From the Booth: Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwich
As I have previously bitched blogged about, in preparation for my move to London in 6 months, I am working two jobs. By day I sell group health & life insurance. By night (and weekend) I work in a tollbooth at a hospital parking lot. As far as second jobs go, it’s pretty sweet. For example, I am writing this blog post in my booth right now. I have tonnes of downtime, it’s not strenuous or stressful in the slightest, and I just cooked a grill cheese sandwich while on the clock. If I have to spend an extra 33 hours of my week working, this is a pretty good place to do it.
However, spending so much time here has seriously cut into my home cooking/blogging time. So I figured, why not put some of this extra time to use? But how will I create meals while in a 4’ X 7’ booth with no kitchen appliances? Easy! I’ll just have to put my awesome Girl Guide skills to use.
So welcome to Post 1 of the “From the Booth” series. Today’s challenge: a grilled cheese sandwich.
This endeavour took a bit of prep time at home the night before. First and foremost, I had to make my cooking tools. I spent a lot of time in my youth cooking outside, and one of the best ways to do it is by buddy burner. If you’re a BBV (buddy burner virgin), here’s a step-by-step tutorial on building one.
Step 1: Find yourself a short can. Growing up we made our families eat tuna for a month preceding a big camp to save enough cans up, but that’s not only disgusting but also wholly unvegan. For this foray into outdoor cooking, I used a water chestnut tin. I hate the little fackers, so I forced Papa Frank to eat them instead. Any small can will do: bamboo shoots (erlack), grape leaves, etc.
Step 2: Cut strips of corrugated cardboard the height of your tin. Roll and pack them tightly inside. Stick in a few wicks (cardboard, string, or anything that will catch when you put a flame to it).
Step 3: Melt some wax. Old candles or crayons work well, or do as I did and buy a box of paraffin wax. Make sure to use a double boiler to avoid mess and tragic accidents.
Step 4: Pour the melted wax into your prepared tin. Fill that bad boy right up! Let it sit until it is cool and has hardened. Ta daaaa! You now have fuel for your buddy burner.
I packed up some orange pepper strips, tomato slices, mixed greens, bread, and (of course) Daiya cheese. Where would we be without it?
So we’re back to Sandwich Day! My BFF Jimmy is my supervisor and showed up to give me a break with his girlfriend Kaleigh in tow. Kaleigh is a long-time vegetarian and is currently giving veganism a go. She’s a wickedly creative photographer and I handed off my Rebel to her while I rolled up my sleeves and started building my masterpiece (haaaarrrrrr).
We put it all together in the booth. I used 12-grain bread and slathered on some seasoned Earth Balance vegan margarine (I mixed in garlic powder and red pepper flakes the night before). I layered on Daiya, tomatoes, and peppers, and slammed the top on. Special K and I then headed out to the parking lot to get down to business. (We actually went on an island between two lanes of traffic, but that just made it all the more exciting.)
The burner we made last night is your fuel. Your cooking surface is any large can. Coffee cans are my personal favourite, but bulk ketchup cans or anything else that comes tinned in ridiculously large quantities will work as well. Use an apple juice can punch to open some vents at the top and bottom of your large can.
Fire up your buddy burner and set your large can over it. Once it’s covered, for the love of God, do NOT touch the can with your bare hands. It goes from zero to Hades in 4.5 seconds. Give it a second to heat up and then slap your sandwich on top.
Now you just cook it as you would a grilled cheese in a pan. Flip it with a spatula, making sure not to burn it too severely. Flipping a sandwich made with shredded cheese vs. sliced cheese is a freaking nightmare and we lost our fair share of Daiya to the pavement. The pigeons will take care of it later.
Once the cheese is melted and the bread is browned, you’re laughin’. Slide your sandwich onto a plate (my camp dishes are in storage, otherwise you would have seen a wicked plastic plate in these shots). Use tongs to pick up your coffee can and set it cooking-surface-down on top of your fuel can. This will cut off oxygen and put it out. (OR it will set the grease from your sandwich ablaze and you’ll have a spectacular show to watch as you eat your lunch.)
We headed out of a bitter March wind and back into the booth. I topped it all of with some mixed greens and mowed in. The cheese was not as melted as I would have liked, but I blame the frigid weather for that. The bread was perfectly toasted and the tomatoes were warmed nicely. The seasoning in the butter was the feather in the cap of the whole shootin’ match and really made the meal. Delicious!
BIG PROPS go out to Kaleigh for this post. Between the wind blowing my supplies all over Hell’s Half Acre and my hands being covered in vegan butter, I would never have been able to shoot the cooking portion of this session without her. K, you’re a gentleman and a scholar.
What to do next for the From the Booth series? I want to bring in electric frying pans and hot plates and rice cookers but Supervisor Jim is concerned that I will blow out the power down at the booth. I’ll just have to give it a whirl on a night he’s not working.