Channeling Your Inner Child
Your childhood favorites made for an adult
By Sean RiveraPosted Jul 25, 2012
There are times when you want the luxury of a fine meal and times when all that gravitas is just pomp and circumstance. Comfort foods can be more rewarding and satisfying than a beautiful five-star entrée on some occasions. When seeking out comfort food, I find myself drawn to my childhood favorites: grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, and Oreo cookies. Each represents a certain phase of my childhood, yet they all signify home and satisfaction.
Over the years, I have been able to rev up these childhood faves into something that any adult would also enjoy. I suggest making any one of these dishes on a day when you just need some comfort or when you have some kids to entertain. Channel your inner child and live a little.
A sandwich so ubiquitous that it certainly deserves some scrutiny, it’s time to turn back the clock and give this treat the adoration it deserves.
The first ingredient is the bread – your “mushy white bread” just will not do. You’ll want to head to your local neighborhood bakery. Ideally you are looking for a white variety such as Sourdough or Brioche. You will want the slices to be thicker than standard, so you will probably need to buy the loaf whole and slice it at home. Once you bring it home, cut yourself two half-inch slices.
Next, you will need to take some unsalted room temperature butter and smear it onto the side where you will spread your peanut butter. This will enhance the creaminess of the peanut butter. I prefer chunky, but others prefer creamy – either way, you want a really good, high-quality peanut butter, so read the label. Whichever kind you buy, you want to ensure that you are choosing one that is made of mostly peanut butter.
Then, sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt on top of the peanut butter, as it adds a certain savory element that makes your taste buds perk up.
Finally, select a locally made strawberry or raspberry jam. While I can live with preserves, I really think jams are the way to go. They have the best texture and often have the most flavor. The perfect ratio of peanut butter to jam is 2 to 1: twice as much peanut butter.
When I’m fixing this for my daughter, I take off the crust and pop it into the microwave for about 5-10 seconds. It creates a velvety texture that is outstanding, and when served with a glass of ice-cold milk, you’ll always get a very happy camper.
Grilled cheese sandwich
What I love about this sandwich is the buttery, crispy exterior offset by the warm, gooey, and just slightly tangy flavor of the melted cheese in the middle. When this combination comes together, I just can’t resist – I mean really, who can?
Since you already have some really good bread from the bakery, you can use it for this sandwich as well. Again, you will want to cut yourself two half-inch slices. As far as condiments go, some people like mayo and mustard, or nothing at all. I prefer a quality Dijon mustard. Spread a light amount on both pieces of bread. Next, the cheese is the star of the show and is the most important ingredient for this creation.
Everyone has their own spin: havarti, Gruyere, Swiss, American, provolone, etc. My all-time favorite is hearty, aged sharp cheddar. I don’t like it too “stinky,” as some put it, but I do want cheddar that has been aged for at least 12 months. The benefit of cheddar is that it melts superbly and brings that classic creamy texture that a grilled cheese should provide. Lastly, a good sharp variety is enhanced by the touch of Dijon mustard. Slices of cheddar work best so that little pieces of shredded cheese don’t fall out into your pan.
Heat your non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and dollop some salted butter into your pan. You want your butter to melt but not to start bubbling or turning brown. Once you put your sandwich into the pan, turn the heat down to medium. You are looking for that initial golden hue that will darken as it cooks. While your sandwich is in the pan, spread some more room temperature salted butter onto the piece of bread facing you in the pan. Once you have done this, take a spatula and check the down side of the sandwich. It should be golden and almost caramel colored. Flip your sandwich and the freshly buttered side should sizzle in the pan. This is the most crucial part: Diligently watch your sandwich, as it will go from just right to burned within seconds. Once it is ready, bring the sandwich to a cutting board and slice diagonally with a large knife, making two triangles. Try an ice-cold pilsner beer with it to remind yourself of your adulthood and enjoy!
Chocolate cookie sandwich
Yes, this is my take on a timeless classic, the Oreo cookie. While the store-bought variety has its own time and place, I can safely say that for me, my version wins out every time. When these snacks are made in my house, we all sit down at the kitchen table with tall glasses of milk and eat our way through an afternoon.
1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl and mix on low speed. Add the butter (1-2 tbsp. at a time) until mixed. Slowly increase the speed of your mixer until a dough-like consistency starts to form. It will look sandy. Divide the dough into two halves. Roll each half in between two sheets of parchment paper until its 1/4-1/8-inch thick. Let chill on a baking sheet in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Use a fluted 2-inch cutter and place the cut cookies onto a buttered cookie sheet pan. Bake the cookies until cooked through, or about 12-15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before placing onto a cooling rack.
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. white chocolate chips
Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Place chocolate in a glass bowl (preferably Pyrex, as long as it is heat proof), then pour boiling cream over chocolate, whisking to combine. Let cool to room temperature. Spread the filling onto a cookie and sandwich with another cookie.
Store in Tupperware for up to four days, although they probably won’t last that long!