August 18, 2011

Gaga For Grilled Cheese

I don’t know what it is, but lately I can’t get enough grilled cheese sandwiches.  I had it for dinner Monday night; I had it for breakfast yesterday morning.  I wanted it for lunch today, but I didn’t have access to a stove.  The best grilled cheeses are made with the humblest of ingredients.  It’s not about being fancy, organic, or gourmet here; it’s about recreating the iconic childhood favorite, the way my mom (and sometimes my dad) made it on rainy days, flattened with a spatula and blackened on a cast-iron griddle.  While it’s great paired with Campbell’s Tomato Soup, in my mind there is nothing more satisfying than grilled cheese and a tall glass of ice-cold milk. 

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve revised the version my parents made for me ever so slightly.  I’ve determined that my favorite bread for grilled cheese is J.J. Nissen Canadian White.  It’s doughy, slightly sweet, moistness provides ample heft for grilling and complements nicely with the tanginess of the cheese.  As for the cheese, the star of the show, I prefer Kraft 2% American Cheese.  I am no snob when it comes to American food given that one of my favorite American dishes is a burger and fries, but my only preference here is that the cheese must be white and not orange. 

I line two pieces of cheese on one side of the bread making sure that it’s evenly distributed.  Oftentimes, I peel a piece off of one of the slices to make sure all portions of the bread are covered evenly.  On special occasions I smear on a dollop of mayonnaise to the other slice of bread before I combine the pieces.  Or, on even more special occasions I will add a little bit of peanut butter.  Call me crazy, but these condiments (never combined, mind you), take the grilled cheese to another level.  The peanut butter idea was all mine, but the mayonnaise suggestion was one I learned from an article I read in Bon Appetit.  After reading that, I bet you’ll try it. 

While my mom always used a cast-iron griddle, I only sometimes do now.  It does a great job of forming a nice crust, but in my mind the beauty of making a grilled cheese is that it’s the ultimate lazy [wo]man’s comfort food, and that should not require me to reach on top of my fridge to pull down a heavy griddle.  So, on a stainless steel 10” pan I add a tablespoon of butter and turn on the stove to let it melt.  Once the butter is a small pool I swirl it around in the pan and add the bread and cheese.  I cover the plan and let the sandwich grill on medium for 2-3 minutes and then flip it for the same amount of time. 

As soon as it’s tawny and crisp looking (a little less charcoaled than how my mom made it), I slide the grilled cheese onto a plate.  I break the ultimate food etiquette rule by not cutting it in half so the cheese remains preserved in the sandwich rather than oozing over into the plate.  That is key.  Finally, I pour myself a glass of milk, pull out a magazine (a phonebook will do too), and munch away at my grilled cheese.  So simple, so basic, and it still just doesn't get much better than this. 


BlackLOG said...

Peanut butter and cheese....Hmmm I once tried marmalade in a hamburger, didn’t really catch on, even with me…

But other experiments work well

Strawberries and balsamic vinegar

Cheese and strawberry jam

Mango chutney avocado and bacon….I’m reaching for the fresh bread already

BlackLOG said...

sorry added it to the wrong blog should have gone to your sanwhich one...I'm sure yoy will forgive me

Sarah said...

I think you got the right one! Those sound like interesting combinations. I may have to try them out!