A few years back, I wrote about a throw down I had with the resident cook at the Covered Bridge Inn restaurant. If you remember the post, you may recall me saying that I had another story to tell about those days. So here it is—and it comes with a delicious recipe for grilled cheese.
My days (indeed, my years) at the Covered Bridge Inn in the Lake Lucerne/Queensbury area of upstate New York were memorable and eye-opening at the same time. It was a time of learning for this New York city transplant. Leaving the big city behind, I made my way to a small town where I was suddenly the newbie doing my best to earn respect in my new job and community.
It was a special time. Our kids flourished, and I gained a small town perspective on life that was previously unknown to me. I also met some lifelong friends who would influence me in so many remarkable ways. Those were the days!
When I recall this time now, I think of it as a brave act on my part. I took a job that moved us upstate to a 40-acre apple farm with an out-of-work husband and two teenagers. I’m not sure if I’d have the courage to try something like that again at my present stage of life. (And might I add here that my now grownup children have applauded this move as a good experience, declaring that the sleepy Adirondack town of South Glens Falls is their childhood hometown.)
As I wrote in my previous post, the restaurant’s little country cook went by the name of Connie Johnson. She barely had an eighth grade education and often challenged my decisions. However, I humbly admit today that some of Connie’s tried-and-true recipes—especially among the hometown folks—were legendary. She just seemed to instinctively know what her patrons, some of whom were her neighbors, would spend their money on. That is one of the most important criteria necessary for making it in business!
Connie’s pride and glory was her Chicken and Biscuits. Her bacon-laced white gravy was second only to her lighter than air homemade biscuits. And in a typically smart and cost-effective move, she used turkey in place of the chicken.
I’d like to share one of Connie’s recipes that I adore and use to this date. Why I didn’t mention it before?!
Connie’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Chef’s note: You may use your favorite bread and any combination of cheeses that you prefer. However, I must tell you honestly that the original recipe is superb. The recommended garnishes are a side of mustard and pickles. I like mine with a side of mayonnaise-mustard mixture and baby cornichons or gherkins. Just saying. Makes 4 sandwiches.
3 tablespoons melted butter (plus more for greasing cookie sheet)
8 slices caraway-seeded Jewish rye bread (or a grainy whole wheat)
⅓ lb. (3 slices) each: sharp cheddar, provolone, and pepper jack (Monterrey jack with jalapenos)
1 lb. fresh cremini (Italian brown) mushrooms, sliced and fried to brown
2 large sweet onions, sliced and fried to crisp
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter or oil a cookie sheet and set aside.
- Brush one side of each slice of rye bread with melted butter. Place half of the bread (4 slices) buttered-side down on the cookie sheet.
- Top each slice of bread with 1 slice of cheese, followed by some mushrooms and onions. Next, add remaining 2 slices of cheese. Close the sandwiches with the remaining bread, buttered-side up. After closing the sandwich, press lightly with your hand to seal.
- Bake 10–15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Flip sandwiches and return to oven for an additional 5–10 minutes, until they are golden and the cheese is melting.
- Slice sandwiches diagonally and place on a heated plate with pickles of your choice and, if desired, a side of mustard.
Image from iStock/Candice Bell.