how to save dinner

Invite your mother to come for an impromptu dinner. Warn her that you have no idea what you’ll serve, and that you don’t plan to tidy up.

Then tidy up just a smidge, because you don’t want people to see it like this.

Since a) it’s chilly out, b) there’s nothing exciting in the fridge, and c) you feel like being lazy cozy, decide to make snowday food: canned tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwiches. Because your mom deserves better, decide to glam it up. Here’s how.


Melt a sliver of butter in a saucepan. Stir in a sprinkle of crumbled oregano, a generous shake of chili powder, a pinch of curry powder, maybe some cumin, and a bay leaf. Toast two minutes, then pour in a good slug of sherry. Pour in another. That’s the ticket.

Crush two cloves of garlic, stir in, and let the mess bubble gently while you root around the freezer for the tub of tomato puree left over from last time you made marinara, which you add to the sherry potion on the stove. (Or use a few tablespoons of tomato paste and some water, or a small can of unsalted tomato sauce — whatever. The idea is to boost the tomato-iness of the pallid canned soup you keep for sickdays and snowdays.)

Open a can of plain old tomato soup and plunk it into the pan. Add half a can of water and mix it up. Once it’s hot, you’re going to add about five ounces (one tiny can) of evaporated milk.

Assemble the sandwiches: big thin slices of whole wheat bread layered with cheddar and just a slice of provolone to give it some chew and some heft. Remember you have half a jar of onion jam* in the fridge. It should be good in a grilled cheese sandwich, yeah? Yeah! Let’s try it. Add a grind of pepper, sure, why not?

Place buttered sandwiches in a frying pan over medium heat and top it with another pan, which has an impeccably clean bottom. Weight the top pan with your cast-iron casserole to press the sandwich. Hey, you’re a panini-ist!
Whip together a quick balsamic vinaigrette. Blanch some broccoli, cooking til just tender. Drain well and toss with the dressing, then sprinkle with coarse salt.

Serve it all: for each, a mug of soup, a little dish of dressed broccoli, and two big, crisp portions of sandwich, all arrayed on a blue pottery plate. As you bite into the gooey chewy sandwich and roll your eyes at the tangy-sweet pungency of the onion jam, decide that from this day forth, you will always make your grilled cheese sandwiches with onion jam.
Have a nice Saturday night with Mom.

*update: onion jam recipe is posted here.
My actual recipe for cream of tomato soup, not from a can, is here.

I am participating in NaBloPoMo.

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