grilled cheese and iron
Remember the scene from Benny & Joon when Johnny Depp’s character makes grilled cheese sandwiches on an ironing board? Call this the antique makeover.

Our town hosted its annual citywide garage sale last weekend. Street intersections were plastered with fluorescent posters and permanent marker shouting “Yard Sale!” “Moving Sale!” “Garage Sale!”—and a siren’s wail for the bargain hunter on a sunny May morning. I must say I demonstrated remarkable self-restraint.

arugula, artichoke, roasted red pepper, and pepper jack panini

My newfound willpower has a lot to do with the fact I recently inherited a bounty of hand-me-downs from my grandma after she downsized from a two-bedroom house to an apartment. Among the trove is an antique iron—as in the kind actually made with iron, which got me to thinking…

heating the

Panini press! It works better than I ever could have hoped. The advantage to the old-fashioned iron is that it takes up much less space in our kitchen than an actual panini press would, and it doubles as a bacon press and a paper weight. What’s not to love?

A few tricks:

  • Heat the iron on a burner at the same time (or a few minutes before) you heat the pan for the grilled cheese sandwich. This way the iron provides not only the weight to press the sandwich into a panini, but enough heat to toast the bread and melt the cheese.
  • Use good quality, chewy bread, ideally something with “smushability”—ciabatta rolls are ideal.
  • Don’t skimp on buttering the pan. I’ve even seen Mike butter the iron, but this isn’t strictly necessary. A drizzle of olive oil plus a small pat of butter works even better. It’s the best way to get a nice crispy grilled cheese.

ironing lunch

Favorite combinations:

  • pepper jack cheese + roasted red pepper + marinated artichoke hearts + arugula
  • muenster cheese + thinly sliced pear or granny smith apples + prosciutto
  • mozzarella (fresh or regular) + tomato + loads of basil
  • cheddar cheese + hot sauce
At last, I’ve discovered a brand of ironing that I enjoy. Buon appetito!