Cookbook: Marvel Eat the Universe: The Official Cookbook (Amazon Affiliate link)
Recipe: Fantastic Four Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- 2 green apples, peeled and chopped
- 2 habanero peppers, stemmed and halved
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and ribs removed, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon agar-agar
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- One 10-inch ciabatta loaf, halved horizontally
- 4 ounces sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces Spanish goat cheese
- 4 ounces aged Gouda
- 4 ounces black truffle cheese
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
When I first heard about Marvel Eat the Universe: The Official Cookbook, I immediately added it to my Amazon wishlist. The preview pages and pictures looked great and the thought of making foods based on some of my favorite superheroes filled me with excitement. For Christmas 2020, my sister bought me the book and a few other kitchen goodies: Marvel dish towels and coasters.
Flipping through the cookbook, everything looked just as good as it did before, but then I came to realize something else. This book was clearly not aimed at mediocre, good-enough cooks like myself, or at least it really wanted me to step up my game. Don’t get me wrong, I know my way around a kitchen okay-ish, but I am not fancy or sophisticated with my culinary skills at all. Marvel Eat the Universe asked for some skills, risks, and ingredients in the kitchen that were beyond my experiences. In exchange, it offered delicious looking treats of every dietary variety.
Seeing the challenge ahead of me, I set the book aside. Every once in a while, I would flip through it again and then timidly replace it on its shelf, telling myself maybe one day…
That day is today! I asked Confetti to step aside. Like many great heroes as they reach the climax of their adventure, I knew this was a challenge I needed to take on by myself. I plan to either emerge a cape-crusading culinary champion or die trying, most likely from food poisoning myself. I picked the Fantastic Four Grilled Cheese sandwich because it is cheese and who doesn’t love cheese? Also, it’s a sandwich so how hard could it be?
“Victory favors neither the righteous nor the wicked. It favors the prepared.”
– The Magic Card: “Lay of the Land” from the Apocalypse expansion
My journey would begin with the gathering of the proper ingredients. Off to the store I went, already unprepared for what I would face. Somehow I chose my local Kroger at a time when it was busier than I had ever seen it before. Honestly, last weekend involved the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and a potential snow storm and even that level of busyness paled in comparison to this random Sunday afternoon. Knowing that our blog-post deadline neared and that there was no way I’d be skipping that or dinner, I decided to push through the masses to acquire my necessary ingredients.
The produce proved easy enough. I didn’t bring a measuring tape, so I grabbed the one ciabatta loaf available and assumed it was close enough to 10-inches. Next came the cheeses. Mozzarella? No problem! Spanish goat cheese? Um…. There were a dozen varieties of goat cheese but Spanish was not one of them. Spain is a place. Vermont is a place. Vermont Goat cheese would have to do! Aged Gouda? Sure thing! Black truffle cheese? I didn’t see it. I Googled it. Ah, any truffle cheese should work as a replacement. No truffle cheeses. A block of pepper jack and a wedge of gruyere would do for now. I’ll decide which to use later.
The rest of the ingredients went smoothly enough until I came upon a need for agar-agar. Despite sounding like one of those monsters from Marvel comics in the fifties, I assumed it had to actually be food and once again turned to Google. Battling against the crowd, I searched aisle after aisle. Eventually, I gave up and grabbed cornstarch as a substitute.
The check-out process ended up being about as long as the rest of my grocery run. I felt very bad for the employees overseeing the self check-out stations. Almost every one flashed for assistance and they raced around trying to get everyone moving as quickly as possible.
After that arduous shopping experience, I was ready to order a pizza and go to bed. Instead, I took a deep breath and got to work.
Chop chop. Deseed. Slice. Produce prep action! I did need to call Confetti in to verify that what I thought was a food processor was indeed a food processor. I was right in my assumptions. I was wrong about size. After being unable to fit everything into the smaller processor, I loaded them into the larger one (side note: why do we own two food processors?). Soon I had a goop that I imagined would be a yummy sauce on a sandwich. Nope.
