Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Pressing Matter

When I first moved out on my own, my kitchen needed everything from a simple toaster to mixing bowls.  Over the years, though, I’ve gathered all the equipment and small appliances we need:  a waffle iron, a slow cooker, and a stand-mixer, among other things.  The problem now is the glut of small appliances and where to find counter, cupboard, or storage space for things like the yogurt maker, ice cream machine, food processor, grain grinder, coffee grinder, hand-mixer…the list goes on.  When hubby and I began checking out panini presses, thoughts of our already groaning kitchen stopped us.

Thing is, hubby and I love pressed sandwiches.  But, this is just the type of conundrum my frugal mind loves to resolve.  Neither of us wanted yet another “specialty” appliance on our crowded countertops but missed being able to make hot, pressed sandwiches.   Our favourite -- aged cheddar with thin-sliced onion -- must be cooked “just so” for the onion to cook to sweet perfection, the cheddar to melt ooey-gooey, and the crust to come out crispy brown.  Oh, it can be a thing of beauty!  But, they’re nearly impossible to cook properly without a press.

So, I improvised.  I’d read (online) about people using bricks, covered in aluminum foil, but I don’t happen to have a brick kicking around, nor do I like to use aluminum foil in direct contact with cooking food.  Besides, the covered brick would end up being another extra something to store.  No, I prefer common kitchen items.
   Et Voila!
Sandwich Press -- Make-Do model

This sandwich press, as you can see, is very uncomplicated, requiring items in most kitchens, and cleanup is a snap.  I use our kettle (but a small pan would do), filled to desired press weight (I use about 3 pounds), one small heat-resistant plate, a fry pan, a spatula and an oven mitt are all that’s needed. 

It’s important to preheat the fry pan, before placing the sandwich in its centre.  Then, place the plate, upside-down, on top of the sandwich and gently (so the water won’t slosh) place the kettle on top of the plate.  Use the oven mitt and spatula to lift the heated plate off to flip the sandwich.  Then, replace the plate and kettle and cook the other side until done.  The sandwich we like is made like any traditional grilled cheese – the outside of the sandwich lightly buttered before cooking – and we find this to be enough butter to prevent the sandwich sticking to the (preheated) 18-10 stainless steel fry pan we use.  A cast-iron skillet also works well, but use a lower temperature to prevent the exterior burning before the interior (onion slice, ham, etc.) is cooked.  Even with the stainless steel fry pan, we use a medium-low heat, for the same reason.  Once cooled a little, the plate can present the meal, helping to retain the sandwich's heat AND save on dishes.

I remember George Carlin once joked about the “stuff” we buy, like “…a left nostril, nose inhaler with [our] State motto on it.”  But, when I take inventory of our home, this copious “stuff” is no joking matter.  So, adding another specialty appliance seemed crazy – particularly as it`s would be used so seldom.  Happily, all it took was  a little ingenuity for us to enjoy an occasional treat.

Have you created any make-do kitchen gadgets?  I’d love to hear about them.  Please, leave a note and help ease over-burdened countertops everywhere!  J

Now, I’m off to eat, while my sandwich is still warm…