If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” , you might remember rule number 39, a famous one:
Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” That gets at a lot of our issues. I love French fries, and I also know if I ate French fries every day it would not be a good thing. One of our problems is that foods that are labor or money intensive have gotten very cheap and easy to procure. French fries are a great example. They are a tremendous pain to make. Wash the potatoes, fry potatoes, get rid of the oil, clean up the mess. If you made them yourself you’d have them about once a month, and that’s probably about right. The fact that labor has been removed from special occasion food has made us treat it as everyday food. One way to curb that and still enjoy those foods is to make them.
(If you want to read all of the rules without reading the book, click here.)
It seems to me I’ve touched on this little ditty before and as I made homemade French fries just a few weeks ago to go with a steak for my husband’s birthday dinner, I’m leaning toward heartily agreeing with the man one more time. Making the fries was fun, wasn’t difficult, and they were scrumptiously well-worth it. The process did, however, take time, and was a greasy mess; I’ll give you that.
No matter the mess! “Have the things you like occasionally and without guilt,” is one of my own mottos. No food shaming. I believe the things we love often somehow define us. If we never have them, we aren’t ourselves–with the exception of doctor’s orders, of course. I don’t want chocolate cake every day (nor do I want to bake one each morning), but I want to enjoy a piece or two in peace with a big cup of coffee within the span of a year, for goodness sake. My dear friend Lani lusts after macaroni and cheese and wants LOTS of it once in a blue moon! Son Sean craved chicken-fried steak as kid; Emily has always been my cheeseburger girl. My mother loved chocolate-covered cherries. Cheesecake claims my husband and no toppings, either. Sue Hall is a strawberry fiend; Helen has a thing for green beans. Fried chicken was the love of my dad’s life and my father-in-law felt just about the same way when I first met him. Tom adores cherry pie; Mikey and Mary Pat want rhubarb. For Pastor Jacque, it’s chocolate cream like her grandmother’s. And so on…
So once a month or so, I try and squeeze in a splurge or favorite meal or even just a splurge dish for grins and giggles and because it’s better and cheaper at home. It might be chili on tortilla chips for dinner…
…or an egg and bacon sandwich on lavishly buttered toast at breakfast for Dave. Lately I may have admitted to you I’ve had a thing for old school Pimento Cheese. I’ve made it at least six times in the last couple of months–usually to take somewhere, but always with a little (or big) dish left behind in MY fridge, too. I double Lee Brother’s Pimento Cheese recipe from the NYTimes, where these southern cookbook authors inform you that this recipe will make 4 Pimento Cheese sandwiches on white bread, thank you very much, ma’am. I like this goop on Triscuit Rye Crackers (another addiction I indulge daily) or with veggies as a dip (below), but you go ahead and smear it on squishy white bread if that’s your thing. Just be happy while you do it and admit you’re glad to be indulging.
Over the weeks I’ve been addicted, the cheese kept calling me to add it to a grilled chicken sandwich, a patty melt, really. One day last week, I did it for a splurge meal. If you’re a patty melt aficionado and also adore grilled chicken sandwiches, you’re going to want to make this. Buy the Pimento Cheese in the deli if you must (or the Blue Moose Smoked Gouda spread is also good–I buy it at COSTCO), but it’s so simple to make and better that, if you have time, make it at home. It takes just a few minutes and needs no special equipment–a cheese grater, a bowl and a heavy-duty spatula or wooden spoon are it. Do follow the Lee Brothers’ directions, though, and grate your own best-quality you can find sharp Cheddar. I’m partial to Vermont Cheddar or any Irish Cheddar, though extra-sharp Tillamook is in my fridge quite often, too, as I’ve lived in the west for a few years and Tillamook is western cheese. These Cheddars are, for the most part, white, but the Pimento Cheese takes on quite an orange hue when the pimentos are added.
I skipped the fries this time and instead grilled some broccoli, serving it with a zippy Sriracha sour cream that is now going to be a staple in my dip or drizzle recipe box. I cleaned, oiled, and grilled the broccoli first on my stovetop grill, plating it for an appetizer to snack on while I made the sandwiches. A range is only so large. There was still some left for a side when we began dinner, and I was glad there was, as this crunchy goodness was the perfect foil to the cheesy-gooey patty melts. Tired of your go-to broccoli dish? This might be your new summer vegetable and it’s pretty, too. (Easy to make in the oven, too, if that works better. Directions in recipe.)
Note: Printable recipes for both the broccoli and the sandwich are in one link down below the broccoli recipe.
CHICKEN-PIMENTO CHEESE PATTY MELTS
serves 2, doubles easily (If made in batches, keep first sandwiches warm in oven or wrapped in foil while you make the others.) No mallet or meat pounder? Read here how to flatten the boneless breasts.
- Peanut, grape seed, or canola oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts pounded with a mallet to 1/2-inch thickness between sheets of plastic wrap or on a meat-cutting board
- 4 thin slices yellow onion
- 4 slices rye bread, well buttered on one side of each slice
- 6 tablespoons Pimento Cheese
- Sliced tomatoes and dill pickles for serving alongside the sandwiches
COOK THE CHICKEN: Heat a stove top grill, a gas/charcoal grill, or a skillet on the stove over medium heat. Brush the flattened chicken breasts with oil (about a teaspoon for each side of both pieces), and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes on one side until well-browned; flip and cook for about the same about of time or perhaps a bit less until chicken is done though or until its temperature registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Let rest, covered, until temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Grill the onion slices for a minute or so on each side. Remove the plate with the chicken.
MEANWHILE, GRILL THE BREAD and then COOK THE SANDWICHES: Grill all four pieces of the bread buttered sides down on a griddle or in a large skillet until light golden brown. Add a cooked chicken breast to each of two pieces, and top each piece of chicken evenly with 3 tablespoons Pimento Cheese. Spread the cheese out a bit over the breasts. Add two slices of onion on top of the cheese. Top each with another piece of grilled bread. Cook as you would grilled cheese, turning until the sandwich is quite brown, the chicken is very hot, and the cheese is melting.
REST SANDWICHES BRIEFLY AND SERVE: Remove to a plate or cutting board and let rest a minute or two before slicing and serving with the tomatoes and pickles. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. One-half leftover from my plate was good cold the next day for Dave’s lunch! I could only eat half. This is filling!
GRILLED BROCCOLI WITH SRIRACHA SOUR CREAM
No grill? Roast the oiled, seasoned broccoli on a sheet pan in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 8 minutes, turning over half-way through the roasting time. No Sriracha? Use any hot sauce, trying a few drops at a time, tasting, and adding more as needed.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 pound broccoli crowns, trimmed, and cut into large florets
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about an ounce)
- 12 cherry tomatoes for garnish, optional
GRILL THE BROCCOLI: Heat grill to medium. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper. Add the oiled and seasoned broccoli in one layer to the grill and cook for 4 minutes or so or until browned on one side, being careful or turning grill down if broccoli begins to burn. Turn and cook another 3-4 minutes or until browned on the second side.
MEANWHILE MAKE SRIRACHA SOUR CREAM: Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, milk, and Sriracha sauce along with a pinch of salt and pepper.
PLATE and SERVE: Scatter the broccoli on a large platter and drizzle evenly with Sriracha Sour Cream. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with tomatoes, if using. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold.
Enjoy your favorites easily at least once in a while and be just who you are,