A little fancier budget supper
A Bavarian soft-wheat (batter) bread cooked a long time at a low temp to make it brown and chewy, turned into a croque-monsieur or croque-madame?
3 cups whole-wheat flour, sifted
12 ounces warm beer
1 cup melted butter (not margarine or shortening; divided use)
rind of 1 lemon, grated
1/3 tsp whole cardamom
1 cup cold mashed potatoes
1 beaten egg
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup buttermilk
Sift sugar, salt, and flour into large bowl. Stir in cardamom (it'll look a little like a cross between couscous and sesame seeds). Beat potatoes, egg, lemon rind, and buttermilk (anywhere from 1 tbsp to 1/4 cup; as needed to make a pourable batter) together. Mix dry ingredients into batter and add 3/4 cup of the melted butter, stirring until well blended. Pour into greased and floured loaf pans and spoon remaining melted butter over top.
Bake on middle rack in slow oven (if you like you can put a pie pan with 1/2'' of water in it on the bottom rack for the first 2/3 of cooking time) -- 275-325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/4 hours.
You should get a tender, chewy, dark-brown bread with a fine crumb. If you steam it the crust will be firmer, but you will need to use the longer cooking time and remove the water-pan 30 minutes before the bread is done.
Okay. Now, once it's cool, take it out of the pan and slice it thinly -- about 1/2'' thick.
Lightly butter both sides. The classic French dish calls for gruyere cheese and thin ham (think prosciutto).
Next get a clean cast iron skillet and melt a thumbnail-size piece of butter in it. Toast one side of both pieces of bread; flip the bread and put a thin slice of ham on the toasted side. Give the bread 1 minute, then flip again and lightly brown the ham against the skillet; remove. Slip a thin slice of sharp cheddar between the pieces of ham -- that's your croque monsieur.
Want a croque madame? Set the sandwich aside in a warm spot while you melt another teaspoon of butter. In this fry an egg to "over easy" (I like the white not to run). Slide the egg onto the top of the sandwich and serve warm.
It's a little fancier than braised shanks, but it's really tasty. If you're not a purist, you can put a pinch of minced garlic and two of minced onion in the butter for making the toast. (This also means you can use store-bought bread and not lose too much flavor.)
For about the price of a fast-food hot-dog, it's a much more filling meal. Tastes a lot like a Monte Cristo, with about half the calories and about a third the fat.