There is this little tiny lunch place in downtown Madison (New Jersey) that I used to go to a lot when I lived and worked in the area. It’s called, aptly enough, Lunch. More specifically Central Lunch, because it’s on Central Avenue. It’s in a little railroad car and maybe it seats ten on a good day. Like the famed Cheers Pub in Boston, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone when they walk in. One little booth and the rest are bar stools. The bar stools being the best spot because then you can watch Joe, chief cook and bottle washer, make all the food right in front of you. Love that.
They have the best grilled cheese ever, and I was determined to learn Joe’s secret. He finally told me (and I also started paying closer attention when he made them too). He puts the cheese right on the griddle. Not on the bread to protect it. Right in the line of fire, so to speak. Now, because you’re putting it right on the heat, it’s really on and off very quickly. One second too long and it’s worthless. But I promise you this, it makes the best grilled cheese ever.
Beyond that, Lunch is also known for their Klondike sandwiches. Many varieties are available, but it is a sandwich stuffed with diced, cooked potatoes and cheese. I haven’t had one in a good ten years and now that I’m telling you about it, I want one. Now. Forget the amount of hours (and scale obsessing) it would take me to reconcile it. It matters not. John F. Kennedy, Jr. used to stop in for a Klondike sandwich on his way to Caldwell Airport, and he even carved his initials into one of the bar stools. The Klondike he ordered was named after him (if memory serves me, it includes lettuce and tomatoes). Lunch was the perfect little spot where he could go in quietly and feed his appetite, escaping before people started finding out he was ever there.
Putting the cheese right on the heat is one of the secrets to this Griddled Goodness sandwich I’ve been making. It all started when Sarah posted about her inside out onion roll. What a fun idea, I thought, and instantly bought some the next day. But what to do inside? I started playing around with mushrooms, onions, the gorgonzola right on the heat, and then some honey ham. Put it all together and although it’s the teensiest bit messy, it’s worth every drip.
A little inspiration from Joe at Lunch + a little JFK, Jr. trivia + an inside out onion roll courtesy of Sarah = Griddled Goodness. The same says it all.
PS – A few more of my recipes have gone up at Betty Crocker; be sure to check them out when you get a chance!
April 26, 2011, Photo #115
When both kids were out of school today, they immediately mentioned the heat. It had shot up to 83 degrees. New Jersey is funny like that. One day there’s a chill in the air and the heat is on, the next day, Nick is applying ice packs to his neck to cool down, with a dripping popsicle in his hand. Madeline went to school with leggings on, which, by the way, she won’t wear if you call them leggings. They are SOFT PANTS, thankyouverymuch. After a quick stop at Target on the way home, she was begging to wear shorts because “I’m sweating, baby!” I bought her a few pairs and as you can see, she couldn’t wait until we got home (or even, at least, in the car!) to put them on. That’s my kid, half naked in Target.
Celebrating the first really warm day of the season sounded like a good excuse to take a quick run to Dairy Queen. “I think this is the first time you guys have been to Dairy Queen,” I said as we pulled into the very busy parking lot. Nick quickly corrected me. Apparently one of their aunts has, ahem, already beat me to it.
Griddled Goodness Sandwich
Recipe courtesy of Cate O’Malley
extra virgin olive oil
small onion, sliced thin
3-4 baby portobella mushrooms, sliced
Mrs. Dash salt-free Garlic & Herb seasoning
three slices of thin sliced honey ham
Gorgonzola cheese, about 1-1/2 tablespoons
Heat a skillet on medium heat and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Once it’s warm, add the onions and saute until they are translucent and begin to caramelize, about 4-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add Mrs. Dash to taste. Remove from pan. Slice open your onion roll, drizzle the inside with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and put it on pan, with the inside of the roll down. Heat for a minute until it begins to get golden. Remove from pan and put on plate, onion side up. Smoosh it down to flatten it a bit and add the caramelized mushrooms and onions. Put a tiny bit of oil in the pan, and add the slices of honey ham, turning after about 45 seconds, just as they begin to get golden. Remove from pan and add to your mushrooms and onions. Add the Gorgonzola cheese to the pan, let it start to melt and then, using a spatula, remove from pan and add to your sandwich. It will only be 10 seconds or so, so watch it carefully. Put the top of the roll on top of your sandwich, flatten a bit, cut it in half and enjoy!