Sharp New York Cheddar cheese is layered between sourdough bread and smeared with a tomato-chipotle spread to kick up these grilled cheese sandwiches.
I’ve had all types of workplace mentors. Those who taught me how to write. Those who showed me how to quietly edit around a writer’s words. Those who instructed me in the handling of copy-editor curmudgeons as well as egocentric reporters. And then there was that one editor who taught me better than all the rest how to deal with the Dilbert-esque lunacy of an office.
Our typical week—make that morning— was usually spent arm-wrestling into submission art directors who referred to words on the page as squiggles, attending to frantic calls for chocolate from the editor-in-chief’s assistant, massaging requests to slash recipes to half their length without compromising the integrity of the instructions, and navigating the nuances of office politics and personalities. Lord knew what the afternoon held in store.
An aptitude for words, recipes, and even personalities was clearly only a part of the equation. Yet she somehow managed to transcend, calm and composed, all of the little madnesses that accompanied our workplace dysfunction. Not long after I started working for her, she explained her modus operandi to me. “You better find your exit strategy.”
At first perplexed, I came to understand it wasn’t a warning of impending unemployment. What she meant was find a way to get out of the office when a sanity break was needed. For her, there was one place she’d slink off to, walking the eight or so blocks if it was warm, hopping a cab if it was not. Her destination was a narrow storefront, painted a bright robin’s egg blue, the interior dotted with far too few tables to accommodate the lunch rush. An hour’s respite in this chaotic space wasn’t the equivalent to a weekend in her house in the Hamptons, but it was all it took. As far as I could tell, she’d always order the same thing. She’d return later that afternoon, with an attitude adjustment—for the better. Those of us who’d remained behind were, without fail, far worse off than before.
I don’t think her exit strategy was so much a distraction from the crisis at hand than it was an opportunity to step back. To clear her head from the collective craziness. To steady herself for what no doubt waited for her when she returned. Her strategy was to go to Amy’s Bread and indulge in its grilled cheese sandwich. Try it and see if it works. Or if 9th and 46th is too far to travel, go one better and make it yourself.–Renee Schettler Rossi
For these sandwiches, we put the sliced cheese on top of to the bread, then the other ingredients on top of that, and we finish with more sliced cheese. When the sandwich is grilled the cheese melts completely, enclosing the other fillings. To get the right texture, you’ll need a sandwich grill that compresses the sandwiches as they cook, or one large skillet and a heavy pot that will fit inside the skillet to sit on top of the sandwiches. Serve them hot off the grill to enjoy them while the cheese is still soft and the bread is still crusty.
Grilled Cheddar Cheese Sandwich
- 3 ounces store-bought or homemade tomato paste
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce from peppers
- 1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
- 8 slices country sourdough sliced 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick
- 10 slices sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 large or 3 small fresh tomatoes sliced 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
- 4 very thin slices red onion
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves roughly chopped
- Place the tomato paste, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and molasses in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth.
- Taste the pepper spread so you’ll know how spicy it is, and spread each slice of bread with as much of the pepper mixture as you’d like. We use about 1 tablespoon per slice.
- On each of 4 slices of bread, place 1 1/4 slices of cheddar cheese, then place 2 to 3 tomato slices on the cheese. Top with a few thin rings of sliced red onion and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro. Place 1 1/4 more slices of cheese on each sandwich. Place another slice of bread, pepper spread side down, on top of each sandwich.
- If you have a sandwich grill, heat the sandwiches following the manufacturer’s instructions until the bread is toasted and the cheese has begun to melt. If you don’t have one, place a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Put the sandwiches in the pan and weight them down with a clean, heavy pot. When the bread has begun to toast and brown, 1 to 2 minutes, flip the sandwiches over and toast the other side. Serve immediately.
Tips And TechniquesCanned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce can be found in stores that carry a selection of authentic Latin ingredients. They are very spicy so a little goes a long way. After you have opened the can, you can transfer the remaining peppers and sauce to a resealable container and freeze them for later use. Presliced sharp cheddar is packed with ten slices per 8-ounce package. Use 1 1/4 slices per bread slice to get the proper proportion. We suggest slicing the bread thickly so that when the sandwich is pressed on the grill the bread still has some body. Thinner slices of bread will be paper thin after they have been pressed.
Originally published March 23, 2010