Hack #6: Quarantine Comfort Food

It’s the middle of April. There are eighteen inches of snow outside our cabin in the Rocky Mountains. It’s stay-in-place quarantine time so there is nowhere to go anyway. 

We watched a coyote run by in the early morning hours yesterday, on the hunt for something to fill his stomach, followed by four more.

Today, a family of deer bedded down among the pine trees on the southern hillside. What we actually saw was heads and ears, their bodies completely blanketed in white powder like a downy duvet. 

The pine needles are so heavily laden that they create avalanches when they unburden themselves from the top, cascading down through lower branches in bulky snow burst plops.

All of this is pretty to look upon, but we must occasionally venture from the fireplace to don boots and hats and gloves and shovel out the drive, now a pileup growing foot by foot instead of inch by inch. Back inside, we shake off the snow and head to the kitchen. It’s time to refuel with something hot, hearty, and with ingredients almost always on hand. 

Our quarantine comfort food go-to is an improved reboot of a childhood staple–grilled cheese sandwiches. But this is not some processed-cheese-slices-between-layers-of-white-bread kind of sandwich. I’m talking Grilled Cheese. With caramelized onions, bacon, and fresh spinach on hearty rye or sourdough bread.

It’s a simple how-to with satisfying returns.

GRILLED CHEESE WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS [and More]

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole large onion, halved and sliced thinly
  • Good Butter, European if possible
  • Grated mix of cheeses such as Gruyere, cheddar, or whatever is on hand
  • Thick sliced bacon, if desired
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • 4 slices hearty bread such as rye or good sourdough

Preparation:

  1. Fry bacon slices [if using], set aside, and drain grease from pan.
  2. Add some butter to heavy skillet [cast iron!] and slowly sauté sliced onions over med-lo heat. Onions will brown slowly. Stir occasionally. It can take 20 minutes, so be patient. The crucial step is to caramelize those onions!
  3. Place grated cheese in bowl. 
  4. Add the browned onions and mix together thoroughly.
  5. Pile onion/cheese mix onto each slice of bread.
  6. Top with bacon [optional] and spinach [if you have it].
  7. Press sandwich halves together.
  8. In cast iron skillet, place sandwich into melted butter and heat to grill bread on both sides. It’s helpful to press down with heavy spatula to squish insides together. Turn over carefully.
  9. When bread is toast-y and cheese is melt-y, serve at once.

Enjoy with a Mediterranean salad of chopped tomato, cucumber, red onion or scallion, black olives, and feta or goat cheese. Glass of wine–always nice. 

Afterward, poke the fire, add some wood, lay down on sofa with a book or for a shelter-in-place power nap. 

Quarantine comfort eating is complete.

Colorado sunshine, blue skies

Why cast iron cookware rules in our home: care-about-cast-iron

15 thoughts on “Hack #6: Quarantine Comfort Food

  1. We had what I hope is our last snowfall, a week ago, on Easter Sunday. I really enjoy seeing photos and stories that involve your cabin – especially since I had the privilege of visiting you there!
    The week ahead is forecast to be warm and sunny, so I think spring has finally sprung!
    The grilled cheese looks wonderful. So simple, but satisfying. I’ve never considered mixing the cheese and caramelized onions, but look forward to trying it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Wendy-thanks for sharing the pix of CO and the must-try recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches. We had a virtual group toast last night in honor of Linda’s amazing father who passed away last week—another painful loss for the DeMeyer-O’Konek clan. Hugs to you & Mark-stay safe & healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wendy, your pictures look so familiar as I vividly remember the spring snows.
    I am anxious to try your “toasted cheese” sandwiches. They look delicious. Is there a dressing on the salad? Another yummy one to try.
    Are you enjoying living in the US? I would guess you miss Paris very much!! Take care and tell Mark hello.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carol, yes winter still has a hold on the mountains in a springtime month. But change is a comin’. The chopped salad is dressed with salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar if you like. I think we ate it without the vinegar and it was still crisp the next day.

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  4. Wendy, Sally sent me this this morning and I love reading about what’s going on with you in Colorado. Plus, yum! I love the idea of those wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches and will be whipping up a batch here in Washington! All that snow, though . . . we’re well into a soft Spring here and it’s so welcome . . . perennials starting to poke up, snowdrops and rhodies well along, rhubarb getting ready and a soft haze of green on the trees. Always a miracle to witness! Cheers to you! love – Emily

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily! Great of you to check in on the blog. Mountain spring will be upon us very soon. Just without the blooming bulbs and flowering trees. Instead, we should see many wildflowers after all the late snow. Outdoor campfire season coming soon and that will signify winter is over!

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  5. Oh my goodness, what a Sat. morning treat that was!  Thanks for the post and the lovely photos.  Do you use Plugra butter?  We always laugh about it here because it goes from $2.50 to $3.12 depending on the day and store.  People notify each other if it is found on sale.  We all freeze it when it is cheaper.Your descriptions today are very unique and very beautiful.  Stay warm and well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a treat to have you write a comment! When I lived in France, I carried my favorite Normandy butter home in frozen blocks in my suitcase. Before the quarantine, when I could get to Whole Food in Boulder, I found Plugra butter. Now, here in the mountains there is one brand in the supermarket that says “European” on it. So I go for that. Adaptation.

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  6. Love reading this and seeing the snow and yummy food (you can make a sandwich look and taste amazing) as I sit in shorts, under sunny blue skies, listening to our birds on our patio in Germany…..miss you both!

    Liked by 1 person

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