Who doesn’t love the comfort of a great grilled cheese sandwich? Mom’s was probably your favorite growing up but there’s so many options available and the combinations are boundless. But we do have a few guidelines for you and along with some cheesemonger recommendations. So get creative and celebrate the ooey, gooey, classic grilled cheese along with the rest of the nation this Wednesday.
The sandwich can only be as good as the ingredients, so choose your bread wisely. If you can find an artisan levain (French sourdough) you’re off to a good start. The thicker crust and all the nooks and crannies will give textural crunch to the sandwich. Or switch it up with buttery brioche, hearty multi-grain or a good Jewish rye to match the fillings. And day-old bread is best as it soaks up the butter and crisps up perfectly.
There are oils and sprays, but butter is better. Repeat, butter is better. Try melting the butter in the skillet and then adding the sandwich to get an even distribution over the bread surface. Or, for an extra crispy sandwich, NYT’s Ruth Reichl spreads butter on the inside of the sandwich and covers the outside with a smear of mayonnaise and sprinkle of grated cheese. Either way, it involves butter. It’s just better.
And the cheese…so many choices. Always start with a good melting cheese – medium-aged Cheddar, Gouda, Fontina, Gruyère, Emmenthal or Mozzarella – to get the proper degree of goo. Grating the cheese instead of slicing will hasten even melting. You can always add levels of flavor with other cheeses like crumbled blue or goat cheese, and grated Parm or Pecorino, but they don’t have the requisite ooze factor. So how much cheese? A quarter pound per sandwich should suffice but we won’t limit your artistic vision.
Sometimes there’s primal comfort in a sandwich made simply with just one great cheese, maybe paired with a cup of tomato soup. But additions are unlimited and can elevate you to your own state of culinary genius. Think green: fresh herbs; vegetables – fresh, grilled, caramelized or pickled; and, fresh fruits – sliced or diced, can all add sweetness and texture. Think charcuterie: ham, salami, bacon – hefty, meaty goodness. And think spreads: relish, chutney, preserves, tapenade, mustard. It’s all about your own personal taste. And if you’re making grilled cheese for a group, you can customize each to their tastes.
Lastly, go low and go slow. To get the bread crispy brown and the cheese melted, take your time. Allow 4 – 5 minutes per side over medium low heat, really not very long for the payoff.
Annette loves this gluten-free flavor explosion. Comté Gruyere cheese with grilled baby bella mushrooms and onions, sautéed spinach with garlic and cayenne, and horseradish aioli on (cashew and coconut flour) grain-free bread.
Served with a Bloody Mary, this is Steven’s brunch pick: Raclette cheese with blanched kale, caramelized onions with red wine vinegar, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on rustic multi-grain bread.
Brad serves this grilled sandwich with a drizzle of balsamic glaze on the side. Cablanca Goat Gouda with fresh thyme and Prosciutto San Daniele on Tony’s whole grain bread.
Daniel’s ultimate grilled cheese is a riff on a Croque Madame: Comté Gruyere, City Ham and Dijon mustard on sour dough bread, topped with a sunny-side-up egg.
Maureen layers brie with thin sliced apples, caramelized onions, fig jam and arugula on sour dough bread. With a glass of Mendocino chardonnay she’s one happy camper.
Goat Gouda appears again in Meredith’s combo. With a little crumbled fresh goat cheese, pickled beets, chopped caramelized walnuts and arugula on pumpernickel. Sounds divine.
And Jack, the culinary chef of the group, reverts back to his childhood fave: cheddar and crumbled potato chips on old-fashioned white bread. Just goes to show that sometimes Mom’s grilled cheese can still be the best.