There’s nothing more flexible than bread and cheese. A pairing infinite variety in style, taste, and presentation. Making cheese is tough, time-consuming, and probably beyond this site- but we’ve tried our hand at making a few types of bread and finding out new ways of building a sandwich. There are classics, like the BLT (but around here we add avocado), but we prefer a Cuban with swiss and mustard and ham. Or, you could skip the direct combination, and offer sliced bread and cheese on a tray at a party.
Today’s kitchen trio include two from Lodge, our favorite maker of cast iron cookware. We’ll start with the Lodge Cast Iron 7 Quart Dutch Oven- an eighteen pound beast of a thing, lovely and well-built. We had heard about this method of bread baking courtesy of Bay Area professionals like Tartine, who manage to get the lovely crusty outside and soft, moist interior through what we always assumed was magic. Bread machines simply don’t compare, and most regular ovens can’t achieve the steam injection needed to accomplish the feat. So bread making for most staff became almost desperate- often mediocre results compared to the amazing local bakers, and requiring a fair bit of time and not much less money. But it turns out that we had simply been missing a key ingredient- a dutch oven- and so set about trying it out in our old classic O’Keefe & Merritt gas oven. We won’t reproduce any recipes here, since they are widely available and require a little trial and error, but we did focus only on bread though you can certainly use a dutch oven for many purposes. One thing to keep in mind- preheating it is a great idea!
They’re available in many sizes and styles- glass tops and spiral handles and even a double dutch oven- and this one was a bit large for our purposes. And the handles are a tad bit small. But it worked magic on our breads, and is an amazing gift for any prospective baker. And at $55 or so, it’s not cheap, but as usual with Lodge feels like you’re getting every penny worth.
We also have been checking out the Lodge Blue Enamel Panini Press and matching Square Grill Pan. We’ve tried out the enamelware before, in the form of an oddly adorable Apple Pot. But this was the first panini press that we’ve ever reviewed, from them or anyone else.
The first thing of note was the weight- this is a wrist-hurting 13 pounds, which is great for ensuring even cooking and heating as well as a nice firm press on the sandwich. The ridges are the perfect size, make for a lovely pattern, and we didn’t have any issues with sticking. And the enamel was solid, available in three colors (red, green and blue). Ten inches is an ideal size for making two sandwiches at once, and there is a hanging hook- but make sure your hooks can handle the heft! Cleanup was a bit harder than we like, requiring some soaking and scrubbing to clear out those ridges. Finally, remember that when you are buying the lid, you need to buy the pan separately. The MSRP seems a bit high, but we found both on Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $29 for the pan and $23 for the lid. Sandwich lover? Get a solid, lovely way to make any sandwich a bit better.
Finally, we were getting jealous at some recent restaurants, with their fancy cheese trays. But it turns out that you can have one too! And, though they aren’t exactly multi-purpose, they do make a great conversation piece and add a bit of class to any party. We grabbed a variety of cheeses from Bi-Rite, and some deli meats as well, and at our most recent gathering arrayed them all on the Brooklyn Slate Special Edition Slate Cheese Board. Available in black and red, it’s a fairly slim piece of nicely textured slate, cutely packaged in a burlap bag. And our favorite part was the included soapstone chalk, which you can use to note the origin of the Brie or salami. It’s the perfect cheese tray.