Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Don Gondola Grilled Cheese with Celery Puree Soup

This meal came together through necessity. I had tomatoes that were starting to over-ripen, and celery beginning to age in the refrigerator. The result was a delicious grilled cheese and soup pairing.

Although one doesn't really NEED a recipe for grilled cheese, I absolutely love the Grilled Cheese Kitchen cookbook, and have used it frequently since I got it. Even though I've shared a few recipes, I highly encourage any grilled cheese lovers to purchase the book, as it contains many fantastic grilled cheese recipes, along with soups, and macaroni and cheeses.

This particular grilled cheese has a bit of Italian flair between the pesto, provolone cheese, and salami. Add some thinly sliced tomatoes, slather garlic-infused butter over slices of Italian bread, and it's the perfect grilled cheese when you want some added protein. I personally love salami, and used a traditional Genoa salami in my sandwich, but you could use another variety. I also made a basic and more traditional pesto than the basil-lavender pesto mentioned in the recipe.

I halved the soup recipe, but included the original quantities below. I had a box of beef broth open in the fridge, so I used that and topped off with a bit of water to make up the difference. I omitted the cream for a slightly lighter result. The soup reminded me a bit of vichyssoise or French potato-leek soup, but with celery instead of leeks. The onion and garlic made up for the lack of leeks. I recommend using a vegetable peeler to peel the celery prior to chopping. It will remove the fibers and yield a smoother soup.

Although tomato soup is a more common pairing for grilled cheese, I thought this soup was delicious and worked well with the sandwich. It definitely has a nice potato base, and since celery has a pretty neutral flavor, it doesn't really punch you in the face. You can definitely include the cream for added richness, but I left it out, and still enjoyed the soup very much.

Don Gondola Grilled Cheese
Serves 1
(From Grilled Cheese Kitchen)

1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 slices Italian loaf
1 teaspoon Basil-Lavender Pesto (regular pesto is fine too)
2 slices provolone cheese (young, plain provolone, not aged or smoked)
2 ounces [55 g] thinly sliced salami (we like salume finocchiona, a Tuscan salami made with fennel)
2 or 3 slices small ripe plum tomato (about 1/4 in [6 mm] thick)

Heat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

In a small bowl, stir together the butter and garlic powder until well blended. Spread the garlic butter on one side of each bread slice, dividing it evenly. Place one slice, buttered-side down, on a clean cutting board. Spread with the pesto. Layer one slice of the provolone, the salami, tomato slices, and then the second slice of provolone on top. Finish with the second slice of bread, buttered-side up.

Using a wide spatula, place the sandwich in the pan, cover, and cook until the bottom is nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is browned and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes longer. Cut the sandwich in half, if desired, and serve immediately.

Celery Puree Soup
Serves 6 as a side dish
(From Grilled Cheese Kitchen)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium head celery, leafy tops and tough base removed, stalks coarsely chopped (I recommend using a vegetable peeler to remove the celery fibers prior to chopping--it will yield a smoother soup with less effort than straining)
1/2 pound [230 g] Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup [120 ml] dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups [960 ml] chicken stock (I used beef broth and a bit of water)
1/3 cup [80 ml] heavy cream (I omitted this)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small soup pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, potatoes, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and are translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and thyme to the vegetables, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often, until the wine is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, cover, and bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are very soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup into a smooth purée in the pot. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, purée the soup in a blender, working in batches on low speed. Remove the plug from the lid, cover the lid with a clean towel, and hold down the lid while blending, or the hot soup will blow the lid off and make a mess in the kitchen.) Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately.


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