Traverse City Record-Eagle

Food

April 25, 2013

Happiness for Mom is a toasted cheese sandwich

Happiness is... a warm cheese sandwich.

It's a sentiment as true today as when I read it as a child in my very first cookbook, the "Peanuts Cook Book." It described the simple joy of slapping cheese on a slice of bread, topping it with tomato and oregano, then waiting patiently as it toasted to a bubble.

In my family, the sandwich evolved. The bread was replaced by English muffins. The American cheese became cheddar or mozzarella. We kept the slab of tomato and sprinkle of dried oregano, which made all the difference in the world once it meshed with the bubbling juices of the tomato and the melted cheese.

As it cooked, the kitchen smelled divine and I remember looking into the glass of the toaster oven trying to will the cheese to melt faster. Once it was done, it was essential to wait a bit for it to cool down or it would burn the roof of your mouth.

Though I haven't made these sandwiches in a while, they came to mind recently as I thought about Mother's Day. It's perfect to eat in bed. It's simple enough for the kids to make. And it's deliciously comforting.

There are two secrets to maximum happiness in this sandwich.

First, always open the English muffins with a fork so that you preserve the nooks and crannies. Otherwise, it's just flat bread. Second, pre-toast the English muffins without any toppings so that they are a bit crunchy before you put the cheese and tomato slice on top. This takes a little longer but vastly improves the texture of the finished sandwich.

Also, the cheese must go beneath the tomato, otherwise the tomato slice will make the bread soggy. I add a small sprinkle of cheese to the top, too, because it looks finished and because I love the taste of browned cheese on the warm tomato. You can use your favorite cheese or try freshly grated Parmesan like I do.

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