The next step involved cheesecloth, which was also something I needed to look up. Turns out the “sauce” I made had to be sifted through multiple layers of cheesecloth in order to harvest only the liquid essence. With no cheesecloth available, I used a mini strainer/sifter tool we had to get the job done. This proved a bit messier and time consuming than I expected but I did end up with mostly liquidity goodness.
I also ended up with a lot of peppery essence on my hands. They and my cuticles would soon feel very uncomfortable. So would my face and especially my eyes when I would accidentally touch them later.
Remember how we discussed the importance of preparation earlier? A good idea when making a recipe for the first time is to read ahead so you know exactly what you’ll be doing. Having not done this, I was shocked to discover that my liquid was actually a jelly mixture that needed to chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
I started working on the sandwich at 4:30 assuming I could have dinner ready by 5-ish. It was already nearing 5:30 and now I need to wait an hour before continuing. Sigh again. Confetti was getting hungry and started suggesting we do something else for dinner. I told her she could eat something else if she wanted, but I would forge ahead. I carefully moved the jelly-mixture to the fridge as Belle, one of our dogs, hopped at my legs. Thankfully, I made it to the fridge without spilling the recently simmered peppery mixture on myself or the dog.
The down time allowed me to start cleaning the kitchen a bit and it gave me time to read over the rest of the recipe as well. Turns out I also needed a panini press. Whoops. I pulled out a George Foreman Grill that didn’t quite meet the size requirements I would need but would do for now.
After the hour came and I went, I checked on my jelly to find it still completely in a liquid state. I gave it a little more time as I sliced the cheese. That still didn’t allow enough time for the jelly to solidify. Hunger decided the best plan was to forgo making actual jelly and instead to allow the ciabatta bread to soak up the mixture. Jelly on the sandwich, mixture in the bread. Either way I would get the spice and taste.
Then, disaster struck!
Belle, who had carefully watched my kitchen escapades, finally decided to make her move. Not letting her existence as a tiny beagle stand in her way, she rocketed herself off the ground and threw half her body atop our kitchen counter. It would not be enough to get her all the way, but it was enough to send the pile of cut cheese flying. Expense (and not-so-expensive) cheeses landed everywhere, the shattered pieces of my heart. So much work, up in smoke(d gouda).
The mess was cleaned. The counter cheese was salvaged and some of the unused cheese was pulled out to replace what was lost. The scars would remain on my soul, but the day was not totally lost.
Once the sandwich was assembled, I threw it on the George Foreman. Every few minutes, I would rotate it, so another three quarters could cook. Slowly, the sandwich went from an overstuffed mess to pretty tasty looking.
After it came off the grill, I could tell not enough of the “jelly” was used, so I drizzled the sandwich with more.
The road was long and the final product was far from the original intention, but doesn’t that capture the Fantastic Four perfectly? They shot into space with one goal in mind and instead cosmic rays reshaped them and their futures. They went on to be great heroes. I went on to eat my sandwich.
Chaos’ Thoughts on Taste:
First it must be said, for better or worse, my sandwich is not a true representation of what Marvel Eat the Universe intended. They created the source material and like the many writers that would pick up the characters originally brought to life by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, I used that foundation to produce something all my own while attempting to capture the heart of what came before.
Melted cheese and spices on warm bread. What’s not to love? Every bite was delicious and usually in a different way. The array of cheese may not have been spread completely evenly, so different ones were given a chance to shine throughout the sandwich. It was tough getting to the point of eating, but I was happy with the end result.
The entire sandwich is huge, so it works for multiple servings and meals. It’s probably more bread and cheese than anyone should eat, but as you can tell from this post, I’m known to make bad decisions here and there.
Confetti’s Thoughts on Taste:
This sandwich making experience should have been an episode of “Nailed It!”. While I caved and ate dinner long before the sandwich was finished, the few bites I had were tasty. I think there are much easier ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I’m proud of Chaos for persevering to the end. Also, I’m still crying from laughter.
Stay tuned for next month, when we will be making a recipe out of the The Book Club Cookbook (Amazon Affiliate link) Don’t worry, Confetti will be back in the kitchen and hopefully saving Chaos from too many more mistakes.