar) on slices of good white bread coated with melted butter. Quickly sautéed, they are finished in the oven, and then cut into triangles to serve with a simple balsamic sauce for dipping.

Oh, and the book we read was Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. The author recounts with brilliant prose and an unusual style the tale of a marriage over a 25-year span, first from the husband’s perspective and then from the wife’s. It provoked a lively discussion while we sipped and nibbled on a cold February day.


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Grilled Cheese Tartines

Balsamic sauce
1 cup balsamic vinegar preferably a good quality aged one
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled and diced plus more if needed

8 slices best quality white bread such as Pepperidge Farm, crusts removed
1/2 cup (about 2 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated
1/2 cup (about 2 oz) Grafton cheddar cheese, grated (see market note)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1.For balsamic sauce, in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, reduce vinegar to 1/2 cup. This should take 4 to 5 minutes, but can vary depending on pan so watch carefully. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the diced butter until mixture is smooth. Taste and add extra butter for a slightly sweeter taste. (Glaze can be made 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat just to warm over medium heat.)

2. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375° F. Have a baking sheet ready.

3. P.lace 4 bread slices on a work surface. Toss Gruyère and cheddar together. Then divide mixture evenly and spread on top of each slice. Top with remaining bread slices. With a pastry brush, coat the top of each sandwich generously using half of the melted butter.

4. Place a large skillet (or griddle) over medium high heat. When hot, add enough sandwiches to fit comfortably in a single layer, buttered sides down. Brush tops of sandwiches generously with remaining butter. Cook until the bottoms of the sandwiches are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Watch carefully so that the sandwiches don’t get too brown. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. (Sandwiches can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cool, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, finish baking sandwiches in the oven according to the following directions.)

5. Transfer sandwiches to baking sheet and place in the oven to heat through and melt cheese completely, 6 to 8 minutes.

6. Cut each sandwich into 4 equal triangles or squares. Arrange tartines on a serving plate along with a small bowl of balsamic sauce. To eat, dip tartines into the balsamic glaze.

Makes 16 tartines

Market note: Grafton cheddar, produced in Grafton, Vermont, is a superb aged cheddar sold in many parts of the country. If it is not available, substitute a sharp white cheddar.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2016

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