What is it about bread and cheese? Bread that’s soft and chewy inside and crusty on the outside. Cheese that’s ooey-gooey and melty and stringy.
It’s the stuff I dream about.
I can remember once – many years before we had kids – Michael and I threw a movie party to watch the movie, “Armageddon.” To this day, it’s one of my favorite movies. I mean Bruce Willis in space? And when you add in an Aerosmith song – one of their very best and most karaoked songs EVER! – at just the right romantic moment? It’s scary and funny and suspenseful and sad and inspiring and patriotic and…pretty much perfect. It’s one of those movies that, if I’m flipping channels and see it on, no matter how far into the movie it is, I’ve gotta stop everything and watch until the end.
So when it came out on DVD – or maybe it was VHS at that time. I can’t remember. Anyway, when it came out, we threw an “End of the World” party. The invitation asked our friends to come watch the movie and to bring the snack they’d most want to eat if they knew the world was ending. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty depressing party theme! But our friends didn’t seem to think so. They loved the idea and they showed up.
I have no idea what snack I made. In fact, I can’t remember what any of my friends brought to the party.
Everyone else showed up with a platter or a basket or a Tupperware container.
But Allyson showed up with a plastic shopping bag.
I was intrigued.
While everyone else arranged their yummies on the kitchen table and grabbed plates to start their grazing, Allyson turned on my oven to preheat and asked for a cookie sheet, a serrated knife, and a spoon. I watched as she took a loaf of French bread from the bag and used the knife to split it lengthwise, laying the two halves face-up on the cookie sheet. She reached into the bag again and brought out a small container and several ZipLoc bags. She opened the container first and stirred the ingredients before using the spoon to spread the French bread with a yummy-looking substance. It looked like cream cheese mixed with ranch dressing, but I couldn’t be sure. She then opened the small bags and sprinkled their contents over the cream cheese mixture. There was chopped bacon, sliced green onions, and a LOT of shredded cheddar cheese. She slid the cookie sheet into the oven, set the timer, and we chatted and snacked around the room until I began to smell that heavenly scent of toasting bread. I followed my nose back into the kitchen just as the timer pinged. Allyson grabbed an oven mitt and soon set the cookie sheet on my stovetop before slicing the bread into individual servings.
The room was suddenly filled with people and hands reaching to grab a piece of the yummy bread.
It was divine. Crusty, toasty, chewy. Creamy, zingy, cheesy. Bacony.
I was in love. It was perfect.
And then we got to watch what soon would become one of my favorite movies. What a great night! Sitting on the couch or on the floor with a plate in your lap and a Solo cup of Diet Coke beside you. Laughing with your friends. Someone getting up to leave the room to call the babysitter to check on the kids. Having that one friend who will argue that “Scientifically, that actually couldn’t happen because…” The girls whispering gossip during the slow scenes about who’s pregnant or who’s moving or who just got a new job. Sitting back and realizing that moments like these are what life is all about. It wasn’t about the movie – or even the food. It was about the friends.
Allyson and her husband Jeff moved to Oklahoma a few years after that party, but we still keep in touch. One of the things that always makes me think of them is this bread.
Over the years, I’ve made lots of different variations of this bread, using all kinds of different toppings and fillings. My kids love it. It’s a great party food and snack.
Stuffed French Bread
- 1 loaf of French bread
- ½ cup of chopped onion
- 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup of cooked and crumbled bacon
- 2 cups of shredded Colby Jack cheese (or more, if you’d like)
Preheat the oven to 350 º.
Cook onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil on low heat, stirring very often. After about 15 minutes, onions will begin to brown and caramelize. It may take a little more or less time. Just watch them for browning. Stir onions and bacon into softened cream cheese. Split French bread lengthwise and spread each half with half of the cream cheese mixture and top each with cheese.
Bake at 350 º for 15-20 minutes – or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice into serving-sized pieces and serve while still warm.
- Stir a package of dry ranch dressing or a package of dry taco seasoning into the cream cheese.
- Browned breakfast sausage, sliced grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese
- Greek: chopped calamata olives, fresh spinach, roasted red bell peppers, feta cheese
- Taco: browned, seasoned ground beef. After cooking, top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and cheese.
- Cajun: cooked shrimp, andouille sausage, Colby Jack cheese
- Breakfast: scrambled eggs, cooked sausage or bacon, Colby Jack cheese
Make it your own! You can even buy small loaves and let everybody in the family make their own yummy variations.
You’re going to love this recipe!