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The Cheesy Lover

grilled cheese roasted tomato soup mozzarella cheddar muenster phil collins philip bailey
“She’ll get a hold on you, believe it. Like no other. Before you know it you’ll be on your knees”

Theme song by Philip Bailey & Phil Collins “Easy Lover” from Chinese Wall
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I had a difficult time naming this dish.

Attempting to wedge a sandwich and soup into one musical pun proved daunting. At one point I considered simply dedicating this dish to “Grilled Cheese” by Cherry Glazerr. On the surface, it’s a millennial shoegazer dream-pop song about making and eating grilled cheese. Sadly, in this double entendre world of modern “pop” music, I knew this wasn’t just about grilled cheese. And why was the band’s name triggering my semantic suspicions? Thanks to Urban Dictionary and a few definitely non-culinary definitions I can never unsee, I realized I would need to find a more tasteful name for this dish.

I bookmark a variety of song title lists and pun dictionary sites. I had stumbled down a dead end looking for song titles where “cheese” or “cheeses” could replace “please” or “Jesus”. Yes – I could have used “Personal Cheeses” but I’ve got a personal pizza plan for that. I had somehow completely overlooked the cheesy –> easy match. I quickly thought about “Cheesy Like Sunday Morning” but I’m fairly sure that’s more of a brunch omelet than soup & sandwich.

And then there it was. A song I literally had not thought about in decades. A song that not only musically captures the cheesiness of this dish but also embodies with duo dynamic of soup & sandwich.

“Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey & Phil Collins.

Duets are a tricky thing for music fandom. How does one handle a singer you like paired with one that kind of annoys you? I am firmly Team Gabriel when it comes to Genesis. I’ve never really liked much of Phil Collins music with the exception of “In The Air Tonight”. If you can’t find the bombastic joy in that song, you are dead inside. It’s not that I dislike Phil Collins – I just don’t seek him out for listening. I am a big Earth Wind & Fire fan, especially the ’70s era where Philip Bailey was featured lead vocal. I often crank up an EWF playlist when I need a healthy dose of joy in my life. Much like my opinions of the members of this duo, I am divided on “Easy Lover”. I’m a fan of and also strangely annoyed by its cheesiness. I think a lot of that has to do with Phil Collins and a really lame “Behind The Scenes” style music video. If this had been a Phil Collins solo track, I’d likely never listen to it. Add Philip Bailey into the mix, and suddenly you have a palatable (if not cheesy) pop song. 

It’s similar to how I feel about the duo of a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. I am firmly Team Grilled Cheese in all forms. When I’m too lazy to cook anything else, I will make some form of grilled cheese. On the other hand, the ONLY time I have tomato soup is with a grilled cheese sandwich. To be fair, tomato soup – like Phil Collins – is not inherently bad, just really boring. Pair that soup with grilled cheese and you’ve suddenly got a cheesy hit on your hands. It’s a classic comfort duo where the sum is greater than its parts.

I go back and forth on using mayo or butter on grilled cheese. I believe mayo makes for a crunchier sandwich, but there is no denying the flavor bump of browned butter grilled into great bread. I also switch up the cheeses but generally stick with something sharp (Cheddar), something creamy (Muenster), and something extra melty (Mozzarella). I shred the cheese and use a lidded pan to trap the heat and help with even melting.

When it comes to tomato soup, I see no shame in using canned tomatoes – especially if you’re trying to blast away a midwinter chill. We are lucky enough to live in a modern world where most of us can easily access great canned tomatoes and should take advantage of that access. I’ve made this recipe using only fresh tomatoes, and I actually prefer the canned version. 

Roasting tomatoes couldn’t be easier. Set the oven to 350°F. Cut the tomatoes in half. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place cut side up in a baking dish. Roast 30 minutes or until they are lightly charred. It’s a bit of advance planning, but it pays off with a richer soup.

Finally, yes this recipe actually uses dried basil. That’s more for convenience than anything else. I always have dried basil in my spice rack. I do not always have fresh basil. I do – and you can – use fresh basil when I have it. The amount to add depends on how basil-y you want it to be.

Three cheese grilled cheese (Cheddar, Muenster, & Mozzarella) with Roasted Tomato Soup

Makes about 2 quarts

4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, diced fine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 quarts of vegetable broth
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
28-ounce can whole tomatoes, broken up
5 roasted plum tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

To roast the plum tomatoes, preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the plum tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool and then chop them into medium pieces. Set aside.

In a large bowl, take the can of whole tomatoes with their juice and smash the tomatoes into bite-size pieces. This is best done with your hands.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt butter & olive oil. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the flour and tomato paste. Cook until deep brick red. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring the pot to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour. Blend with a stick blender if you want a smooth tomato soup.

Ladle soup into a bowl and finish with a touch of sour cream and a bit of the leftover shredded cheese.

Makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices of country bread or sourdough
2-ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
2-ounces Muenster cheese, shredded
2-ounces Mozzarella, shredded
Mayo or room temperature butter (aka “the spread”)

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spread a thin layer of mayo or butter on one side of each bread slice.

Place two slices spread side down into the heated skillet. Divide the shredded cheeses between the slices. Top with the other slices spread side up. Cook for a minute to let the bread start toasting. Gently move the sandwiches around – not flipping but occasionally moving them in the pan – until the bread is golden brown and has formed a crust. Flip the sandwich, cover with a lid, and cook until golden and cheese have melted.

Posted in bushwick, cheese, comfort food, cooking, food, recipe, sandwich, soup, vegetarian


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