Somewhere in my twenties while living in a broom closet in the not-so-nice part of San Francisco with two other girls and barely getting by, I was friends with a gal who had a thing for chefs. She was very attractive and very charming, but just didn’t seem to like a guy for longer than 2-3 weeks. Our group used to put imaginative expiration dates on the foreheads of her suitors. Lucky for me, she always wanted a wing man for the first few dates with these fellas. Usually it was a double date situation, and sometimes, even though I was the third wheel, I tell ya, I didn’t mind a bit, because we ate. And I mean, WE ATE!
Poor me was being dragged to some of the newest and hottest food spots in the city as a third wheel! So, if I didn’t have my own dates, well, that was okay; I was dating the food and we were in love.
One of her suitors, a really excellent guy, took us to what he called “his friend’s joint.” This joint was no joint, and his friend, well, if he isn’t a celebrity chef by now, I’d be surprised. This guy was incredible. He sent out chef plate after chef plate and each one was more impressive than the last. I was young and poor at the time so I ate everything that was put in front of me.
The dish that stuck with me that night was his rendition of French toast. It was sort of like a cross between French toast and kind of a Tiramisu. Imagine a thick slice of brioche soaked in Amaretto and Cointreau, pan fried and then topped with marscapone, ricotta, lemon juice, and paper thin tangerine slices. It was a knock-your-socks-and-pants off type of dish. Just the socks was not enough; clothes from the whole bottom half of your body, knocked right off!
I did not get the whole recipe. He wouldn’t give away his secrets, but if I guessed an ingredient, he would confirm if I was correct. There were some other spices and elements in the dish that I could not place. It was very complex and my pallet wasn’t educated enough yet. But what I identified I loved and wanted to try to replicate.
Many failed attempts later, I finally got a result that was a great balance of flavors. It was not nearly as good as his, but good enough to call a yummy dish. And thus I opened the door to what would be my wide world of trying to soak everything in booze before I cooked it.
Sometimes this was successful, much by happy accident, and sometimes it went right in the garbage never to be spoken of again.
One day, I woke up craving a Bloody Mary. I didn’t have the money to go out to brunch and sadly did not have all of the ingredients needed to make one at home, so I decided I would settle on a brunch Martini and whip up a grilled cheese.
As I began prepping my grilled cheese (throwing it in the oven on broil for a few minutes after having cooked it halfway in the pan), all of a sudden a huge splash of vodka soaked my bread, pissing me off. We all know you can’t start a grilled cheese with wet soggy bread. Then I thought: “Wait a minute….What if you can?”
So I decided to try it! Hell, I had an entire loaf of bread and was willing to sacrifice a few shots of vodka. The result was amazing, totally unexpected, and absolutely delicious!
Here is my happy accident:
2 slices of your favorite bread. Make sure it’s a thick bread that can stand up to being soaked
1 shot of a nice quality vodka
1 tbs of real whipped butter (hey, I never said it was a diet dish)
2 slices of a nice meaty ripe tomato
1/2 tsp of horseradish
1 pinch of celery salt
1 pinch of garlic salt
2 slices of your cheese of choice. My favorite cheese with this dish is a nice provolone or muenster
(If you are feeling really fancy, throw in a few sliced olives)
Toast your bread slices to a light to medium darkness.
Soak each slice in a shallow dish of vodka for a few seconds on each side.
Slather each slice with horseradish and butter.
Sprinkle celery & garlic salt on both slices.
Place slices in a hot pan side by side.
Add cheese slice to each piece of bread.
Cover pan with lid on med-high heat for 3-4 minutes until cheese begins to melt.
Remove pan from stove.
Add tomatoes on top of each bread slice.
Place pieces together into a sandwich and place in the oven on bottom rack to broil for 2-3 minutes until top of bread is golden brown. Flip over and repeat.
Remove, let cool so you don’t burn your tongue out of your mouth, and enjoy!
*You are not allowed to use Velveeta cheese! Somehow I will know, and I will find you and I will make you wear a stupid hat and sit in the corner and then I will take pictures of you and post it on the internet.
*I would stay away from the sharper cheeses due to the vodka; stick with a mild, buttery cheese.
To get creative with this sandwich, basically think of anything and everything that you could put in a Bloody Mary and add that inside this delicious grilled cheese.
I hope you find it as dreamy as I do.
The moral of the story is: cook with booze. Cook everything with booze! It’s always better.