Man Up Your Grilled Cheese — With Steak
I’d like to think that, having been a bit of a picky eater myself growing up, most of the dishes I grill and boil and fry and simmer are ones my kids can stand to eat.
Yeah, dream on, Dad.
I mean, I haven’t yet subjected them to the highlight reel of unfinished meals of my youth: chipped beef over toast, crunchy chow mein with extra snot sauce, or that Friday Night Horror Fest of liver and onions, once set before me as a kid, as if nothing was amiss. As if my parents still aped at loving me. As if it wasn’t a food genetically engineered to prompt a gag reflex in those under, oh, 75.
But I digress.
As the global corona virus pandemic alters our daily lives, sentencing most of us — and rightly so — to extra time cloistered with the ones we love, including the scrutinizing palettes of the under 15 set, dads like me are dusting off the recipe books, tying on the aprons (and then loosening the aprons again, tossing them back into the cupboard), and praying to the God of Macaroni and Cheese that we not only feed the appetites of the ones nearest and dearest to us, but don’t die of blandness while trying.
Because, you get to be a certain age, having spent a few nights or a thousand outside the creaking dining table of your youth, you try a few things, get to like it. There’s a world beyond Dinty More beef stew and peanut butter and jelly, Ramen and Quick chocolate milk.
And I don’t intend to backslide while whipping up dinners my descendants deign to digest.
One solution? Throw some of the stuff adults like into it.
Dad Eats: Just Add Meat
Now, having kid treats grow a beard — so to speak; if they literally grow a beard, you’d better throw that moldy stuff out — can go way, way wrong on you.
Witness mac and cheese that is made with some finely-aged French goat variety, with shallots, cherry tomatoes and whole grain rotini to boot, and you’re also likely to witness a revolt.
Platter hot dogs with anything outside the usual buns, mustard and ketchup ready on the side, and you’re in for a hot dogging.
Or dare to bake pizza that aspires to anything beyond marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and round, greasy pepperoni, and you’re in for a round of hurt. I caught hell the other night merely for suggesting that I dust the top with parmesan, let alone throw some other cheeses in the mix, add a touch of sausage, green and red peppers, onions, banana peppers.
They do know how to lock the doors behind me, you see.
But I have made progress. We’re talking with that staple of kid-dom: tomato soup and grilled cheese.
I never had issues with it as a kid. And we never had it fancy. Just a thick slab of Velveeta rendered molten between two heavily buttered slices of wheat split-top bread, milk stirred into a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, and I was fortified for an afternoon of army men, cartoons and belching grilled cheese belches in my brother’s ears.
But I just couldn’t get into it as a Dad. Even washing it down with a choice IPA didn’t do the trick.
And then I discovered a trick that worked: leftovers.
Specifically, taking the extra NY strip steak that had come off of my grill the weekend before, and into the fridge, slicing it thin, and then serving up our grilled cheese between two thick slices of sourdough bread. DE-LIC-IOUS.
My wife and I discovered, also, that nothing churns out a stack of, say, a dozen grilled cheese sandwiches for our hungry trio of boys and their two gastronomically experienced caretakers like a genuine lefse grill. Sacrilege in Sweden? Perhaps…. But we have lefse maybe once or twice a year, over holidays. The gift of perfectly grilled cheese just keeps on giving.
In a pinch, my wife and I will put leftover turkey on the sandwiches. Roast beef. Spicy enchilada chicken. I can’t recall throwing salmon or tuna on there, but swordfish steak went pretty great.
The kids don’t mind because — whisper whisper, secret secret — they just get the unadulterated variety. I think their tastebuds are so blissed out, anyway, with that molten cheese that they probably wouldn’t notice if we tried.
But then there would be less for us, wouldn’t there? And less for you, too.
Best to just slip the secret ingredient into the last two sammies off the griddle and just chew, chew, chew with a smile. And take home that blue ribbon for another kid-tastic meal.
It’ll be our little secret.