Friday, September 6, 2013

Benny and Joon - Caramelized Fennel Grilled Cheese with Juniper Berries

I wish I had seen this recently, I think the last time was in the 90's, it will be a lovely one to revisit. It's such a charming film and contains one of the iconic quirky Johnny Depp roles. It's a love story between two societal rejects, Joon and Sam. Juniper (Joon) is considered mentally ill (the story alludes to schizophrenia), she lives with her brother Benny who becomes responsible for housing Sam when Joon looses a bet in a poker game. Sam isn't mentally ill but his whimsical otherworldliness and unique life lens make it difficult for him to do things such as build relationships or a career. Being that the two can't really live independently, it makes for a difficult partnership but one they wish to pursue perhaps with an "us against the world" perspective.

There is a famous scene at the end where Sam is making grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron. Perhaps hinting at the absurdity of normality being the only way to function independently. I didn't make these sandwiches with a iron, although I would like to try it someday.

Caramelized Fennel Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Juniper Berries

One large bulb of fennel
4 slices of bread
Daiya cheese (or any vegan cheese)
Olive Oil
*1/2 tsp Juniper Berries
** (optional) Tomato slices

To caramelize the fennel, first thinly slice the bulb. Coat a frying pan liberally with olive oil, place the slices down and sprinkle with sea salt. Keep the flame on low-medium and allow for the slices to slowly brown and release their sugars. Don't try to speed up this process. When one side begins to turn brown, pour about 1/4 cup of water into the pan and flip to cook the other side and add juniper berries to the pan. If when the other side is  cooked to a golden brown and it is sticking to the pan, either add a little water or a little white wine to deglaze the pan.

Coat the bread slices with palm oil free vegan butter, place butter side down in a pan and top the bread with your vegan cheese, then fennel slices, then the other slice of bread butter side up. To help melt the cheese, when the first side is almost golden brown to completion, squirt a little water into the pan (close to the wall of the pan as to not make the bread soggy) and cover the pan with a lid. The water will bubble and steam causing the cheese to melt. Flip and brown the other side.

*Juniper Berries are what makes gin taste like gin. They are often used in stews but are a wonderful accompaniment to fennel. They are strong, bite into one and it will taste like you are drinking a martini. The idea in this recipe is to infuse the oil and fennel with a juniper berry essence.

** Tomato slices go so well in grilled cheeses and as luck would have it, with fennel too. Add it if you wish.

"Except for being a little mentally ill, she's pretty normal"

"You can't throw him out, I won him!"

Trailer : 

Vegan Mofo #1

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