Bread and Cheese: Lodge and Brooklyn Slate

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.

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