Cooking by candlelight.

Candlelight is magic.

It makes the ordinary mysterious. It blurs the imperfections of a room, a face, a moment. It dances on the walls and flickers in one’s eyes. It can make a standard meal at the counter feel gourmet and romantic. And it makes me drink a glass of wine, 4 days before I was going to.

Friday evening started out normal enough. I had been eyeing this recipe for French Onion Soup Sandwiches for a few weeks. Having mastered an incredible French onion soup recipe this last winter (thanks, Amanda!), these sandwiches sounded like a delicious and interesting twist. Brilliant! (Side: Read Joy the Baker. Love.) 

I’m happy to report that on Day Two post-surgery, Cholula was out of groggy-land and up for a little “assisting” in the kitchen.

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This recipe is really easy to put together. The key is having the patience to slowly caramelizing the onions. As I prepped my pile of sliced half-moon onions, shredded gruyere cheese, and chopped fresh thyme, a glance outside revealed building clouds and the first sprinklings of summer rain. Perfect for a night in with a meal like this.

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I was just about to heat up my skillet when the power went out. In the 5 months we’ve lived here, we haven’t had a power outage. A storm was building, but it wasn’t bad. Figuring the lights would come on shortly, I lit the stove with a lighter, and tossed the pile of onions into the melted butter and olive oil. I smiled as brought out a few candles. I’m a sucker for candles.

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A major component for any grilled sammie (panini, grilled cheese) is the breadYou’ve got to use good bread. We had a loaf of “Tuscan white” that we picked up during our adventure at the farmers market. Oooooh, this was going to be good. 

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In winter, I love spending hours in the kitchen. I really enjoy being over the stove, creating something yummy and watching it all come together. So I didn’t mind the time it took to tend to the onions as they slowly broke down into a brown oniony jam. The aroma made my mouth water.

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As the sky grew darker, so did the kitchen. The lights were still out, and a call to the power company told us that they were “aware of the situation” and we could expect darkness until roughly 10:30pm. We didn’t mind. In fact, we welcomed the break from the internet and the TV. I gathered even more candles from around the house.

It was about this time that John and I decided to have a glass of wine. A little storm going, a power outage, a tasty meal coming together, the warm glow of candlelight…all of the components of a romantic evening were there but the wine. After taking a 10-day break, we both realized we didn’t need alcohol in our lives. But we really enjoy wine with meals. Making a deal to extend the last few booze-free days by two, we opened a nice bottle that was a gift from our neighbors.

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I deglazed the pan of caramelized onion love with a few tablespoons of white wine, and started assembling the sammies for browning. On buttered bread (buttered side out), first came the gruyere cheese, then some of the onions, then a little more of the cheese. The other piece of bread topped the pile of goodness and into the pan it went.

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I feel that I must stop right here to inform you that John is the Master of Grilled Cheese. It doesn’t matter if we’re at home in our lovely kitchen or on the road in Betty– he has the skills, you guys. Perfectly browned, melty, incredible. Yes, it is on the list of reasons why I am marrying him. I mean, LOOK.

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Perfection. He is also smart enough to know that when wielding a sharp knife, sometimes a brighter headlamp should trump candlelight. But only for a moment.

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The headlamp put away, our candlelit dinner was ready. Now THIS is a Friday night. 

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John took the first bite. I heard the crunch of the bread- The Master did it again. The cheese was perfectly gooey. My first mouthful was heaven! Think of the best grilled cheese you’ve ever had, with a soft onion-thyme jam in the middle.

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We planned to tote all of the candles upstairs later and spend our quiet night camping out with books and the puppy. But first, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner as the last bit of daytime faded away outside. We both took great pleasure in savoring each bite- and particularly each sip of wine, knowing it was a one-night thing. It was delicious, and completed what was an unexpectedly romantic evening.

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Blame it on the candles.

14 replies »

  1. Way to turn something that could have been really negative into something fun and romantic!

    You know my hubby, John, is also a master of the grilled cheese, it must be something about the name. 😉

  2. The sandwich looks absolutely delicious! And given that I FINALLY found heirloom tomatoes at the farmers’ market, the grilled cheese sandwich that I was planning to serve with my salad, will definitely include some “onion soup”…. I need to go to the gym now, because I must have gained one pound looking at your photos over and over!

  3. French onion soup is my favorite “comfort” soup, right after green pea and ham. Somehow, methinks onion soup sammies are more appetizing than the split-pea soup variety! I’ll have to try out Joy’s recipe. First, must get me some gooey cheese (I don’t keep any on-hand).

    Cooking by candlelight…what a concept! Ambiance and romance, always good with oniony cheese and wine.

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