One of my long-time favorite comfort foods is a grilled cheese sandwich. As a child, I loved a New York Cheddar grilled sandwich served with tomato soup. My mother’s recipe was simple — white bread and a couple of slices of a mild New York Cheddar. After all, my mother was from New York and was raised on cheese from the state. If it was a good day, there would be a tasty kosher sour pickle cut in spears to accompany the soup and sandwich medley and from time to time a saltine cracker. Life does not get any better than that…I thought.
Now there are entire books written on the art of the artisan grilled cheese sandwich. I respect and appreciate that there is recognition of the unique attributes cheese can bring to the meal. The sandwich is at the heart of many families’ tables and now there is the “art of the grilled cheese,” maybe even the “Zen of cheese sandwich grilling.” It is an art, not to burn the exterior but yet getting the cheese to melt properly. My mother used to slice the cheese; I do this sometimes but other times I shred cheese off of a piece, and often mix and match cheeses to create a taste sensation. Do you like your cheese crispy as it oozes to the outside of the bread; people are picky about their fries but what about their grilled cheese? What are the right accoutrements? Does butter play a role? Mayonnaise, aioli or mustard? Does the cheese do a “Hans Solo” or are there additional tasty treats on the sandwich? I think these are fundamental questions associated with grilled cheese.
I had a long conversation with a friend recently and came to the conclusion that grilled cheese may be like pizza. Both are great when freshly cooked, cheese melting everywhere. I like mine right off the grill with a bit of butter on the bread and either grilled spring onions or a fresh slice of tomato. You may be able to tell that I am from the south with those pairings. I love my tomatoes! Growing up in North Carolina one could always count on tasty tomatoes during the summer months. I would have them on everything…I mean everything. Sorry, back to the Grill, I have strayed a bit from New York Cheddar but still love that as a grilled cheese selection. Right now, I am happy with whatever cheese is in the refrigerator, for the most part. Cheddars would still be my favorites and anything over four months brings an extra zing to the party. Many people like to grill corn in aluminum foil; I like to grill cheese the same way. It is just one of my many delights when I barbeque.
Best grilled cheese? I would not steer you wrong on this: it is at the “Kappacasein Stand” at the Borough Market in London. William Oglethorpe thought of this sandwich as he was dreaming, I am sure of it. Who would dare to think that to use the best Cheddar in the world, yes I did say the best Cheddar in the world, in my opinion, on a grilled cheese sandwich? William did with his creation of the “Toasted Cheese Sandwich,” using Jamie Montgomery’s Clothbound Cheddar and a bit of Oglesheild (his washed rind cheese creation with Jamie), along with some garlic and a variety of spring onions. The sandwich grilled right before you using Poilane bread. I love this cheddar and do surely love this sandwich! I am sure a fine UK Ale would be a great accompaniment, but I just love the sandwich and water. It is a lingering flavor and is hearty enough to last for hours. Who would have thought that a farmstead cheese produced on the land of King Arthur would make the best grilled cheese sandwich? William and the gang did and I agree wholeheartedly. A UK standard for over 10 years!
Other grilled cheese sandwiches? Here are a few of my grilled favorites that use some meat to fill out the sandwich: Brie and Black Forest Ham, creamy, creamy, creamy with the light sweet flavors of the ham. Cherry or Cranberry Cheddar with turkey, fruit flavors in cheese are popular these days and guess what? Theses cheeses bring back memories of Thanksgiving in the summer. I love that about food. What about Pepper Jack and fresh jalapeños or banana peppers? Bring on the beer! All in all I love grilled cheese sandwiches. Some of my favorite cheeses would be Laguiole from France with a sourdough bread, Le Gruyere from Switzerland with thinly sliced pickles, Gouda or Havarti with bacon slices, the list goes on and on.
Caution on using goat cheese, I love the texture but unless you are using an aged product for the sandwich you might have a runny mess. Goat Gouda and Goat Cheddar are great with a five-seed bread. And let’s not forget the sheep’s milk cheeses — Pecorino of any kind with Moustarde will awaken Italian sensibilities. I never had a grilled cheese in Italy but like the pizza analogy, a Gorgonzola and arugula grilled cheese would bring back memories of my time in Arona.
Best of grilled cheese season to all of you. The days are long and the cheese melts great during the summer, so let the grill heat up, the drinks chill down and the festivities begin.