During my middle school years, I wasn’t allowed to use the stove when my parents weren’t home. I was, however, allowed to use the toaster oven. Blessed with that limitation, I became a toaster oven master. I quickly developed a cheese sandwich that was so good that other members of my family quickly asked to be included when I was making them.
My secret was to toast the bread plain, spread a thin layer of seedy mustard on the toasted bread and then top it with cheese. The cheese melts, the bread is crunchy throughout and the whole sandwich is infused with the zing of the mustard.
This summer, Scott and I splurged on a new toaster oven. It was a newer version of the same basic Black and Decker model that I’ve been working with for years (our previous toaster oven was one I bought used at a thrift store in 2002 and needed two or three rounds of toasting to achieve a sufficient burnishing). The new toaster oven works incredibly well, to the point where I had to watch carefully when I was first using it. I’m ashamed to admit how many slices of bread I transformed into little slabs of carbon while I learned its ways.
Recently, since the days have turned cooler, I’ve been returning to my lunchtime toasting roots. Somewhere about halfway past noon, my thoughts turn to what’s at home in the fridge. Soon enough, I leap from my desk chair and walk the block and half distance between my office and apartment (truly, I’m so lucky to live so close to work) and start building my lunch.
After I’ve done my initial toasting of the bread, I pull out one of the many open jars that clutter the fridge and apply a layer. In the picture above, it was a tomato jam day, but I’ve also used a variety of chutneys, jams and even pickles. On top of that, a slice of cheese and then the whole mess returns to the oven for a bit of cheese-melting. I eat it with a quartered apple and some sliced cucumber. An easy, filling lunch!
What I like about this technique is that it vanishes that fresh-out-of-the-fridge chill and the melting keeps the condiment in place (I’ve learned through trial and error that applying a preserve to freshly melted cheese is just asking for it to slide right off. No one needs that). It also works really well on a larger scale for party food as well. You can use small baguette rounds, a bit of smooth goat cheese and some of that jam you made this summer. People will rave and you’ll have the satisfaction of using up some of your home canned goods.