Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Grilled Cheese à la Française

When I was a kid growing up in good ol' New Jersey, I had the most awesome school lunches. There were no vending machines at school back then, no candy or sugar (except for the occasional bake sale) and definitely no junk food. Except on Fridays when the fabulous lunch ladies treated us to things like pizza, a hamburger or my personal favorite, grilled cheese. The portions were friendlier, child-sized and not big enough to feed Texas. We knew that Friday's lunch was a treat and we looked forward to that treat all week. In the meantime, we enjoyed hot lunches with real food, fruit for dessert and always a small carton of milk. 
A while ago, I taught English at a Dutch high school and I was shocked by what I saw those poor kids having for lunch. Forget the obvious nightmares (like energy drink, ugh)- these growing bodies were calling entire bags of chips, packets of cheap cookies and candy bars 'lunch'! Who was to blame for this? Society and the age of 'convenience'? The parents? The school? Maybe a combination of all those factors. Of course, this is just my humble opinion. My daughter just started high school and yes, I know, this sounds a bit over the top, but I still pack her lunch. Never has she left for school on an empty stomach. Ever. I consider that child abuse. Family meals are also a priority here. Which means we eat at the table, all of us and there's definitely no TV in the background. I'm not saying she'll never dump her lunch in lieu of something she'll buy at the school cafetaria, but I'm happy knowing that the good upbringing (that really essential bit) is definitely there.
But before I go and get all preachy on you, let me tell you what this post is really about- grilled cheese! That delightful Friday treat from my childhood! I made a version of it for lunch today and wanted to share it with you. My grilled cheese is really grilled (not fried) and has a little twist. I call it Grilled Cheese à la Française, simply because I dressed it up a little bit and topped it with a perfectly fried egg, croque madame style! Here's the recipe...

In a little olive oil, gently saute some sliced sweet onions and a bit of red chilli pepper. In a dry frying pan, crisp up two thin strips of bacon. Brush two slices of white sandwich bread on each side with a little olive oil. Top the un-oiled side with sliced cheddar cheese, the bacon and the onion and chilli mix. Grill in a hot panini press. In the meantime, melt a bit of butter and gently fry your egg. Take the grilled cheese out of the press, top with the egg and serve! Voilà!

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