There is no sandwich whose essence is simple or as straightforward as the grilled cheese. There is also no sandwich with as many variations that fall under the same name.
Oh, the variations are all splendid. This time though, I wanted something basic. Give me some good cheese and some good bread. Melt that together with some butter to make it all toasty and crispy. That’s what I craved. Nick, over at Macheesmo, has made a few delicious variants, and I’ll undoubtedly eventually post a few variants of my own too. This time I stuck to the essence of bread and cheese–simple comfort food.
You could go with American white bread and a slice of individually wrapped yellow colored cheese. But that would be silly. Don’t be silly. Pick up some good quality sandwich bread–better still, get a good artisan-style loaf, like a French sourdough or an Italian loaf. And get some good cheese. I’d recommend a Gruyère, like Comté or Emmentaler, or a cheddar–please get a good cheddar though, something aged, with some tang and flavor. This time I picked up some Emmentaler. I like the mild grassy, earthy flavors that gruyere style cheese contributes; it pairs very nicely with the sour notes of a French loaf.
The best trick to getting an evenly melted cheese is to shred it and pile it on. Don’t buy preshredded though, those are often dusted with a non-stick powder to keep it from clumping. That powder can affect the way the cheese melts and sometimes make it grainy. If you can’t shred it yourself, cut thin slices. The other thing I recommend is to butter and toast both sides of the bread–I love my butter.
Without varying drastically from the essentials, are there any variations you like? A slice of tomato perhaps? Mustard? I wanted to keep this basic this time, but let me know what you suggest!
No nonsense grilled cheese
It really couldn’t be simpler, but here is the “recipe” anyway.
Cheese (I used Emmentaller), shredded
1. Heat a heavy skilled over medium-high heat until hot. Meanwhile, butter both sides of bread.
2. Put bread into hot skillet (lower heat if needed so it doesn’t burn) and allow to toast for 30-90 seconds (it’s OK to peek under to check, just don’t play with it).
3. Flip one side over, pile cheese on top then put the other slice of bread on top (toasted sides should now be facing the cheese). Occasionally press gently on the sandwich and cook for another 1-2 minutes, flipping half way, until cheese is melted and sandwich is golden brown and toasty.
Cut diagonally and serve while still warm.
I made this a few times and the only variation I allowed myself was to put a thin layer of good Dijon mustard inside once.