I had my first grilled cheese sandwich this week. You may have had many in your lifetime, but for me it was a new and fabulous experience. I’m British, and we are a bit snobby and purist about our sandwiches.
The Brits invented sandwiches you know. Well, The Earl of Sandwich did. Or to be more specific, his cook did. For John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich wanted something he could eat without leaving the gambling table during a marathon session in 1762. His cook rustled him up some slices of beef popped inside two slices of bread, and thus the mighty sandwich was born. But frying a sandwich in butter? This to me would have been heresy until now, but any fortune-teller with a crystal ball handy will see many, many more in my future. Delicious!
Anne Baxter provided the recipe for my first ever GCS experience. She’s one of my favourite actresses, and my favourite movie moment ever is when she attempts to rip a wig in two in All About Eve . Next time I settle down to watch Anne do battle with Bette Davis, I’m going to make myself one, or maybe two of these, as a super self-indulgent treat.
Anne Baxter’s Mexican Cheese Supper Sandwich
- 2 slices sharp Cheddar cheese
- 4 slices oatmeal, wholewheat or sourdough bread
- 1 or 2 Mexican green chilies
- Ground cumin
- Sprinkling of chili powder
salt, to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 to 3 tablespoons safflower oil (or sunflower oil)
Lay cheese slices on two slices of bread, open-faced style. Cut chilies into pieces, lay crisscross on top of cheese. Sprinkle evenly with cumin, chili powder, and salt to taste. Top with slice of bread. Heat butter and safflower oil together in sandwich grill or heavy cast iron skillet (frying pan to us Brits). Fry sandwich on each side until crusts are golden and cheese is melted. Serve at once with sliced beefsteak tomatoes and cold beer.
I do love Anne’s serving suggestion! Cold beer and tomatoes it is.
Anne’s recipe first appeared in Johna Blinn’s “Celebrity Cookbook” syndicated newspaper column in 1976. Johna Blinn is my absolute food-writing heroine. She interviewed many of my favourite film stars about their favourite dishes and her columns and cookbooks are full of wonderful insights. Anne reveals that she first started making her grilled cheese sandwiches whilst living in the outback in Australia. She was 35 miles away from the nearest grocer and grappling with “Bertha,” the huge iron stove that was in the ranch house when she moved in. As her cattle rancher husband’s hours were long and irregular, this recipe became a standby for a quick food fix.
Another of my favourites, Angie Dickinson, provided Johna with a peach of a recipe. For Brits, this would count as a grilled cheese sandwich, as for us, grilling involves applying heat from above, rather than below. Please note that Angie is a bit more highfalutin in her serving suggestion. Bring on the honeymoon!
Angie Dickinson’s Honeymoon Sandwich
- 2 slices rye bread or one English muffin, split
- Soft sweet butter
- 4 generous slices baked or boiled ham, or lightly broiled Canadian bacon
- Dijon mustard
- 4 thick slices beefsteak tomato
- 1 dill pickle, sliced lengthwise
- 3-4 slices Cheddar or American cheese
Lightly toast bread and spread lightly with butter. Top each slice with ham; spread ham lightly with mustard. Top with tomato, pickles, ending with cheese on top. Run under broiler (grill) until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve open-face style with good vintage brut Champagne. Great for brunch or supper.
Jenny Hammerton is a film archivist with a nosey parker interest in what the stars of Hollywood Golden era liked to eat and drink. She’s been scribbling away about film star recipes for around eight years at Silver Screen Suppers and her bulging collection of film star favorites now numbers over 5,500. When not cooking and writing, Jenny works with the British Movietone newsreel collection for the AP Archive in London, and DJs on a wind-up gramophone with The Shellac Sisters. You can read about and buy her new book Cooking with Joan Crawford here.