Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ode to Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I don't know when my love of grilled cheese sandwiches started, because for as long as I can remember, I've loved them. As a child, however, I thought that they always came with one side slightly charred. My mother, bless her heart, is easily distracted, and couldn't quite get there to flip it at the right moment. Didn't matter to me in the slightest, because charred grilled cheese is oh-so-much better than any other sandwich.

There are many of us who love the classic sick-and-staying-home-from school grilled cheese and tomato soup lunch. There's just something so comforting about it. That buttery, cheesy bite where you need your hands to break the gooey, stringy, don't-want-to-let-go bond of love between the sandwich and your mouth. The tangy, warm bite of the tomato soup. I've eaten this lunch on many occasions. But as my passion for cheese grew, I started experimenting.

The number one rule is of course REAL BUTTER. There just is no other substitute. And please, shut up about the dangers of cholesterol and how you've found this wonderful, easily spreadable substitute for the real thing. I've tried them, and they don't melt right, and they don't char correctly. Use real butter, friends.

Bread selection is also key. I've made wonderful, standard, grilled cheese sandwiches from the assembly line wheat bread my kids will eat. And I've loved them. I consider them the JV of grilled cheese. Nothing wrong, just nothing out of the ordinary. What I prefer though, much to my budget's dismay, is the artisan breads that you find in your grocery store bakery. I've tried many a variety, but for the longest time, my choice has been the asiago foccacia. (Have the bakery slice it for you before you head home, though.) This bread is crusted with caramelized asiago and that nutty flavor just intensifies when grilled. Heaven in a slice. Pair it with swiss cheese, a slice of garden tomato, and you're off to a fabulous breakfast.

Yes, breakfast. This hypoglycemic girl needs her day to begin with a heavy dose of protein, mixed with enough carbs to start the engines. Ask any of my facebook friends, I've posted a lot of status updates that were just my latest grilled cheese invention. Which brings me to the cheese. It's perfectly acceptable, in my opinion, to use plastic-coated, american cheese in a grilled cheese. After all, it melts really well. But to enter the varsity world of grilled cheese competition, you need a more, shall we say, memorable cheese.

One of my earliest successes was with Jarlsberg. Oh, that complex, nutty and tart flavor is amazing paired with that asiago bread. Or try just a domestic swiss to counter that nuttiness. It's all good! And feel free to throw in some bacon if you have it handy. The true trick (and I should be charging you for this tip obtained after years of experimentation)is that no matter what you stick in there, the ingredient that touches the bread MUST be cheese. This means that if you're adding tomato and say, bacon, you need a whole 'nother layer of cheese for one simple reason: it's the glue that makes the sandwich hold together.

Yeah, holding together. Another problem I've overcome. If you stack a tall sandwich with lovely ingredients, it's hard to flip. What you need to do is surprise it with the spatula, and then use a hand-assist that holds the top on until the very last second of flippage. In some cases, you will now need to re-center your sandwich. Totally worth the trouble though.

Wow, that's really starting to smell good. I think I'm going to go eat one now. I will leave you with this one last tidbit. Shh...don't tell anyone, I don't want the bakery to run out. My new favorite bread is the artisan rosemary rustico from King Soopers. Oh, heaven on earth! Rosemary is my favorite herb, and I now have it in-bedded in my favorite breakfast. It's a great way to start the day. And if you make two at a time, you can even have one for lunch.

Say cheese!


Jenny said...

Tina, you are truly a grilled cheese gourmet.

I read a blurb somewhere about a restaurant that serves nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches!


I agree on the butter issue.

Although now I am making a very pale replica of grilled cheese to modify the WW's and Gluten-free things!

But even that is sure better than no grilled cheese.

I used to love a little blue cheese on there, too.


Linda @ A La Carte said...

You are the Queen of Grilled Cheese! I love grilled cheese, but you have gone beyond my imagination! I bow to your greatness! Now your humble subject will consider trying new cheeses and new breads!!

One Photo said...

Nope, grilled cheese does nothing for me. My comfort food would be baked potato with baked beans and lots of cheese. But you are definitely the expert on grilled cheese!

Chatty Crone said...

I LOVE grilled cheese - and this is the truth - what do you think we had for dinner?

Grilled cheese - one thing my GS loves -but is has to be melted throughly.

And I put tomotoes on mine - and don't forget the pickles.


jeff campbell said...

One of my faves...grilled cheese from now til the cows come home...great post! Peace

Annesphamily said...

This post made me cry! I am putting the final touches on my Mother's Day Swap and I was thinking of things my mother loved and how could I honor her. She always made us grill cheese with tomato soup. I love the updated versions that for adults only too! My daughter took me to a Wisconsin native owned cheesy spot in Littleton where you can get a grilled sandwich with any cheese imaginable! Those cheeseheads really could whip up a gourmet sandwich! But since I can not send a grilled cheese to my swap partner I will, instead, send her my mom's favorite recipe, an open faced grill cheese with tomato and onion dip! I am a pickle with grill cheese kinda gal too~ plus I just made them for my son Nick and I last week. It is our time together, a late lunch when I pick him up from school! Hugs Anne
P.S. Come join me and join the postcard swap! You can be the first Colorado person to send me a postcard! LOL!

~✽Mumsy✽~ said...

I can feel the passion you have for grill cheese..I make them for my children, but I don't eat them. Hmm, maybe I'm missing out on good thing.

Thanks for visiting!

Brian Miller said...

thanks for popping in today and the encouragement...this post made me hungry...i love grilled cheese and the jarlsberg on asiago with bacon...mmmm....i have 3 long hours until lunch. smiles.

jenn said...

my mama dips hers in ketchup. nasty. they're perfect just as they are.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

yummy post,
have fun in May!