WEEK TWELVE CHALLENGE: CHEESE

Double challenge week, gonna be a big one.  We won’t waste your time with a long lead in because you’ve got some drooling and voting to do.  Without further ado, which CHEESY treat would you prefer, Griddled Bacon and Cheese and Homemade Tomato Soup or the Devils on Horseback “Tacos”?

Griddled Bacon and Cheese and Homemade Tomato Soup

As a kid, there was nothing better on those cold rainy days than a grilled cheese sandwhich and some tomato soup to warm you right up. We are all familiar with the vibrant yellow Kraft single placed between two slices of white Wonder bread served with a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, who could forget it! This “grownup version” is sure to take you back.

A medley of cheeses including comté, sharp cheddar, and fontina, stuffed with crispy thick cut bacon between some rustic sourdough bread gives you a broad spectrum of delicious flavors. The comté is a relatively hardFrench cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and taste is slightly sweet. The sharp cheddar gives you that extra bite. The fontina really gives you that gooey stringy-ness that everyone loves in a grilled cheese and the bacon gives you that bit of saltiness to cut through all of the cheese. And honestly, who doesn’t love bacon? Combine all of these delicious flavors and serve them with a scrumptious bowl of homemade tomato soup and you have yourself a fantastic meal to warm you up on those cold rainy days.

Fresh Homemade Tomato Soup:

  • 4 1/2 pounds of assorted ripe Tomatoes
  • 2 tbl good olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely sliced
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • Pinch of red chili flakes
  • Chives for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the tomatoes in half and place, cut side up, in a high sided baking pan, like a lasagna pan. Drizzle with the tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then lay the onions, garlic, chili flakes, and herbs all around and roast in the oven for about 30-35 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
  2. When the tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, remove the stems of the herbs and blend the  mixture, working in batches. (use caution when blending hot liquids). Run the soup through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and skin to yield a silky smooth soup.
  3. At this point, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to the soup to taste. This can be done ahead of time and chilled to serve later, either cold or heated. Garnish with fresh chives.

Griddled Cheese and Bacon:

  • Sourdough bread, sliced
  • Thick cut bacon, cooked with Rosemary and Thyme
  • Comté
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Fontina
  • Roasted Garlic Butter, softened and spreadable
  1. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Layer your sandwich – bread slice, cheese, bacon, cheese, bread slice. Spread butter over the top of the sandwich. Place the sandwich top side down (butter side down) on the hot pan. Butter the exposed side of the sandwich. Let cook for a minute and then use a metal spatula to turn the sandwich over to its other side.
  2. While you are toasting the sandwich on the remaining side, gently press down on the sandwich with a spatula. Don’t be afraid if some of the cheese spills out onto the pan. These little fried crispy bits are the best!
  3. The sandwich is done when the sides are toasted golden brown and thecheese is melted. Cut in half and serve with tomato soup. Don’t forget to dip your grilled cheese in the tomato soup like you did when you were a kid!
Devils on Horseback “Tacos”

This canape is an fun play on a hard shell taco and would make an quirky addition as an appetizer for  next dinner party.  The “taco” shell is actually a parmesan crisp that is wrapped around a bacon, date and smoked gruyere filling and topped with a cool cream cheese replacement of the standard sour cream taco topping.  You may not be able to tell from the pictures, but check out the recipe: three different cheeses are used in this dish!  Don’t let the “taco night” theme fool you, this is a fairly complex mouthful that will allow you to learn some fun cooking techniques and impress your guests.
Devils on Horseback

  • 6 slices of thick cut bacon, cut in half
  • 12 pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup of shaved smoked gruyere
  • 12 toothpicks
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Stuff each one of the pitted dates with about a tablespoon of the smoked gruyere being careful not to split the date in half.
  3. Roll the stuffed date in the half slice of bacon (should wrap around about one and a half times) and hold in place with a toothpick.
  4. Bake in oven’ until crispy and browned and the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes.  Be sure to flip each one over about halfway through.

Parmesan “Taco Shells”

  • 3/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Reduce oven heat to 325.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
  3. Starting in corner of baking sheet, place 1 heaping tablespoon of parmesan cheese inside of a 3 inch ring mold and smooth out with the back of a spoon.
  4. Set up six rounds of grated cheese and place in oven until golden brown (but still flexible)m about 8-9 minutes.
  5. Working quickly, use a spatula to remove each parmesan crisp and wrap each around one of your devils on horseback.  You may need to secure with a toothpick as the crisp cools and hardens.

Constructing the Tacos

  1. Once the crisps have cooled, carefully remove each of the Devils and chop roughly.
  2. Use a spoon to put the taco filling back into the shell.
  3. Top with a drizzle of cream cheese (thinned with heavy cream to a consistency that will allow drizzling) and finely diced tomato and chives.

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