Living in the same city as your older sister grants certain privileges: having someone to call for directions, knowing at least one person will fuss over you on your birthday, and feeling secure that, if all else fails, there's a guaranteed couch for you to crash on. Since my friend Curtis and I both have a big sis in town, and because we know a bunch of other grown-up sisters and brothers in the area, we decided: Why not throw a siblings-only party and celebrate that we're finally old enough to hang out without pulling each other's hair?
We opted for a classic kids' favorite to get folks in the spirit -- grilled cheese, but dressed up for adult palates. To do it right, we sought recommendations from culinary guru Geoff Tracy of Chef Geoff's (www.chefgeoff.com), who came up with two sophisticated sandwiches: the French Connection, which uses a super-rich, triple-cream cheese and slices of a spicy, air-dried filet mignon (available at Dean & Deluca), and the Upper Northwest, made of cheddar, fig jam and thin slices of Granny Smith apple on hearty walnut-raisin bread.
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The goal with any grilled cheese is to have the cheese melt at the same time the bread toasts to a golden brown (harder than you think). Be sure to preheat your skillet for a few minutes and butter the pan, not the bread. Instead of cooking two sandwiches at once, place just one at the pan's center to guarantee even cooking. And, if ever in doubt, use more butter!
Although one of our guests requested tater tots as a side, we opted for a more refined mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and we skipped school-cafeteria-size milk cartons in favor of beer. But we couldn't pass up the chance to indulge the kids we used to be. So to evoke our late-'70s and early-'80s sibling heyday, we offered candy such as Nerds and Runts, hung dorky childhood photos, cranked up cheesy tunes from Belinda Carlisle and Wham, and set out board games. (No one went for Candyland or Clue, though a rousing Connect Four competition ensued.)
As the poet Ogden Nash said, and as our siblings remind us: "You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely."
Mike Peed and Curtis Sittenfeld
Grown-Up Grilled Cheese
3 ounces Saint Andre triple cream cheese
2 slices brioche, cut 1/2-inch thick
Several leaves baby spinach
5 ounces (two very thin slices) bresaola (spiced, air-cured filet mignon)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat a medium-size nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet on low to medium heat.