Grad School Gourmet

Grad school, for me, has often been punctuated with days where I simply felt like I was running on empty. Today was one of those days. Being tired from a number of recent late nights, various ongoing projects, and life in general, I’m amazed I managed to get home for dinner without falling asleep on the bus. Normally on a sleepy day like today, I’d cave and order dinner from a local place and bask in my laziness. Alas, it’s cold as hell outside and I’ve got too much in the fridge to justify delivery. From this mix of typical grad student sleepiness and laziness, a wonderful treat was born in my kitchen tonight. I’d like to share this with you.

Lumbering into the kitchen, I sought to create a meal that required an absolute minimum of hand-eye coordination to consume. Eyeing the loaf of bread that has sat largely unused for the last week (the girlfriend doesn’t trust American bread, so I don’t usually bother keeping it around, so this was but a happy accident), I decided that a grilled cheese met that most basic of requirements. The grilled cheese represents to me the most convenient of sustenance delivery, in its finger-friendly exterior with an adhesive filling that prevents disintegration under all but the most forcing of circumstances. However, the only cheese we had on hand was shredded mozzarella (a necessary evil) and cheddar; for the uninitiated, grilling a cheese sandwich filled with shredded cheese is heartbreak waiting to happen, as the cheese melts unevenly and leads to breakage in the flip. No, I needed an alternative. I needed better cheese.

That was when it struck me: I had good cheese, it was just already spread onto the leftover baked mac ‘n cheese (a recipe for another day–my mac n’ cheese will change your life). This was but the least problematic of my challenges, as it would turn out, because the idea of leaving the noodle in the sandwich didn’t worry me one bit.

Assembling the sandwich required a slight bit of engineering; I opted to start the first buttered slice, lay down a little bit of shredded mozz as some insurance, and let a sizzle start with a little bit of melting before applying a 1/2″ thick layer of mac ‘n cheese. Sprinkling the noodles with some more mozz and applying a bit of paprika seemed prudent, but tragedy soon followed. Like my encounters with shredded grilled cheese sandwiches, the top of this sandwich was not heating in concert with the bottom, and so on the flip the structural integrity of the unit gave way. Luckily the escaped mac ‘n cheese was easily returned to the filling, but the top slice had torn in the process, and it was clear that my adhesive cheese was failing to keep the entire unit together.

As I scratched my head, wondering how to save this concoction, I concluded that this would have to become an open-faced sandwich. However, my pride wouldn’t permit me to simply use the moniker as excuse; rather, this was the opportunity that would define my evening. Invigorated by the possibilities, I plated the ‘wich with a little salt and pepper, followed by some leftover tomato sauce and fresh, finely-minced garlic.

Sadly, the result was so delicious that it no longer exists to be photographed. Each slice was the mac ‘n cheese I know and love, encased in a crisp, buttery bread layer, topped with the savory sauce that nicely contrasted the rest of the dish. Total time invested? Roughly fifteen minutes. Total money spent? Roughly $0.20 if you don’t count the leftovers. Tuesday night just got a lot better with a dish that fills in little enough time to not hinder my return to lab. Speaking of which, I have compounds to purify!

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3 comments on “Grad School Gourmet

  1. Anonymous says:

    What’s wrong with American bread?

  2. Anonymous Illini says:

    Just go across the street to the Red Herring sometime when you get hungry.

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