Sunday, June 17, 2012

Guide to a Perfect Grilled Cheese




I am the yin to tomato soup's yang.

I am the holy grail of lunches at the elementary school cafeteria.

I conjure fond memories of a time when one's main priority is remembering "hor d'oeuvres" for tomorrow's spelling test.

I make the mouths of the masses water at the very mention of my being.

I am grilled cheese, here me roar (or moo...or bahhh...or whatever else).

I'm sure most have eaten a grilled cheese at some point in their lifetime (if not, then what are you waiting for?!), but how often are you the one to prepare it and have it turn out perfectly? For a delicacy so seemingly simple, it deserves all the care that you can give it. Seeing as how the most basic version only has three ingredients (bread, cheese, and butter), the resulting cheesy goodness is a direct reflection of the quality of its ingredients. Your standard white bread is a classic—I usually only have wheat bread on hand in my pantry—but a more artisanal bread can only kick things up a notch. When it comes to the star of the show, the cheese, I implore you to get as far away from any bright yellow "cheese product" that comes in individually wrapped packages (*cough* American cheese *cough*) as you can. If you want the ooey-gooey-ness that dreams, leprechauns, and unicorns are made of, then you'd want to choose a good melting cheese that is in the soft or semi-soft category. Another trick I've discovered is that shredded cheese melts much easier than slices. When it comes time to get the lactose party started, put your (unsalted) butter in a pan over a medium-low flame and let it melt before adding the bread (you could also have the flame higher to get the butter to melt more quickly, but once you add the slices it should be turned down). Sprinkle a little—or a lot—of cheese on each slice and just wait. All the times that I've made less than stellar sandwiches it was because I tried to speed things up and subsequently burned the bread. The low-and-slow method gives enough time for the cheese to melt while also allowing the bread to get wonderfully toasted—in total it should take about ten minutes or so.

With these three simple tips in mind you should be able to produce a perfect grilled cheese sandwich every time (or your money back). Upon this foundation you can build all the beautiful creations your stomach can think of. Focaccia, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil would make a great combo. I'm also a huge fan of the patty melt, which is the lovechild of a grilled cheese sandwich and a cheeseburger after a wild night of dancing and tequila shots (a.k.a. every other Friday).

What's your favorite type of grilled cheese?

8 comments:

  1. There is nothing better for a winter lunch like a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. It's what I had today. I had picked up some sliced gouda from the deli and used that. Okay so not the best cheese to use but I loved the taste.

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  2. I always cover the pan with a lid so that you don't have to wait as long for the cheese to melt and you can get that good crisp browning to the bread without the burn!

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    1. That's another trick I sometimes use—thanks for mentioning it/reminding me!

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  3. p.s. is it bad that I still love a good ol' grilled american cheese sandwich??

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    1. I'll leave that answer up to the culinary gods. However, I will say that it is a classic for a reason and nothing has the same creaminess.

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  4. Do you grill both sides or one side of the bread? I'm partial to both sides being grilled/rubbed with butter.

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    1. I don't think I've ever heard of someone grilling both sides before, but now I must try it out the next time I make a grilled cheese.

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