April is Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month, and in fact April 12 is Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, so it is most appropriate today to celeberate this cheesiest of national food holidays.
Grilled cheese is something people can get pretty particular about. I have a friend who swears they are best made with cheap white bread and processed American cheese. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are quite a few gourmet incarnations with added meats, vegetables and an assortment of cheese and bread combinations.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I like to keep it simple but use really good ingredients. My favorite grilled cheese sandwich uses buttered good sourdough bread and a mix of gruyere and sharp white cheddar cheeses. I like to mix it up though; the sandwich picture above uses 12-grain bread, for example.
|See that little bit of cheese on the right that fell off the bread? You know when that gets crispy that it's going to be awesomely good.|
Assembling the sandwich carefully is very important. Although shredded cheese will melt easier, I find that makes a real mess when it's time to flip the sandwich. Instead, I prefer layering small, thin slices of cheese, alternating between the gruyere and the cheddar.
The cooking technique is also important. If you cook the sandwich too fast, the bread will toast before the cheese has a chance to melt. I like to start with a cold frying pan set over medium-low heat. So the first side spends a lot more time cooking than the other side, but this allows the sandwich to slowly come up to temperature, giving the cheese a chance to melt.
For added flavor, I like to borrow a few moves from another cheese favorite: traditional Swiss cheese fondue. I swipe a raw cut garlic clove across the surface of the pan before I heat it. Then, as I layer the cheese, I add sprinkle of ground nutmeg and fresh ground white or black pepper. A sprinkle of truffle salt would be good too, but that might be getting too fancy.
The Cook In / Dine Out Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Makes 1 sandwich
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
2 slices good quality bread, such as sourdough or 12-grain
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 oz. aged gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
1 1/2 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of fresh-ground white or black pepper
1. Rub the cut side of the garlic clove on the bottom of a frying pan. Set over medium-high heat. While the pan is still cold, spread 1 tsp. butter on one side of one piece of bread and lay in the pan buttered side down. Layer the cheese on top of the bread, alternating between types and adding a sprinkle of nutmeg and pepper about halfway through. Place the other piece of bread on top and spread the other tsp. of butter on top of that piece.
2. Cook the sandwich until the cheese starts to melt and the bottom piece is nicely toasted, about 10 minutes. Carefully flip the sandwich over and continue cooking until the other piece of bread is toasted, another 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and slice in half. Be sure to eat any bits of cheese that escaped the sandwich and browned in the pan.